12 Things I Wish I'd Known Before... Gastric Bypass Surgery
Byon 03 Dec 2010
1) Gastric bypass is not a quick fix
Gastric bypass surgery is the most popular of the WLS options. However, it is not a "get out of jail free" card. You still have a lot of work to do pre- and post-surgery. Most doctors require you to lose between 14lb to 42lb, quit smoking, start eating right and exercise. This is all before you have the surgery. Once your post-op you still have to exercise, eat right, take daily vitamins and minerals, and have regular consultations with your doctor.
2) Weight gain is possible, even after having a gastric bypass
As mentioned above, gastric bypass surgery is not a fix; it's a tool to help you overcome the situation you are in, but you have to control that tool. If you abuse your new "pouch" by not eating right, not taking your vitamins, not drinking water and not exercising then you will gain weight.
3) Dumping syndrome is very common
Dumping syndrome occurs when undigested food from the stomach rapidly enters the small bowel, which is not prepared to accommodate it. This is then rushed ("dumped") into the intestines with a lot of fluid. It doesn't happen to everyone but it is very common. You can stop this from happening by not eating high sugar, high fat foods and not drinking with meals.
4) Insurance won't always cover the cost of gastric bypass surgery
Insurance companies use the NIH (National Institutes of Health) guidelines when considering whether or not to support weight loss surgery. However, it is not all based on weight alone. If you have other risk factors that your obesity is causing, adding to or affecting, it may be possible to use this as supporting evidence for your insurance claim. Every insurance company works to different guidelines, so you should always check with your insurance company first.
5) Support groups are very useful
After having gastric bypass surgery you will start to see yourself differently. You may not recognize the person you look at it in the mirror and it can be a scary time. Support groups are an excellent way of connecting with people who have been through, or are going through, the same situation.
6) You will still have an appetite and a relationship with food, it will just be different
Each individual is different but for most it is about learning to eat all over again. Your appetite won't be gone, just changed. You'll learn to enjoy food because you like it and not because it's there. You'll choose somewhere to eat out based upon their standard of food and not how much they give you. Food will still be as fun and interesting as it was before, if you want it to be.
7) It is going to be difficult to drink the required amount of water
After gastric bypass surgery you will be expected to drink approximately 2 liters of water a day. When you have a pouch the size of an egg, that can be difficult. The best thing to do is to fill a sports bottle up and carry it with you all day. Sip regularly and keep topping it up.
8) Trying to get enough protein into a post-op diet can be difficult
Protein is a major part of any post-op diet. You have to make sure you get enough -- if not you will start feeling ill. It can also affect your eyesight and hair growth, among many other things. Most post-op patients use protein powders to make shakes or even use them in cooking and baking.
9) One day you will plateau
You can not continue to lose weight forever. Your body may stop losing weight ("plateau") long before you are ready for that to happen. This happens to most people and can be rectified by changing your diet, your exercise routine or something else that has changed or slipped. Talk to your dietitian and doctor; they should be able to help you get back on the losing streak.
10) The pain will be worse than you imagined
Everyone is different and everyone handles pain differently. However, just because most gastric bypass surgeries are now done laproscopically, doesn't mean that you won't experience any pain. Your doctor is going to be drastically reducing the size of your stomach and cutting away the part that is not needed. That is going to cause some discomfort. You should be prepared for some pain and ensure your doctor talks through the procedure thoroughly with you.
11) Almost everything is psychological
For a lot of WLS patients, having gastric bypass surgery is less about losing weight and more about taking back their life. This is also one reason why many doctors request you see a psychologist prior to surgery. They need to make sure that you are fully aware of why you're having surgery and that your goals are realistic.
12) It is a hard journey but the highs are better than you could imagine
The WLS journey is not easy. It's hard work, takes dedication and can consume you for a time. However, fitting into those pants you haven't worn for 10 years, or shopping in "normal" shops, can give you such a burst of energy. Having people stop and tell you how good you look, going to a restaurant and not asking for a table instead of a booth, or going on a plane and not asking for an extender belt makes you feel better than you could have imagined.