One of the main reasons for starting this blog was to document my gastric sleeve journey, in the hope that it will be of inspiration or interest to others who may be considering, or have just been through, the procedure. That being the case, I should apologise in advance for the graphic nature of some things I may describe here (or what you may just consider to be too-much-information), although I’m not out to shock, simply to provide relevant information to those who may need it. Trust me, the unpleasant topics are the ones that matter the most.
I found that online research and learning about other people’s experiences has been both informative and comforting, and it has become very clear that this journey is different for everyone, which is something I wasn’t really told beforehand. I was simply handed a few sheets of paper listing things I could and couldn’t eat during the different phases of my post-surgery diet, and was told that my diet wouldn’t be restricted in the future (“the sleeve is great for men because you can eat steak!”). In reality, it seems that most patients have foods that they struggle with a year down the track, or can simply never eat again. I, on the other hand, intend to train my new stomach to handle just about anything…
The mental aspect post-surgery is something that I hadn’t really talked through either. I met with a psychologist as part of the compulsory pre-op process, presumably to ensure that I understood what I was doing and had realistic expectations (no-one wants to be the guy who lands back in hospital after scoffing a burger in week 2). During my session I asked the psychologist whether she knew of patients with regrets or other issues afterwards, but she told me that she only saw patients before their operation so wasn’t much help.
I thought that because I wouldn’t feel as hungry after the operation my desire for food would be reduced, but that’s not the case and it’s no surprise when you think about it – I mean, how many of us (especially those in the foodie community, or prospective gastric sleeve patients!) can honestly say that we only eat or think about food when we’re actually hungry? It’s more like every time I turn on the TV or (even worse) look at Instagram! If the amount of cooking shows and episodes of Man vs Food I’ve watched during the last few weeks are anything to go by, there’s no risk in me losing interest in food…so Morsels is safe, for now.
Going forward, I don’t see a problem with eating anything in moderation, although this attitude seems to be a big “no-no”. One YouTube video recommended I read a book called “The Emotional First Aid Kit: A Practical Guide to Life After Bariatric Surgery” by Cynthia Alexander, which I found very patronising and its key message is basically that liking food is wrong. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realised that I really do enjoy food, I don’t eat emotionally or for comfort any more (well okay, we all do sometimes) – and I’m not ashamed of that. It seems that the “done thing” for sleeve patients is to become obsessive about their diet and weight loss, although I take the view that I will be grateful for whatever weight I do lose as a result of this process, and I’m not going to get stressed if I’m not running marathons or I put a few kg back on when I reach “maintenance” phase.
Maybe I do need to change my mindset, maybe it will come with time – we’ll see whether I still feel this way in twelve months. For now, the horrors of my operation and its complications are behind me. I’m still weak, but that will pass and my focus is now on the gastric side of things, which continues to be a daily journey of discovery. I’m sick of living on liquids, craving meat very badly and lusting after anything with crunch / texture.
Weeks 1-2: Liquids
Day one in hospital is very restrictive, “clear liquids” only, not that you can manage much. Mmm…broth. Thank God for diet jelly. The general rule during this period is you can have just about anything that can be drunk through a straw (although you’re not allowed to use a straw as this can cause gas, and I sure as hell didn’t want any more of that). Diluted yogurt. Low fat custard. Protein is the most important thing, so no saying goodbye to Optifast shakes just yet. I couldn’t wait to eat something with texture, and to have a solid bowel movement. I couldn’t bring myself to blend meat. I developed a major lactose intolerance when I first left hospital, which came with horrible reflux but it passed after a week or so. Never, ever add Beneprotein powder to hot liquids.
Although the information sheet said that all food needed to be pureed with a stick blender, my surgeon said that anything with the consistency of toothpaste should be okay. Chew, chew, chew – and again, protein is the most important thing. My best friend during this phase has been low fat soft cheese (light Babybel and Laughing Cow) – which are probably too high in fat, but my stomach doesn’t seem to complain. Diet yogurts. More custard. A sneaky YoGo. Tuna spread (again, probably too high in fat but it has no lumps) mixed with low-fat mayo. Baked beans (mashed of course) and mashed potato – the new dinner of champions! Mixed success with scrambled eggs. Coffee! I might have consumed a few lumps of meat while trying to eat the juice & beans from some Stagg Chili. I can’t stomach the thought of veggie soup, I must have overdosed on them during the pre-surgery diet. Why do I have to be a salad person? Today I managed to eat a Cruskit with no problems. I’m getting used to how it feels to be hungry, and how it feels to be full.
Next week I’ll be able to start on “lumps” (ie mince), and in another two weeks I’ll be able to start trying “normal” food. I can’t wait.