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Bariatric Fantasy – Bariatric Edition.

Susan has bariatric surgery, loses 100 pounds, and tells the world on her social media account how wonderful her experience has been. The only thing she regrets is not doing it sooner.
 
Bob has bariatric surgery, loses 150 pounds, and lets his family and friends know that he no longer takes the 12 medications he was taking before surgery.
 
Elaine has bariatric surgery, loses 75 pounds, and gets her mobility back. She can move without the excruciating pain she was experiencing before surgery.
 
We read about these testimonials every day. We want what they have. We also want to be pain-free, 100 pounds lighter, and not have to take medications.
 
These types of testimonials are not coerced. This is what they truly feel and they are grateful and thrilled to be able to share their stories.
 
There is something that I wish to discuss with this blog today. I want to discuss what Susan, Bob, and Elaine are not talking about….they have left out a few things. We see them before and after pics but what we don’t see is the middle bit. That’s the part between their surgery and the after pic.
 
What are they not talking about? What did they fail to mention? 
 
Sometimes when I read the issues which people discuss online in various bariatric support groups, I feel like stating the obvious … Sure, you may have hair loss BUT you’ve also lost 100 pounds and probably saved your life. Sure, you may have difficulty eating some foods but you’ve lost 75 pounds and you are off your medications. Sure, you may have acid reflux in the beginning but you’ve lost 150 pounds and you can walk without pain.
 
I think that the bariatric-fantasy is that “before and after pic” and it fails to mention the struggles to get from point A to point B. We just see that Susan, Bob, and Elaine are over-the-moon happy. They want you to feel as good as they feel. They forget how hard the “middle bit” can be.
 
Any surgery has a recovery period. That recovery period can be uncomfortable. Any laparoscopic surgery can be painful due to trapped air. Not everyone experiences terrible gas pains but many do. 
 
I work closely with my clients as they work through the post-op guidelines. It’s hard, really hard. First, they need to be consuming sufficient liquids. Next, they need to add back foods slowly and they need to balance their water intake with their new food intake. Their energy levels are low. They are sore. They are a bit sad because their “food crutch” has been taken away. They try to lie on their side but they are uncomfortable and so their sleeping has been disrupted.
 
Once the pain from the actual surgery has disappeared, there can be a painful time learning what foods work and what foods do not work. Our tastes change. What we once loved now tastes strangely sweet or bitter. There is a sadness that comes with this also. We need to work through all these feelings. We can also feel alone at times because our loved ones cannot truly understand what we are going through. 
 
Bariatric support groups become very important to us. These are our people and they “get us” and what we are experiencing. People discuss their aches and pains. They discuss their worries and their achievements. We can relate to others and what they are going through. 
 
These groups can show us that bariatric surgery is not a fantasy-land where we go into the operating room and come out with a new and improved version of ourselves. We have the battle to win – we’ve been given the weapon to fight but there is still a battle laid out in front of us. We have a lot of work to do to get to the end picture. 
 
Is it worth it? ABSOLUTELY!! It is worth it but there will be lots of challenges along the way. There are the post-surgery aches and pains to deal with. We need to deal with traveling stress. I travel a lot and I HATE to fly. I am a nervous flier and I am not the only one. Many of my clients feel that same way. Today we are dealing with COVID-stress on top of the regular traveling stressors.
 
While our new tummies are healing, there will be a recovery period where our stomach needs to regulate the HCI (hydrochloric acid) and while we are going through this, acid reflux can become an issue. Acid reflux is no fun and even a cup of coffee or tea can trigger symptoms.
 
What about surgical complications? This a real thing and they can happen. This is surgery. It is not a walk in the local park. A percentage of us will have post-surgical complications. We are altering our anatomy, removing a large portion of our stomachs. Nobody plans on having a complication but we need to be very aware that it sometimes happens.
 
What about those of us who love going to restaurants? What will become of us when we can only eat 2 to 4 ounces of creamy vegetable soup at a time? Will we still go to restaurants? Will we still enjoy this activity? This can be painful emotionally because we can see how everyone else is enjoying their time and now we feel like a bit of a freak not being able to take more than 3 bites of anything.
 
Rest assured. All of this is temporary. It gets better. It gets easier. We can eat larger portions and we become accustomed to our new stomaches. But, I feel that we need to also remember all the work that goes into those first stages. How we need to compromise with ourselves daily as we gain strength, knowledge, and the tools to deal with our “new normal”.
 
We also need to stay super positive as we work through the post-op stages. We are regaining our health and every food decision we make supports our new lifestyle. To get from point A to point B – to get the “after” pic to place beside our “before” pic,,, there is a whole lot of work in the middle. 
 
This is not to say that it’s not worth it! It is worth it and you are worth it and we are all worth it but I never want you or anybody to think that it was an easy journey. This is not fantasy land. This is a really hard battle that you’ve fought and you need to know how proud your community is of you. 
 
Take your before and after pics and post them PROUDLY. Your bariatric community knows all about that “middle bit”. You are a ROCK STAR.
 
Healthy Hugs xoxo
 
Sheri Burke RHN specializing in bariatric nutrition.

About the Author: Sheri Burke is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Bariatric Surgery Coordinator at International Patient Facilitators in Tijuana and Cancun, Mexico. She has worked with bariatric surgery clients for over 10 years and especially enjoys providing nutritional guidance to pre and post bariatric clients.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two teens and cooking up a nutritional storm in the kitchen.

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