18 Months and Counting (A Post-Surgery Progress Report)

A Post-Surgical Progress Report

They say that time flies ever more quickly the older that you get. Even knowing this, I was still startled to look at my calendar and discover that this week will be the 18-month anniversary of my Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy. It is tough to believe that I am already a year and a half out from that amazing life-changing decision.

The changes are still overwhelming: everything from my waistline to my plate size has shrunk. Meanwhile, my stamina, physical activity, and interest in life all have grown by leaps and bounds. I hear on a weekly basis how I am “not the same person” that I was two years ago, and I can only nod in agreement. The version of me that sat around the house exclusively eating and gaming is no longer a part of my life.

The Tech Support Trap

Now, I (still) spend quite a bit of time online, mainly following up on interactions with those who are either considering or struggling with bariatric surgery. And I am noticing a trend towards “horror stories” – people reporting all the terrible things that happened to them as a result of bariatric surgery.

Let me say upfront: bariatric surgery is a scary thing. Things can (and sometimes do) go wrong. It is not a shortcut to weight loss by any means. It is a last-ditch, dramatic solution to chronic obesity.

But, it also must be said: it also is not automatically a disaster waiting to happen. As someone who used to work in tech support, I can tell you this: the vast majority of people posting on forums and in chat rooms are those that something went wrong for. When things work, we rarely feel a need to draw attention to them.

So, allow me to shed a little light on what happens when bariatric surgery goes right.

Shiny, Happy Patient

My personal experience with surgery was almost unblemished. (Other than that unfortunate incident of trying to eat sourdough immediately post-surgery.) I obeyed my nutritional guidelines, paid attention to my surgical team, and embraced my new pre-and post-surgical diet. After all, I figured, I was getting ready to have 3/4 of a major organ lopped off…no point in going forward with that if I wasn’t willing to make all the attendant changes that went along with it, right?

And it worked! Waiting in the pre-surgical area, my surgeon, Dr. Tyner, did not recognize me thanks to the weight loss I had already experienced thanks to the pre-surgical diet. (I had already dropped from 302 pounds to 248 pounds pre-surgery.) The weight loss after the surgery was consistent, and I actually beat my personal goal of weighing less than 200 pounds. By August of 2017, I had lost all the way to 175 pounds: nearly 130 pounds of weight loss.

Not only did I lose weight, but there were other, less visible results. I was able to head back to the gym. We began hiking at least once a week, sometimes more. We walked/ran in the Albuquerque “Run For The Zoo” 5K in May of 2017 – an actual “bucket list” item of mine for decades.

For every negative associated with the surgery (loose skin, yuck!), there has been at least one positive (a 34-inch waistline, like I had in my 20s!) And there have been several positives with no negative whatsoever: for example,  I can now hike 8 miles. And not collapse for days afterward.  This from a guy who, only 2 years ago, could barely walk the dog four-tenths of a mile.

Tough to see the downside to that.

Regular Maintenance Pays Off

So, coming up on two years out, this is where the shine is supposed to start coming off. Many patients complain about creeping weight gain returning at this point in their bariatric journey.

So, just to be sure, I checked this morning: I am currently at 176.3 pounds.

Let me run that by you again: for 6 months now, I have been within a pound or so of 175 pounds. Once a week, every week.

My secret?

Regular maintenance.

You see, this is also the point where many bariatric patients start investigating “When can I…?” As in, “When can I start drinking soft drinks again?” Or “When can I start eating Oreos and Girl Scout Cookies again?” Or, worse yet, “When can I stop working out all the time?”

See, that is the problem with bariatric surgery. Many folks don’t realize that there is no traditional recovery period from bariatric surgery. All the surgery does is “reset” your weight and metabolism so that you can NOW develop the habits you never did before.

If you are wondering about when you can start embracing negative habits again, the correct answer is: you can’t.

Not if you want to maintain your health and your weight loss, anyway.

I know people who have regained about half of the weight they lost after surgery. Because of this, many claim that surgery was a wasted effort for them.

Now, anything that allows you to lose half of your excess weight can’t be a bad thing, in my book. If you lost 100 pounds then regained 50, you’re still 50 pounds healthier by my calculations.

But I personally would rather maintain the lifestyle I learned pre- and post- surgery, and not have to deal with buyer’s remorse.

As the kids on the Internet like to say: Your Mileage May Vary.

A (Small) Example

Yesterday we got together with Lor’s family for a dinner and birthday party for my niece. As we all gathered at the dining room table, I had a chance to reflect on what our lifestyle changes meant.

For dinner, Lor and I spilt a 6-ounce steak. I also added an ounce or so of shredded beef, and 6 or 7 mushroom slices. Since I was feeling saucy, I even added a tablespoon of mashed potatoes in lieu of fresh corn on the cob.

My nephew, seated next to me, took one look at my plate, and asked: “Uncle, how can you live on that?”

I looked past him to the family portrait on my Mother-In-Law’s wall. Taken last Christmas, it featured Lor’s entire half of the family. Standing front and center in the group, I stood. Smiling.

The same person who, until 2 years ago, made every effort to avoid being photographed for any reason whatsoever.

How can I live on it? A heck of a lot better than I used to live on obesity and shame.

Bariatric surgery: it isn’t for everyone, but it sure as heck has done the job for me.

Though I Do Still Miss Girl Scout Cookies,

  • Jeremy

Gamer, Interrupted

Gamer, Interrupted

Blowing the dust off reveals…

A blog! Unused for a month now.

It isn’t that I don’t care about you all. It is that things went absolutely bonkers for the past several weeks.

Since the last time we spoke, my household has been through the following:

  • We went through our first major conference as an author.
  • The foster child that moved in in October moved right back out.
  • We’ve welcomed a new baby into the extended family.
  • An immediate family member has gone through spinal surgery. And is making a rapid and remarkable recovery, I am happy to say.

So, yeah…we’ve been busy.

So, how was the first month of your 2018?

Email Via Snowshovel

Among the (many) things that have suffered from lack of my attention this last month has been my email accounts. I maintain three of them, and they were completely overflowing by the time I got around to digging through them on Monday.

I was able to delete tons of “daily book deals” and “Amazon specials.” Same for “Act today, this price will never come again!” ads. But there were still dozens that required my attention. Messages from friends checking on me. Many writers and writing sites that I follow. A few from Patreon subscribers. And LOTS of fans wanting to know if I have shut down Misdirected permanently. (No, I have not.)

And then came the one that stopped me in my tracks: A “Welcome Back” free 7-day subscription to World of Warcraft.

I flagged it, parked it at the top of my Inbox, and have been ruminating over it ever since.

The Historical Record

If you don’t have a long history here, let me bring you up to speed: Misdirected used to be a gaming site.

Gaming was what I did back in the day. I’ve always been a gamer, but from the point where I developed epilepsy onward gaming was how I spent my time. I invested better than the equivalent of a full-time job every week doing it. First-person shooters, 4X strategy games, MOBAs, role-playing games were all on the menu. If you can name it, I probably played it.

But things shifted two years ago when I began talking, just off the cuff, about my upcoming bariatric surgery. A blog that used to have maybe 1,000 visits a year began seeing that much traffic in a month.  And it just kept growing.

So, I shifted my focus. I began featuring posts talking about the pre- and post-surgical process. I got involved in advocacy for those of us with obesity. I even went so far as to get a Personal Trainer certification so that I wouldn’t be making things up as I went along.

Once my fiction writing took off, it only got weirder. I ended up having to create an entirely different site to keep track of fiction writing. (Which is also currently covered in Internet dust, natch.) My writing about gaming grew more and more distant – a fondly held memory of a simpler time.

The Temptation In The Inbox

But, here’s the thing: I’ve never stopped being a gamer.

I’ve just had to switch to less labor-intensive games. Stuff that isn’t really worth talking about, or sharing online. Just stuff to scratch that itch, as it were.

And, now, this: an invitation to 7 free days with my all-time favorite game. The game I specifically quit playing because of what a massive time-sink it is. Dangling in front of me like forbidden fruit.

See, WoW is one of the few remaining MMOs out there that still charges a monthly subscription fee. And it is so good that millions of people are willing to pony up the $15 every month to play it.

Now, back in the day, Lor and I didn’t have the $30 a month to spend on subscriptions. But, there are ways to actually fund your monthly fee by selling virtual items in-game, and turning them into “Blizzard Tokens”. These tokens can then be used to pay for real-world items like…subscription fees.

I used to spend every month earning next month’s subscriptions before I started “real” gaming. After all, all it took was time. And back in the day, I had plenty of that.

Nowadays? Not so much.

To Game, or Not To Game?

Lor has already given me a very accurate prediction of what will happen if I pop the seal on that 7-day gateway drug:

I will invest 40+ hours in the next seven days earning enough in-game currency to pay for a month’s subscription. Because I love playing with Lor, I will, of course, have to then earn enough for her to re-up as well.

And during that time I might, if I am lucky, get about five hours of writing done.

I am committed to 10,000 words a month for the next 10 months on Executor, the sequel to Inheritance. I also review roughly 40,000 words a month of other’s people’s writing. And I also have to find time to do contract work as well: fiction writing is not yet paying the bills around here.

So, I am committed to roughly 100K words of writing and editing a month. At the pace I write at (roughly 500 words an hour), that works out to 200 hours a month.

And now, on top of that, I am considering adding 40+ hours a week of WoW-ing.

I suppose I could give up things. Like going outdoors. Or eating. Or sleeping.

Or, maybe I just need to quietly, and regretfully, hit the “Delete” button on that shiny email from Blizzard.

So far, I have not been able to do it.

Thrust Upon The Horns Of Indecision,

  • Jeremy