Lisa Lister documents her weight loss surgery journey four months post-surgery.
I don’t think I have ever been truly happy with my body. For as long as I remember I have been on a diet and watching my weight obsessively. Scrutinising anything I put in my mouth. Asking “is it worth a moment on the lips and a lifetime on the hips?”
I was always the “fat” kid, the one chosen last for sports teams. I hated running, I hated sport full stop. I did love food though and I loved cooking. My mum had me on diets before I even knew what one was. I went to Weight Watchers when I was 16. I’ve done the Cabbage Diet, the Egg Diet, the Heart Diet, Slimming World, Keto, Low Carb Diet, Beetroot Diet, Soup Diet, Slimfast, you name it-I have been on it.
I would often hear comments like “you have such a pretty face,” or “you have such an amazing personality,” but lets face it, what they really mean is you are stacking a few extra pounds.
About 12 years ago I went to Chessington World of Adventures, and after much encouragement, I said OK and decided to go on a ride. To my utter mortification, the seatbelt wouldn’t fit and I had to get off. I had to do something to change my life. I started the Cambridge diet and I was 22 stone 4lbs. I had three shakes a day, a total of around 500 calories a day and I lost 7 stone very quickly.
I loved the attention and I loved my new body. People noticed the changes in me. However, 500 calories a day was not sustainable. I developed kidney stones, which wasn’t ideal, and my metabolism was shot to pieces. No matter what I tried I just gained and gained more weight. Lettuce even put weight on me.
I developed high blood pressure, IBS, constant heartburn, underactive thyroid, breathlessness and I was constantly sweating and uncomfortable. I ruptured my Achilles tendon and exercise was a nightmare. My weight climbed and climbed and eventually I decided enough was enough and I went to my GP and asked for him to refer me for surgery. I wanted intervention. I had read about it and knew people who had gone down that route.
I waited several months before I had an appointment at The Homerton Hospital in London. I was naïve and thought this was it; I was getting surgery, woohoo, prayers answered. No, I had several hoops to fly through first.
Firstly, I had to choose which surgery was for me. The gastric band is not really performed these days as it is difficult to get just the right measure of restriction. I had heard that bands often slip and become dislodged and it doesn’t stop you eating bad foods.
There was the gastric sleeve – this is where they remove 90% of the stomach. This restricts your intake and they remove the excess stomach, all via keyhole surgery. Or did I want a gastric bypass? Where they portion off 90% of the stomach and bypass part of the intestine so absorption of calories and nutrients are reduced.
After much deliberation, I realised a gastric bypass would be my personal preference. In order to be accepted for surgery I had to lose 5 to 10% of my current weight. I needed blood tests, a psych referral (to make sure I was totally accepting of the food challenge) and I had an ECG for good measure. I joined a discussion group where I discovered that my pre-op investigations were small fry compared to some. Others endured sleep tests, colonoscopies, scans, and any number of prodding to see if anything else would impact their ability to lose weight.
If you are considering surgery, be prepared for everything to be scrutinised.
So why did I go through all those tests and investigations? Why is it so hard to get accepted for the surgery? The professionals need to make sure that your weight loss surgery can be managed and maintained for a lifetime after having it done-you don’t want to go through surgery to find it was in vain because of a psychological, emotional or an eating disorder issue that got you overweight in the first place and will rear its head again in the future
So throw in three years of trying to lose weight, a car accident and a global pandemic and I didn’t get surgery until 10th August 2021. I started the journey at 147kgs. I was not in the best of health physically or emotionally. On 26th July I was 142 kilos and started the Liver Shrinkage Diet to ready my liver for surgery. The liver can block the surgeon’s access to the stomach, the diet helps reduce the liver’s fattiness. I checked in at The Homerton on the 10th August and weighed 137kgs.
I was nervous and excited; this was going to be the start of my new life.
I woke up from surgery with 5 holes in my abdomen and a destiny of 2 weeks of fluids, 2 weeks of puree, 2 weeks of soft foods only and then would I start my new life of low carbs, low sugar and low fat.
My relationship with food had changed forever. I wasn’t ready for how things would really change. Our social scenes revolve around food and drink. We go out we drink, we have a meal, we eat snacks, we have people round and we make dinner, we treat ourselves we have sweets or good food and now what have I got? Whatever it is, I can’t drink or eat much of it at all. If I eat the wrong things I am sick or heaven forbid you experience “dumping”. What is dumping? Well my friend it is searing stomach pain, hot sweats, vomiting, and yep there is lots of pooping.
Everyone is different, some can eat foods that I couldn’t, chicken and bacon were a no for me. Portion control is everything, your stomach has been reduced but your brain is still the same. I never used to eat because I was hungry, more because I wanted it and believe me I REALLY wanted it. I remember the sumptuous taste of macaroni cheese and the delicious mouth-watering feeling of Lurpak smothered on soft fresh bread. This however was the new me, the one with a stomach the size of a pencil and the one who finds eating more than two spoons of veg difficult. I was given a list of do’s and don’ts, I had to put protein first. 60 to 80g of protein a day, doesn’t sound much but sometimes that was a mountain to climb.
The weight however started to drop off and I loved it.
Today, I am 4 months post-op. I can recognise how much I can eat and I know how far not to push it. I know what to avoid and what makes me unwell. Alcohol is not recommended but I have tried it. I found the thing to avoid is fizzy drinks so I can manage the occasional Pina Colada. I have lost 41kgs and still have some way to go, but I have gone down six dress sizes and I don’t hate what I see in the mirror. I have learned to love who I am. I am more than a pretty face but not because of the diet but because of who I am.
I did this journey for me, not because of anyone else’s view of what is appropriate. My health was suffering and now I can look forward to a healthier life and hopefully a long retirement. I have cried at times because I wanted to eat something and can’t and I have made myself attend events even when a meal was involved. I hate paying for food in a restaurant and leaving 75% of it, (take someone who will eat your leftovers is a trick to remember!). I am glad I had surgery and I wouldn’t change it. I am thankful for the NHS and know why it took so long – because I needed to know why I was on this journey.