Recently, Christian Coleman posted an article on the Good Men Project on June 1, 2014 entitled “7 Things No One Tells You About Losing 100 Pounds.”
While some of Coleman’s experiences are familiar, many are not. His views are those of a young man; where weight was lost via exercise and diet. Medical intervention was unnecessary and sweating was plentiful. Kudos to Coleman for his willingness to share his unique observations, thus far undetected by mass media and society in general. However, in my view, there is more to be said on this issue from a different perspective.
My husband recently shed over 100 pounds, but not via the admired and celebrated route of “sweat equity.” He had the Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (VSG) surgery, also known as “being sleeved”, on September 18, 2013. With no health issues such as diabetes or high blood pressure; he has an exceptionally low and extremely rare metabolism rate. For example, it would take him three hours of exercise to burn the same number of calories as someone with a normal metabolism rate who exercises for one hour. Add to this his status as a disabled veteran and lingering arthritis from a severe car accident and it would have been impossible for him to shed the weight as in Coleman’s example. The combination of these factors made him the ideal candidate for bariatric surgery. At his highest weight, he topped the scales at 333 with a 6” frame. Four months later his surgery weight was 303 and as of this month he’s at 232. He’s gone from a 3XL shirt size to size Large. He’s lost a shoe size, two ring sizes and ten inches around his waist. Recently, he made a second trip to the jeweler to have a third link in his watchband removed.
I realize these are good problems to have, trust me. It’s been a fascinating journey in which both of us have actively participated, each in our own respect. Along the way, I’ve noticed oddities, occurring with alarming regularity, some of which mirror Coleman’s observations. I offer my ten reflections below, in no particular order.
1. Restaurant servers are dumbfounded when he refuses water.
“Sleevers” cannot drink liquids while they eat. Me? I can’t eat without a liquid beverage at the ready, so this is completely weird. Liquids are restricted 30 minutes on either side of a meal because they both fill the stomach and flush the nutrients respectively. With a stomach that is 75% smaller than before surgery, every inch of room counts for digestion and nutrient absorption. So, when he refuses even water to drink, usually restaurant servers blink a few times and ask, “are you sure?” It throws them off their game. It’s rather fun to watch now, but I’m concerned sometimes when number 2 occurs…
2. Restaurant servers are worried he didn’t like the meal when he leaves half of it on the plate.
Being married to someone who eats less than you do, you begin to notice that restaurant portions are absolutely gigantic. Granted, portions for people who are sleeved gradually increase, but only up to a point. For example, his portion has increased from a liquid only diet to soft proteins to ¼ cup to ½ cup to his maximum portion of 1 cup of mainly protein. For the entire meal – 1 cup – forever. Granted, if you take a measuring cup, pack it with food and then dump it out on to a salad plate, it looks a bit more “normal” all spread out. A typical meal would be a side salad and two chicken strips. If we are eating together, we always split an entrée and I usually add a side salad. Needless to say, we often eat for under $20. If eating by himself, he can get 2 to 3 meals out of one serving. When the nutritionist said this would feel normal after a while, our collective 120 pounds of excess weight that we were carrying last year jiggled as we giggled. This leads to #3…
3. The wife loses weight too.
I’m down 20 pounds from last year at this time because of two main reasons. First, stuffing myself with manicotti at Olive Garden after a rough week just doesn’t provide the same level of giddiness if we can’t do it together. One piece of pasta, which expands in the stomach and is, therefore, the devil’s nourishment, is his limit. This does not make for an enjoyable Olive Garden experience. Big spaghetti dinner for the kids? Better make meatballs too, because that’s Dad’s dinner. As a result, I’ve stopped eating many carbohydrates and mainly eat per his dietary needs which include protein, vegetables and fruit. Two sizes down and shopping is relatively fun again (for me). Speaking of shopping…
4. Shopping is no longer fun (for him); it’s a chore because of the frequency of size changes.
As Coleman indicated in his article, you need new clothes every three months. In our house, it’s been averaging a new size every month or so. Coleman’s observation about losing sizes one month then pounds the next is dead on. My husband has literally shrunk before my eyes. Much the same as keeping children properly shod, keeping my husband relatively clothed is also a challenge. I found myself saying, “but you just got that shirt!” And, sure enough, it was too big the next month. I’ve also found we’ve adjusted to the importance of fit versus size. My husband is wearing jeans that are slim fit, not skinny. Relaxed fit swallow him alive in the butt and thigh. When you lose your gut you also lose your butt, an unfortunate side effect and one that requires me to pray as a church softball cheerleader, “please God, keep the pants up on the field.” Authors note: As I’m writing this article he’s modeling a pair of stunning JCrew jeans he purchased at a thrift store today for $7.99. Which brings us to number 5…
5. Thrift and consignment stores rock.
We have two consignment stores in town where my husband regularly brings in the clothes that are too big and sells for credit. He then buys the smaller size and, typically, we’re only out a few dollars. However, the dirty little secret of 100+ pound losers is this: Goodwill. I know, I know… used clothing, ick. We happen to have two Goodwill training facilities in nearby LaCrosse, Wisconsin that we patronize frequently. Often, he finds clothes with the tag still affixed; high quality brands such as Eddie Bauer, Land’s End, Arrow, Columbia, Dockers, Van Heusen and Claiborne for Men are regular finds. Sufficed to say, he’s wearing more expensive and higher quality clothes (even in a tall size) than ever before. As a result, number 6 happens…
6. Women react differently.
As Coleman stated, the female gaze is a real thing. Granted, my husband is neither running with his shirt removed in the hot Louisiana summer, nor is he getting catcalls from passing female drivers. I’ve noticed at social events the women react differently in his presence. I may be a bit biased, but he’s a hottie. A chiseled, square jaw has replaced three chins (his words). A clean-shaven face replaced a grey goatee. Many women with whom he reconnects after a prolonged period of time in a professional capacity often pause after the handshake, take a second to look him over and smile before asking if there’s something different about him now. He mentions the weight loss and it suddenly makes sense. To my eye, they are a little bit flummoxed and the barometric pressure of the conversation changes from professional to just atad flirty. One of our good friends, a professional woman in the community, described it this way: “I never saw you as a fat guy, so I didn’t even notice the weight loss until other people started commenting.” Speaking of other people commenting…
7. He is surprised how many men notice his weight loss and comment.
Men aren’t known for commenting on other men’s bodily changes, at least in our circles. In his view, men just aren’t that into noticing details. However, what he doesn’t see is that a 100+ weight loss is really noticeable, so even dense guys see the change. Every time a guy says, “hey, you look really good, man!” he’s surprised. It never really gets awkward, until…
8. Losing the weight via surgery is commonly seen as taking the “easy way out.”
Coleman’s efforts to lose weight via exercise and dieting alone are commonly seen, in my experience, as more commendable than via surgery. I know from firsthand experience, because people say it to me all the time, it must have been really easy to lose the weight that way. Well, sure. All they had to do wasanesthetize him, cut him open in four places, cut out 75% of his stomach, and stich him back up. Bada bing, bada boom. Skinny. In reality, there were six months of every kind of medical appointment imaginable including but not limited to: blood tests, psychiatric tests, urine panels, cholesterol checks, an endoscopy to check for pre-cancerous cells, a swallow test to measure acid reflux, blood sugar tests, potassium tests and visits with the nutritionist. Bariatric patients are also required to lose 10% of their body weight before surgery and adhere to a pre-surgical three week liver shrinking diet. After surgery, eating is much more of a big deal. Preparation is necessary; protein is crucial. Water is even more essential, but not in conjunction with food. Nothing is wasted. Junk food is nonexistent. Once your body is used to the new way of eating, about three months out, warning signs are easy to read, including…
9. Burps are a warning, not entertainment.
With four children, three still in the house, burping is really important. A good burp can really lighten the mood. Burping the alphabet is an admirable deed in the eyes of both teenage boys and elementary school girls; we have a selection of each. Burping on command? Impressive. A loud, juicy, multi-octave burp? Priceless. Burping after VSG? A warning to stop eating now or you’ll be sorry later. We did not learn this through a vomit experience, but through an online support group called the Sassy Sleevers.
10. Support groups are really important.
The fact that my husband is a Sassy Sleever is a well from which I continually draw when I need a good small-talk story at a business function. This is an online support group consisting of nearly 10,000 members. The vast majority of members are women, hence the sassy description. When my husband told me in the car very nonchalantly, that he had joined this group, I nearly shot iced tea out of my nose because it was hilarious! We have found this group to be very supportive in the journey. Little hints such as snacking on sugar free popsicles to ease nausea and burping as a warning sign have been lifesavers. Pictures posted on “motivation Monday” and “throwback Thursdays” show triumphant weight loss successes, even years after surgery. Others ask for help and hundreds, in varying stages of the journey, offer support and advice. On those bad days when you question if what you did was the right decision, those that have come before can buoy spirits and offer perspective. That’s been the greatest blessing, the support of strangers.
Originally posted on June 4, 2014 @ http://janacraft.blogspot.com/2014/06/10-thing-no-one-tells-you-about-your.html
Dr. Jana Craft is a Christian, wife, mother, business professor, fake biker and terrible cook who writes about the struggle to balance these identities and the joy derived from them all. She writes daily on Holding True.