Stomach Surgery: Frequently Asked Questions

If you decide to get weight loss surgery, and you tell people you are getting it, you will get questions – people seem to be very curious about the whole process. As an over-sharer, I’m more than happy to answer people’s questions, and as I also find it fascinating I don’t mind talking about it at length.

I decided to put together some FAQs, for my friends and family and for anyone looking to have the surgery. I’ll be updating this as time goes on, below are my answers as at week 3.

photo1

Frequently Asked questions:

How much weight have you lost?

Always the first question I get asked, and if you get a sleeve done (and people know) it will be the first question you get asked too.

I lost 4.4 kilos on the pre-surgery shake diet and since my surgery day I have lost 8.3 kilos, so a total of 12.7 kilos so far (currently 3 weeks after surgery). I have yet to start exercising, and I have not been particularly calorie conscious (I’ve been too focused on the protein intake!)

What dress size did you start at, what are you now, and what are you hoping to get to?

I started somewhere between a 22 and a 24, depending on the cut/brand etc. Three weeks out, I am still a size 22, but things fit better. I’m not at the “loose clothes” stage yet. Thankfully I wear a lot of dresses, so I won’t have to get new clothes for a while; I’ll just wear belts until it starts to look weird.

My end goal, weight wise, is around 65-70kilos – so I’d say for my height that would be a size 10 or a 12. I don’t want to be skinny. I actually don’t think I have the genes or the bone structure to ever be considered skinny. I’d just like to be able to shop at normal dress stores and find something in my size. I promised myself at goal weight I’d go in to a skanky shop, like Supre and buy something cheap and nasty, just because I can.

Did it hurt?

Not really! I’ve had very limited pain in my stomach, much less than I had anticipated. I’ve not needed any form of pain killer since I left hospital. The pain I did have, in my chest and left shoulder, was mainly due to the gas they pump in you to perform the surgery, and it was gone within a week (thanks be to heat packs and lots of farting to let the gas out!).

More than anything I did feel uncomfortable. I felt tight around the middle, like I was really bloated or like I’d just done an ab work out and the gym and someone had decided to sit on my stomach. That feeling lasted a few weeks, and was worse depending on how much I’d done physically during the day.

I did have a lot of pain from the cannula the Anaesthetist put in my right wrist, in to my tissue (and not my vain where it was supposed to go). The underside of my wrist is still really sore and I can feel the pain going up the arm, where the line was. Three weeks since it was taken out and the area is still really tender and sore to the touch. However, this was not a result of the surgery, so not a common thing to happen to sleevers.

What does your stomach look like now?

I have two small cuts either side of my belly button and four small cuts around the left side of my stomach. Here’s a picture (three weeks after, so cleaned up and not too gross):

stomach - 3 weeks

What did you have to do when you got home?

When I got home from hospital I had to wear ted stocking for three weeks, and inject myself with Clexane for 10 days. I also had to take a Pariet (rabeprazole) tablet every day for 30 days. I was instructed to leave my bandages on for 10 days and then take them off. Otherwise, I just had to rest and recover.

What is the recovery time like (ie: how long before you can drive/start exercising/put the washing on the line/run a marathon)?

I was able to drive without any issue (except the odd pull on my stomach) within 10 days of my surgery. I didn’t try to drive before this, as I was pretty much couch bound and because I didn’t want to risk any insurance loop holes  (I read somewhere you weren’t supposed to drive for 10 days, because you aren’t covered for insurance during this time).

For the first few weeks, I had a bit of trouble bending over or reaching things; I’d feel a little bit of a pull and a dull pain. This passed with time.

I’m currently only 3 weeks out from surgery, and will be waiting at least 6-8 weeks until I start exercising again – I am going to listen to my body and will know when I am ready.

How much did it cost?

The surgery itself cost $6,000, my hernia repair cost $392, the Anaesthetist cost $1,115 and the hospital stay (in a shared room) was $6,427 (after “minimum benefit” was taken off by my Private health fund). It was also $180 to see the surgeon for the first time, and $100 to see the dietician. The Optifast shakes cost me roughly $150 for the two weeks.

I got about $1,645 back from Medicare and my Private health fund – so my total out of pocket was $12,700.

Annoyingly, I was originally quoted $20,000. I now believe that quote included the private room option, but I was never asked at the point of quote whether I would opt for a shared room and as such, when I went to apply for Early Release of Super I asked for $20,000!!! And now I will be taxed on $20,000 instead of $12,000. The other $6,000 went to paying off a loan and two credit cards – but I’d have rather it stayed in my super fund! I will be making extra contributions from my 30th birthday, to make sure I fill in the gap.

How much can you eat?

At first it was nothing, only liquid. When I started eating puree I’d be lucky to get in 50ml, but by week two I was finishing about 100-150ml containers without too much trouble – I just eat really slowly. A 100ml thing of yoghurt can take me 30 minutes to eat!

Eventually I’ll be able to eat about ¾ a cup (177mls) and then by next year I’ll be eating a bread plate sized meal (which would be considered a big meal).

What can you eat?

The post-surgery diet is in stages; liquid, puree and soft. The two week liquid diet meant I could only drink thin foods – if it fit through a straw, I could sip it.

By the puree stage I could eat anything with the consistency of baby food – custard, yoghurt, actual baby food etc. I cheated a little on this stage, trying out some foods that were between puree and soft, including scrambled eggs, chilli and soft cheeses. Thankfully I didn’t have any negative reactions to these, if I had, I would have stopped.

Do you feel hungry at all?

No. Never. Some days it gets to 1pm/2pm and if I’ve been really busy and forgotten to eat, I’ll only notice because I start to feel weak. I never feel the tummy rumble or the empty feeling anymore. Before surgery I would have gotten to 10am and started to feel lightheaded, shakey even – that doesn’t happen anymore. I have to remind myself to eat; it’s now a routine rather than driven by hunger.

Do you feel full after you’ve eaten?

I eat so slowly that it takes a while for me to get full. More than anything, I get indigestion and that’s how I usually know I’ve had my fill.

What happens if you eat too fast?

Same as above, I get indigestion. I can feel the reflux in my throat, but after about 30/45 minutes it passes. I’ve found drinking tea with honey has helped with the indigestion.

Has it been hard to make the right food choices, or are you told what to eat?

I have been tempted to eat some bad stuff, but to be honest I find myself thinking about my intake much more than I did before surgery – I could eat this handful of chips, or I could have some nuts and boost my protein intake for the day.

I’ve also been much more organised. I am actually bringing my breakfast, lunch and snacks to work – something I rarely did before surgery. Because I know what I need and exactly how much I need of it, I pre-prepare a lot. I figure it’s a waste of money to buy stuff from cafes, and a waste of food, as I’ll never finish the whole thing. It’s made it much easier to know what I am eating, and to regulate how much good stuff I’m getting in.

I was given some food guidelines from the dietician, but I’ve found online forums to be the best for finding out what foods are best.

Are your bad eating habits gone, and were they easy to break?

It’s still too early to tell, since I’m not yet back on proper food. It’s been easy to stick to the liquid/puree and not venture in to normal foods – I just picture my healing stomach and what harder food would do to it.

I have definitely stopped snacking, though. I use the time between my meals to get in my daily water, or a protein shake. I’m not tempted to eat chocolate or anything I would have snacked on pre-surgery, because it has no nutritional value (except a little protein).

Do you miss food?

Yes, I missed food. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. I am a foodie! During the post-surgery diet, I missed socialising over food, I missed variety in the foods I was eating and, more than anything, I missed texture. I missed chewing! The thing that got me through the post-surgery diet was knowing that I would be able to eat again… eventually.

Have you been nauseas much?

Nope. I hear a lot of stories about people who throw up as a result of the anaesthetic, but I was lucky and it didn’t have any effect on me. I’ve also not had any nausea as a result of not eating, which is something I did get pre-surgery.

I have thrown up once since my surgery, because I ate something really fatty (potato and gravy from Kingsley’s) as my first meal of the day. To be honest, I probably would have spewed had I done the same before my surgery. This was during the pureed stage of my diet; I was out all day and needed something quick from the food court.

What’s your concentration span like?

Fine. I’ve not noticed any difference, if anything it’s better! I’m no longer in a sugar/fat haze, and because I spend less time thinking (daydreaming) about food, I have more brain space.

Do you have more/less energy than before?

Some days are better than others. When I first returned back to work I found myself quite tired, but by my second week I was fine. I was able to go for a walk at lunch and my sleep routine went back to normal.

If I need more energy, I usually just drink some juice or a protein shake to give me some extra calories.

Has there been any effect on your sleep?

I’ve been sleeping well, and a lot. For the first few weeks I had trouble getting out of bed in the morning, but that settled down. Now I sleep better than I did before, I don’t wake up in the middle of the night as much.

What other changes have you noticed?

My tastes and food wants have changed. I honestly have no idea how it happens, but food I liked before surgery I now hate.

  • Coffee is disgusting to me now.
  • I had a choc top at the movies, something I’d always loved – the chocolate was SO salty and the ice cream tasted like there was a kilo of sugar in it.
  • I used to love drinking water, would easily get in 2.5 litres a day, now it’s a chore to get in anything more than a litre.
  • I used to have milk and sugar in my tea, now I can’t stand it – I have lemon and honey if anything at all.
  • I never really liked chicken off the bone, but from day 1 after my surgery I wanted chicken wings.

My skin is much drier than it was before surgery, and I’m not as hot as I used to be.

Emotionally, I’ve not noticed much change. I have the odd FOMO moments, where I see friends posting pictures of their dinners on Instagram, but overall it’s not too bad – I usually just have some cheese or a cup of tea and I feel satisfied food wise. And currently I am too tired to feel up to socialising very much.

Are you glad you did it?

Yes. For every degustation that I am sad I have missed, there’s someone who tells me they’re proud of me and that I look great. I hate dieting – I love food, I am a foodie, and will never change – and this way I’ll never have to go on another lettuce or shake diet again!

What has been the hardest thing?

For me, the impossible part of the post-surgery diet was getting in enough protein and fibre, while still getting the recommended water intake. Because it takes me so long to eat or drink anything, I feel like that’s all I’m doing. I’m constantly drinking or eating, and when I’m not, I’m thinking about food and water (but not the way I used to). I get frustrated knowing that there’s not enough time in the day to ensure I’m getting everything I need.

Any tips?

  1. Find a sponsor – someone, whether it’s in real life or online, who has had the surgery. Best if it is someone around your area, even better if it’s someone seeming the same surgeon. I found three or four different people to talk to, so I never felt like I was bugging one person in particular. I found that all of them where open and so pleased with their op that they were more than happy to answer any of my questions. They were also there for me after the surgery, checking up on me and giving me little tips.
  2. Don’t compare yourself to other sleevers. It’s easy to read on a forum that Mary-Sue lost 20 kilos in a month, or for someone at work to tell you that their friend lost 26, but that doesn’t mean that will happen to you. One of my “sponsors” has lost 20 kilos in 3 months and sees that as a failure. To me, that is amazing and I am proud of her for achieving that – I’d be proud of her if it was 10 kilos. I am happy to lose any weight at all, as it’s so hard for me to diet and lose weight.

And finally, has blogging been helpful for you?

It has! I’m finding it quite cathartic to write my experience down. I’ve talked to a lot of sleevers who have told me they had “why did I do it” moments a few weeks after their surgeries – I haven’t had anything of the sort, and I put it down to this blog. Blogging, to me, is a form of therapy – writing down how you feel and sending it out in to the world.

I also like that I am now part of the pre-surgery research for someone else. It makes me feel happy to know that someone might be reading this and considering surgery – I want them to know what to expect and how great it’ll be.

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