Well hello there, Double Chinners – it’s Alyssa, your size 1x 18/20 friend. Why am I so brazenly sharing my current size for all of the interwebz to see? WELL, because for several years now I’ve been embarrassed about my size because it was much BIGGER than that. But now, I’m edging into the mainstream sizes, and soon, a whole world of shopping awaits me as I will fit into the “normal” sizes. HOORAY!
I’m excited to share that I’m exactly two weeks out from having “the sleeve”, which is a type of weight loss surgery called “vertical sleeve gastrectomy”. It’s called “the sleeve” because the stomach is reduced from the size of a pineapple to a banana, in a “sleeve” shape (think long shirt sleeve). Yeah yeah, it’s a weird name because there’s no actual sleeve or anything that goes on the stomach, but apparently surgeons are not copywriters (and that’s ok — I’d rather them know how to rearrange my guts than give something a cute name).
So… how am I feeling? I feel great. I feel lighter, I feel relieved, I feel grateful, I feel excited. I’m down nearly 25 pounds in just under a month (10 post-op, 10 pre-op), and the tiny bits that I can eat now fill me up beautifully. I am VERY fortunate to have had no surgical complications. (Pre-Op Tip: If you’re a barfy person, ask for “Scopalmine”, a behind the ear nausea patch.) The surgery itself was simple, and honestly, the hardest part of this whole adventure so far has been 1) the pre and post-op liquid diets (I am SO SICK of protein shakes and soup), and 2) the cough I have from the anesthesia tube. Here’s a few answers to common questions I’ve been getting that I wanted to share.
- How painful was it immediately after surgery?
Honestly, not too bad. Giving birth was far worse. I have a very high pain tolerance, but I definitely took the pain meds whenever the nurses offered. It more felt like I woke up and did 10,000 crunches. At two weeks out I have some soreness at the incision that had the drain in it, but honestly, I feel good.
- How long were you in the hospital?
Exactly one night. They make you walk 30 laps (1 mile) around the hospital floor to help you get the preoperative gas out of your stomach. I was pleasantly surprised that the gas wasn’t that bad for me. Once I finished walking, I was given tiny medicine cups to start hydrating, and thankfully, I had no problem getting down my protein drinks or water. I hate being hooked up to all the IVs so once I was sprung free I felt a lot better.
- How painful was it immediately after surgery?
- How many incisions do you have?
I have six small incisions. Most are about 75% healed, with the exception of the one that had the drain in it, which is still a little… weepy, but is on its way. (Yuck!)
- How much weight do you want to lose? I’ll be thrilled with 130 pounds, which is about 30 pounds less than my surgeon wants me to lose. My surgeon wants me to lose 160 pounds — and when I joked with him that I hadn’t been that weight since the day I was born, he didn’t think it was that funny 😉 I’ll do my best. I don’t mind a little extra junk in the trunk as long as I feel good, am healthy, and am happy.
- Are you hungry?
I have some fleeting moments of hunger where I can tell I need to hydrate and get in some protein, but it’s nothing at all like the type of hunger a “normal” stomach experiences during the day. Part of the appeal of this surgical procedure is that it removes the portion of the stomach that produces the hunger hormone, so appetite reduction greatly assists weight loss.
- How much can you eat?
Now that I’m back on soft/normal foods, I can get down about two tablespoons of egg salad. I am able to eat a whole scrambled egg which freaked me out at first, but a quick email to my dietitian confirmed that’s totally fine and to remember that everybody is different. My dietitian has advised that the “maximum” for soft foods is four tablespoons at a time, half of which needs to be lean protein. This amount will increase gradually after a few months, but in general, I will never again be able to throw down on a pizza and eat half of it with no regrets.
- Are you off work?
I go back on Tuesday, and have been grateful for the time to rest. I’ve mostly just been tired and have been taking some epic three hour naps. This is normal as the body adjusts to reduced calorie intake.
- What has happened that you didn’t expect?
My first week home from surgery, I only lost two pounds and started to panic that the surgery didn’t work, etc. As much as I love social media, I was comparing myself to other people who had surgery the same day and had lost ten pounds in one week. Sure enough, the second week has had weight melting off of me — I’ve lost 8 pounds this week, which is mind blowing to me. I need to remember that COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY and that my adventure is MINE, nobody else’s. Secondly, I went to the bariatric support group at my hospital and I really enjoyed it. This was a big deal for me, because historically, I’ve hated support groups of any kind, including Weight Watchers. I think what made the difference was that the group was lead by a psychologist — and she was an excellent moderator, cutting people off when they went long, encouraging everyone to talk, and “correcting” harmful or assumptive statements as people said them. As somebody who spent a few years in therapy tackling an anxiety disorder, I really appreciated the structure and genuinely supportive style of this group. I’ll go back as often as I can.
So, in summary — I am so glad I did this surgery. I wish I would have done it ten years ago, but honestly, the timing is perfect for me as I had my beautiful babies and was able to indulge freely in street tacos (pregnancy with Holly) and Oreos (pregnancy with Haddie). I know that I may be in a Honeymoon period right now and things won’t always be easy . Yes, there are hard moments — like smelling freshly baked bread and knowing I’ve said goodbye to bread for a long while, but in general, I think this surgery is just the tool I needed to help me reach my goals. Surgery isn’t a cure for obesity, but it’s a great tool. With exercise, clean eating, and good mental health practice, I feel confident. I’m on my way! Thank you all for your support. I’m so grateful for all the texts, the emails, the flowers, the gifts, the comments, and the phone calls. One beautiful thing about social media is that it often has amazing power of connection and camaraderie, and I’m feelin’ it. If you’d like more frequent updates on my weight loss adventure, follow me on Instagram @DoubleChinDiary.
Any questions? Have at it!
(Want your own plush sleeve tummy? Get it on Amazon here. (Affiliate link: I make a fraction of a penny if you buy it!)).
WOOHOO! In what feels like simultaneously the longest and shortest wait of my life, I finally have a date scheduled for my vertical sleeve gastrectomy: Friday, August 24. I had six months of insurance-required classes, and then had to fulfill some requirements like going to a support group, seeing a psychologist, and doing preliminary lab work to make sure my body can withstand surgery. In a little less than two months I’ll be on the table, and should spring awake after my surgery a full 120 pounds lighter. Um, nah – it’s not going to work exactly like that (I wish), but it will be an exciting turning point with my life-long challenge of losing weight.
Between now and then I’m having food funerals, lab work, long pre-op classes, and eventually, a two week liquid diet. What’s a food funeral, you ask? It’s when you mourn the foods you may not have for awhile with a final send off. Think last meal like when you’re on Death Row, except I’m not on Death Row, so I just have to say Hasta La Vista to movie popcorn, cake, and sourdough bread for awhile. Matt and I are hoping to nab the grandparents soon so we can send out my stomach in style with a massive cheese and charcuterie board from the Newhall Refinery… and then once that’s done, I feel pretty good about having properly mourned some old favorites.
I have a really busy month of August with work travel so it’s going to be hectic leading up to surgery, but I’ve also planned it around when I can have a few weeks off to recover and get ready for the remainder of a busy Fall. I’m starting to have slight nerves about the procedure, but for the most part I’m just genuinely excited. I know there are going to be really hard phases and moments where I probably wish I had just stayed fat (and I’ve explicitly told my husband to expect me to probably have a few crying episodes like this), but after seeing so many of my friends and peers have success, I know that this can be the tool I need to get me to my healthiest.
I’ve started making some positive changes, like attending a boxing class twice per week. I’ve also cut out soda, which is difficult for me, as I do love a frosty cold diet coke with a wedge of lime. I’m not drinking anything with my meals, and I’m dabbling with all kinds of different protein powders to see what I like best right now, fully anticipating my tastes may change after surgery. I’m not a huge protein person now, so I hope I can get a handle on that as I know it’s absolutely vital to success post-op. Thank goodness for greek yogurt? (Fun fact: I got super turned off by chicken in both of my pregnancies, so I’m still struggling to integrate chicken back into my diet. Bleh. Nasty little birds. Unless they’re fried. Then, delicious little birds.)
I’m updating my Instagram more frequently than my blog these days, so if you’re interested in following along, follow me on Instagram @DoubleChinDiary. I’d love to have you along for the ride, and as usual, I thank you for all your support and camaraderie. I’m so excited to write what I hope to be among the final chapters of my Double Chin Diary <3
Oh goodness, my little Double Chin Diary. I think about you often, how I want to write, how I want to hang out and tweak your logos and colors and design, but then, a baby cries or a toddler whines or a cat pukes on the carpet — and suddenly the reality of the real world thrusts a bunch of other stuff onto my to-do list. Speaking of that to-do list, I’ve been “doing” for the past several months, having attended a class each month in preparation for my upcoming weight loss surgery! Woohoo! My insurance requires six months of “medically supervised nutrition courses”, so once a month, I go to the hospital where I will be poked open, and hear about what my life will entail pre-op, post-op and then some. I’ve actually really enjoyed the program because I’m surrounded by lots of like-minded people, and my nerdy planner-loving self gets to know what I can expect once my tummy is reduced in size.
The exciting news is that May is my last class! On June 1, I meet with the RD for a final appointment, and then, I will be submitted for final insurance approval, and assuming all is well, I’ll hopefully have a surgery date within the month of June. I was thinking about the adjustments I’ll need to make in life, and then pondering how many of us live our lives through a certain lens. For example, even if I lost all my excess weight, I think I’ll always live life through the lens of a heavy person. It’s going to be bizarre and wonderful to finally see efforts pay off; I’m so excited to think that for the first time in my life a “diet” will actually work for me. I’m oddly very excited to begin this process and get back to feeling like me, the me without the fat suit. I decided I’d answer a couple of the same questions that keep coming up, as I know I’ll want to refer to my thoughts on the surgery a few months after I’m actually post-op.
- Are you nervous?
Of course, but maybe not as much as I should be? I think any surgery is risky, but the procedure itself is laproscopic, and a pretty simple procedure overall. I’ve been told I’ll be up and walking within an hour of awakening to help work out the gas used in the surgery, so I’m hoping recovery isn’t too intense. I have a pretty good pain tolerance and birthed two babies, so the actual procedure itself doesn’t worry me, it’s more just the thought of drastically changing the way I eat. (Which in itself is a good thing, and a learning opportunity I need to have.)
- How long will you stay in the hospital?
Assuming I have no complications, it will be overnight. (Since I’m a new parent, I think it’s funny and sad at the same time that I’m looking forward to a night of sleep with no wakeups from baby or toddler!)
- What will your diet be like after?
Small, and for the first several weeks, liquids and soft foods while my tummy heals. At the beginning, I’m told to expect to be able to eat only about two ounces at a time.
- How much weight do you have to lose?
My surgeon and I have agreed 100 pounds will be great, 120 would be awesome, and 150 would be bananas.
- Will you have to exercise?
Yes. The sleeve surgery isn’t magic, but it’s a super helpful tool. I actually like exercise once I get into the groove, so I’m hoping I can get back to feeling good and get back to boxing and yoga and of course, training for the 3-Day.
- What are you most nervous about?
I think my fear is that I’ll regret having it. My worst case scenario in my mind is that it causes some irreversible health problem and I’m left regretting that I didn’t just stay fat. Hopefully this does not happen!
- Do you have any rewards set for hitting certain goals?
Yes! Horseback riding, going to Costa Rica and ziplining, going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, etc. I want to do some things that I maybe was too heavy for in the past.
- Are you sure you want to do something so drastic? Yup. “But, my cousin tried this new diet called…” NOPE.
I think one great thing about modern medicine is we usually get to choose how we treat ourselves and our ailments. I’ve spent a long time thinking about this and have researched the hell out of it, so I’m extremely confident in my decision to move forward. I need the help of a tool to help me get out of my weight loss hole – and there’s no shame in my game. Rock on 🙂
- Why can’t you just be happy with yourself the way you are?
I think that some people are 100% able to live their best lives at the size they are. I’ve been fortunate to live a life I’ve loved, whether it be at 180 pounds or 280 pounds. Has it always been easy? No. But I’ve traveled, I’ve had kids, I’ve worked an awesome career, and very seldom did size get in my way. But, sometimes, it did. And I want to feel like my best self and my best me, and I can’t live my best life with the sobering reality of the health risks of obesity lingering over me. So onwards, and upwards, and loving myself through it, and hoping you love yourself, too. (And if you don’t? Get on it. Life is too damn short for that crap.)
- What will you do when things get hard?
The same things I always do. Seek help, talk to knowledgeable friends who won’t judge me, go to therapy if I need to, work closely with doctors, be grateful, be persistent. I’m lucky to have several friends who have had the sleeve, and they’re graciously an open book to me and my million questions.
So that’s that! I can’t wait to update y’all in a little bit with some official “before” surgery photos. I hope you’re doing wonderful out there, and wish me luck in these next few weeks as I tackle my two-week liquid diet before surgery, and do all the blood work, etc. I always appreciate you cheering me on!
I’m getting weight loss surgery.
It feels freeing to type those words. It feels freeing to have a rapidly approaching helping hand, a tool in my toolbox to help me get to a healthier weight. It feels freeing to say, “I have done the research.” It feels freeing to know that this minimally-invasive surgery is safer than staying morbidly obese. It feels freeing to know that this body of mine, the body I have fought and broken and challenged for so many years will finally have a chance to be what I want it to be.
This decision has not come lightly. It has been the result of painful moments, of deep disappointment, of medical hurdles , of serious reflection and work. A few years back, surgery didn’t feel right for me. I was also about 50 pounds lighter back then. But babies and life and habits and hormones have taken their toll on this body and metabolism, and I find myself the heaviest I’ve ever been, ready to get to a point where I feel like ME in my skin, not a stranger in a heavy, stiff suit. For years I have tried to live between the dueling worlds of loving myself completely but being so uncomfortable in this skin. Now, I’m giving myself an exit strategy. It’s not the easy way out. In fact, I think making this decision to have an elective surgery that will seriously change my eating habits and life is pretty damn brave. But something needs to happen, and I’m ready. Let’s do this.
Am I scared? Of course. There are unknowns. There are possible side effects. Nothing is perfect, after all. But I am ready — and I’m ready to write the happy ending of the Double Chin Diary, the one where I walk happily into the sunset in a tankini, not self conscious about my stomach rolls, but instead, strutting with the positive satisfaction of a life well-lived and a body and mind that feel good. There will be bumps in this road, but it’s a road I’m excited to travel. My stomach will be reduced in size by about 80%, and the hormonal components that make weight loss very difficult for me will dissipate over time as my body produces less of the hunger hormone. I have an excellent support team — friends near and far that have had success with this same procedure, a loving husband and family. I’m ready.
For the next six months I’ll be working on changing my eating habits and getting back into fitness. Insurance requires that you diet for six months to prove that you’re serious about making this commitment. I have done the hard work of learning to love myself despite my weight. I live a happy life as a plus-sized woman. I honor my body, beautiful in its imperfection, amazing in its creation of two beautiful daughters, two legs that walk, two eyes that see, two hands that feel, a heart that beats that I wear on my sleeve. But, I want more. I want to shop in the women’s department, not the plus section. I want to sit on an airplane feeling less like a sardine. I want to hike the hills, to climb the mountains, to surf the waves, to hide and seek with toddlers, to fully live my life and come alive with physical energy and zeal. For somebody who’s fought this battle for 20 years, it feels good to know that the reinforcements are coming. It’s going to be hard. But it’s going to be worth it — and as usual, I’ll be right here, telling you all about it.
Thanks for reading <3