Emotionally prepping for my sleeve gastrectomy

Several years ago I decided that I was tired of the ups and downs of weight loss. I was frustrated with the piles of misinformation from blogs and magazines. I was frustrated that I did not have the will power to “control my eating habits.” I am an emotional eater. Those words go together in more ways that one: I’m emotional, I’m an eater, and I’m an emotional eater.

I started to research the lap band. At the time it was a relatively new technique and it seemed safer than gastric bypass, which entails rerouting your intestines and cutting at both ends of the stomach. Eventually I discovered the sleeve gastrectomy; a procedure where the fundus of my stomach is removed, limiting my ghrelin creation (a hormone associated with hunger) as well as restricting the amount of food that I can eat.

My Family (Me, Rebecca, Hannah, and Violet)

Two and a half years ago, my wife and I found out we were pregnant. I was overwhelmed with emotions. I wasn’t prepared, physically, for a baby. I was 330 pounds at a little over six feet tall. I’ve always been a big guy, and at most points in my life I’ve had excellent health, but at this point in my life I was out of breath walking up stairs and my cholesterol was a little high. Most of my other numbers were good, but it was clear that I was not going to be able to overcome the previous 33 years of bad habits while raising a baby with my wife. I wanted to give my children the best I could. I wanted to use the hashtag #fitfamily and make sure that they didn’t endure the criticism that comes with being overweight.

This was extremely emotional for me. For years and years I was an athlete, and I had failed myself. I have always wanted my children to have the absolute best opportunity to make an impact on the world. How could they do that if their dad wasn’t a good example for them? How could they overcome the halo effect of skinny people or their self esteem from poor body image? How could they overcome a society that so highly values a slim waist line (especially in females)? What would I feel like if one of my children comes home crying about being made fun of for her weight.. and all this time I’ve been setting a horrible example?

I just couldn’t take the thought of all of the body image issues landing on my children.. and the blame landing directly on me.

So, I went for it. I decided to get the sleeve gastrectomy. It was safer than other options, and extremely effective (most people lose 75% of their excess weight, and level off at 50% of their excess weight over 3 years). This will kickoff a major change in mindset and exercise (still the hardest part to come).

I’ve had excellent care in the preparation for this surgery. I’ve had an EKG, cardiac clearance, bone density scan, a couple of nutritionist visits, a psychology clearance, a resting metabolic rate test (at 2800 calories per day that’s 400 calories fewer than the Basil Metabolic Rate shown in most calculations.. why do we use a simple formula to calculate how much we can burn?), an upper endoscopy, 5 years of BMI history, and 6 months of doctor overseen diet. I was ready!

The two weeks leading up to the surgery I was on a liquid and green vegetable diet. I lost almost 20 pounds (a weird feeling after determining that diets just don’t work for me in my mindset). The diet was awful, but it’s a lot easier to turn down a burger when you’re worried that you might inhibit your doctors work while your life is in his hands and you’re “asleep.”

My Girls (Violet and Hannah)

The day before the surgery I sat with my daughter Hannah in her rocker. I was reading her favorite book (Frosty the Snowman). I started crying because it was overwhelming to think about the change coming, but it was for her (and my wife and second daughter Violet); and there was the inherent danger of cutting out a major part of my stomach. I couldn’t imagine being without the loves of my life. I also had an odd feeling that I might fail. The pressure was on. There was no turning back.

The 30-day mortality rate for sleeve gastrectomy was 0.08 percent, while the rate for gastric bypass was 0.14 percent and 0.03 percent for gastric banding. These mortality and complication rates are lower than those typically associated with gallbladder or hip replacement surgery. — ASMBS.com

I was in the best hands I could be in. I live in the Charlotte, NC area, home to incredible doctors. My doctor Dimitrios Stefanidis, MD, PhD is extremely competent. He speaks three languages, a broad swath of experience, has a PhD, and still practices on the simulator (yes Dr. Stefanidis, I was paying attention to all the details during our visits). On top of all that, he has an excellent bed side manner. He listens and he answers questions honestly in a technical manner (which I appreciate because I thirst for guidelines and information).

I didn’t mention this before, but my weight had risen to 353 pounds. It’s a challenge to diet when you think the solution is around the corner.

Last week, on October 13th, I had the surgery. Since the surgery, I’m down to 321 pounds (a total of 32 pounds). It feels good to be on the way down, but it’s very hard to swallow anything much less eat a satiating meal. I am getting better each day, inching closer to feeling normal, and I’m excited for what the future holds. I look forward to sharing that with you, here.