Recently, I celebrated the four-year anniversary of my weight loss surgery at AAMC. It’s hard to believe that it’s already been four years since that important day! The recovery of the surgery feels like yesterday, but in other ways it feels like a long time since I was obese.
Someone recently suggested that I compare and contrast how life was before weight loss surgery, and how it improved after. I think this was a great suggestion, so I have dedicated this post to highlighting the improvements to my quality of life. It’s also fun to remember how much more difficult life was four years ago, and see how much better it is now.
- It’s easier to get in and out of my car. Before the surgery, I would struggle to get in and out of my car, particularly getting out. I would have to have both hands free and grip the frame of the door and car in order to provide the leverage needed to lift myself. Now, because I am much lighter and have stronger legs due to squats, getting in and out of vehicles is easy.
- It’s easier to tie my shoes. This is something most people do not think about until they’re morbidly obese. When there is a large belly in the way, bending over and tying shoes, putting socks on your feet, and anything involving interacting with your feet becomes nearly impossible. Four years later, I don’t even think about how easy it is to do these tasks.
- I am seldom out of breath, and sweat far less.I distinctly recall walking at a normal pace outside of my work with a friend. He commented that he was concerned that I was breathing extremely hard. Anything and everything physical would cause me to sweat profusely and breathe quickly and deeply. The most trivial tasks would turn into a terrible workout. I would have to change my clothes constantly. Now, I must perform some serious cardio to break into a sweat. It’s refreshing to easily do tasks and have the stamina to perform them.
- Bathing is now the easy task it should be. I discovered that when my body was covered in fat, it was very hard to bend over and twist my body in the necessary way to adequately shower myself. To a normal person, this sounds almost silly. To someone surrounded in extreme body mass, this becomes a serious issue and I would strain to contort my body in such a way where I adequately bathed. Even though I was in the shower, I would be drenched in sweat. Everything is back to normal in this department, courtesy of the substantially less body weight.
- I am far stronger than I used to be. This has less to do regarding body fat and more to do with increased muscle mass and strength training. In the past, I never went to the gym and I struggled to lift items, or perform basic physical tasks. Now I can easily carry heavy items, chop wood, lift my children, pick up objects, and support my body weight. Before surgery, I never in my life did a push up, crunch, chin up, or pull up. Now, I can do all of these with relative ease. I work every muscle group on my body at least weekly and while I’m far from being Arnold Schwarzenegger, I’m far stronger than I ever have been in my life, including my teenage years.
- I eat way healthier than before. Before surgery, I ate whatever I craved with no care in the world. I would drink multiple 2-liter bottles of Mountain Dew every day, directly from the bottle. I would snack on sweets, chips, processed food, fast food; whatever I could get my hands on, all the time. Now, I make a serious decision about everything I eat. I try to avoid processed foods entirely. I also try to eat organic food whenever possible. I try to eat food with the most basic ingredients, such as meats, nuts, beans, vegetables and greens, fruits and berries. All of these things would have been at the bottom of my list of food cravings prior to surgery. Surgery by itself did not improve my eating habits. I was able to lose my addiction to processed foods and carbohydrates as my diet evolved after surgery recovery.
- I no longer take any medication. Before surgery, I had high blood pressure and high cholesterol; both caused me to take five forms of medication each day. Now, both of those symptoms are gone (as well as my sleep apnea) and I instead take a wide array of vitamins and supplements to improve my overall health. I shall list all of these in a future post, but for now I will reveal that they keep me feeling great. Medication had negative side effects I do not miss. They gave me brain fog, fatigue, and swollen feet and ankles. Furthermore, I’m not convinced I was less at risk of a heart attack or stroke than had I not taken them.
- My brain is functioning much better. In the past, I had brain fog (from the medication, I believe), fatigue, low self-esteem, and trouble concentrating and thinking. I was poisoning my brain with medication and poor food choices, so it’s not surprising in retrospect that these symptoms existed. Now, there are no longer any cognitive issues. If I ever feel tired now, I know to eat kale chips or some form of vegetable. I eat healthy throughout the day, and I feel great and as mentally sharp as I always have been. I used to routinely fall asleep any time I was sitting down, which was often. I would fall asleep in meetings, in my computer chair, and even begin to nod off while driving, which was terrifying. I attributed that to the sleep apnea, because I would wake up exhausted and would feel tired all day long.
- I fit in regularly sized clothes. I can now easily walk into a store and buy a pair of pants and a shirt. I currently wear a medium or large shirt and 36″ pants, all of which are easy to find and do not require a special store or department to locate. I used to wear 3XL shirts and 52″ pants prior to surgery. Those sizes were tricky to find, were more expensive than normal sizes, and were a real drain on my self-esteem.
- I can hold my breath longer. This became especially apparent because of snorkeling. In the past, I could not dive beneath the surface, because I couldn’t hold my breath. When there is a lot of internal fat surrounding your organs and especially your lungs, your lungs cannot expand to their full size. As such, you take fast, short breaths and cannot hold your breath for long. Furthermore, because I was out of shape, simply diving down would case my heart rate to elevate, which would cause me to require more oxygen. Now, I can easily dive down 15 feet or more with no issue, and remain underwater for a respectable amount of time.
- I easily fit into airplane seats now. I was on the verge of requiring a second seat, and the seatbelt extension, on airplanes prior to my surgery. I would have to suck in my belly to buckle the seatbelt on the loosest setting, and I would quickly unbuckle it when the flight attendant was not looking. Now, I have plenty of slack on my airplane seat-belts, and plenty of room within my seat. No longer do I have indentations from the arm rests in my legs and belly.
- I no longer have to worry about things breaking because of my weight. Tree stands, ladders, hammocks, chairs, and countless other things are rated less than 300 pounds of support. I would break things and otherwise worry about my safety when I would put my weight on objects that were not rated for my weight. One time I was installing a light above my kitchen island, and broke the granite counter top with my weight. I don’t have to worry about that any longer!
- My doctor visits are significantly more pleasant. Gone are the days when I would go to my doctor and he would lecture me about my weight, and caution me that I was on the highway to a premature death. I used to dread my doctor appointments so much that I would delay them entirely. Now, I look forward to seeing how good my blood levels are, how my weight is, and to be in a healthy range of all medical parameters that he checks.
I’ll continue to add to this list as I think of more, but the first 13 improvements immediately came to mind without giving it any amount of thought. To say that my quality of life has greatly improved because of the weight loss and muscle gains would be an immense understatement.