Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Preparing for Surgery

It took me about 16 months to get approved after I started the process (which is a pretty typical amount of time). And once I got approved for surgery I had another 6 weeks to wait for my date to arrive. Keeping busy helps pass the time and prepare you for life after WLS -- this is what I did:
  • Read, read, read and read some more. Read every profile you can get your hands on at OH and every book you can get your hands on about WLS. WLS for Dummies is a great place to start when it comes to books. And you're welcome to read my profile on OH or my blog too. 
  • Research your butt off! Learn everything you can about how your digestive system works, what your body does with different macronutrients (protein, carbs, fats), what happens after surgery to our system and how it processes medications, how certain vitamins and supplements effect your body, why certain supplements are better for us than others (i.e.: iron and calcium citrate vs. carbonate), the differences in types of exercise and what is best for your body type and how you want your body to burn energy. Also research multi-vitamins to find out which one is best for you based on nutrition and the way it's produced (look for the USP symbol). The links in this paragraph point you to some of the research I've done for myself or websites that'll help you dig deeper. 
  • Start a WLS Binder. I have this great binder where I keep all my information about my own personal WLS. I have a copy of my medical records, a listing of all my current medications (including dosage, prescribing doctor, reason for taking it, etc.), my personal reasons for wanting WLS and a list of my goals. I also have a copy of all the paperwork my surgeon's office gave me including the checklist of requirements I needed to fulfil before surgery, letters from my insurance and PCP, my 12 month diet documentation paperwork, etc. I also keep a copy of the eating plan and all the sample menus from my nutritionist. I keep my weight loss chart and measurements chart in this binder. Each section is concise and well organized. I take this book with me to all doctor appointments and keep it on my kitchen counter for easy access and reference. I call it my WLS Bible. 
  • Start collecting recipes. Eggface's blog is a good starting point. Charlie and Lea have great blogs/sites. And don't forget about Nik's Bariatric Foodie blog.  I put all my favorites into a binder that I refer to often. (Update:  That "binder" has now become my Protein Recipe Book.) And keep an eye on my Recipe Index for old recipes and new ones being added all the time. 
  • Clean house. Clear out the pantry and cupboards of any foods you won't be eating after surgery (or shouldn't be eating before surgery while trying to lose weight). Give it all to family members or a food bank -- get it out of the house. The sooner you get rid of temptations the easier it'll be to stick to your pre-op diet plan. 
  • Take a critical look at your dishes. I got rid of my huge pasta-type bowls and other dishware that promoted over-sized servings. I then started shopping around for some new dishes that were pretty, smaller and something I'd enjoy eating off of. This is the set I decided on - but instead of buying the big dinner plates and bowls... I bought the sets of salad plates and dessert size bowls only. I bought these for myself after I was approved for surgery as a congratulatory gift to myself for dealing with all the insurance hoops. And then I didn't start using them until after I came home from the hospital after surgery. They're pretty and make me happy when I eat off them and it reinforced the fact that I'm completely changing my way of eating -- not just the food is different, even the dishes are different.
  • Consider your disposable dishes too. Protein shakes are messy and make washing glasses very difficult if you don't rinse them right away. I also have my protein shakes on the run most often -- so leaving a glass in the car all day is a pain in the butt. So I opted for disposable plastic glasses for my protein shakes. Makes my life easier. I also opted for disposable plastic storage containers --- the 6oz kind with a lid. You know those little plastic container you get for to-go salad dressing or cole slaw from a restaurant... that's what I bought. When you open a can of something (soup or whatever) you won't be able to eat it all. So why not store the leftovers in individually portioned containers so it's easy to grab something for the next meal. BUT -- at the end of the week you're going to have dozens of those stupid leftovers and you aren't going to feel like washing dishes. So it's easier to just toss the whole bowl instead of washing 20 tiny tupperware bowls every week. I had enough to worry about in the early days after surgery, I didn't want housework to be one of them.  (Check out this recent post that shows some of the disposable dishes I still use for pre-packaging protein shakes)
  • Find a support group and start attending. An in-person group is the most important thing I've done for myself. The information shared at a peer-to-peer support group is invaluable. You hear what others are struggling with and the suggestions they receive from other members. This is real-life stuff here! I've made some great friends and have been able to help others with my story and experiences. I learn something every single time I go to a meeting. I attend 3 different support group meetings each month and wouldn't give up any of them. 
  • Protein Powder. If you're doing high protein dieting right now, you're going to want to find a protein shake that you like now, before surgery. Definitely expect that flavor to not work after surgery, but at least you'll have the chance to get into the habit of shakes in your meal planning. Once your surgery date gets closer, you can order some samples of protein powder that you can use after surgery -- finding the right protein powder for you is a huge game of experimentation.  Explore this Protein Shake Primer for more details.
The more knowledge you have about how things will be after surgery, the more successful you'll be for the rest of your life. Knowledge is power!



  1. Pam, Just found your blog today. Thank you for this list! I just added you to my new blog and am going to add you at OH as well. Look forward to reading and learning more from you! :) Shauna

  2. Thanks, Pam. Your suggestions and ideas are invaluable to me. Love your blog and love reading your posts on OH, too. My surgery for RNY is on 4/19/10. I'm beside myself with joy at the prospect of getting out of this prison called my body and starting my brand new life. "I can do hard things."



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