Three Years Later: Life After My Gastric Bypass Surgery

(null)Transparency can be a difficult thing.

When I decided to start Beauty and the Bypass, I was feeling empowered. After years of unsuccessful weight loss attempts, I was ready to proactively change my life. I was motivated to not only be a success for myself, but to inspire other people to do hard things.

Year one was the year of achievement. I went under the knife. I shared my ups, downs, and sideways moments. I hit many numerical goals and shared frequent non-scale victories. I lost 100 pounds in 6.5 months, and was down exactly 130 pounds on my one year “surgiversary.” But that was a one-day weight…and possibly a fluke with my scale.

At the beginning, I wanted desperately to be able to glide into Onederland and be under 200 pounds. But on my best and lowest day, I was 241. I hovered between 245 and 255 for the next year, struggling with reactive hypoglycemia, mono, peritonsillar abscesses and some deep mental health struggles. In October 2013, I had a tonsillectomy which resolved the recurring infections and mono. However, within a month of the surgery, I moved from Salt Lake City to Detroit and started a new job. Talk about a crazy whirlwind!

nicole bullock weight lossOnce I was in Detroit, I had a few personal epiphanies about my happiness. Because I was in a new place, re-establishing friend groups and professional ties…I realized how taxing it was to be “weight loss girl”. I was insecure about my weight loss success story because I was still technically obese. While specific numerical weight goals were in my head, my real personal goals were physical health (reduction of comorbid conditions like sleep apnea and hypertension), mental health, and ability of participate in physical activities without my weight/size limiting me. I realized that I had achieved improved health and activity, but my mental health was still lacking.

As a sufferer of depression and anxiety since my teen years, I’ve tried plenty of medications and met with quite a few mental health professionals. The pills and visits seemed to help me situationally, but I still would get into phases where my coping skills were poor. And whereas food was a frequent coping mechanism prior to surgery, I had lost my ability to medicate with food to a degree. After a long hard look at my life, my happiness, and my health…I decided that blogging no longer brought me the satisfaction it had for over a decade.

So I stopped giving myself arbitrary expectations of writing posts…just because. I got many concerned messages from readers, and I wasn’t exactly sure what to say. I was living my life as a healthier woman, and didn’t necessarily want the voyeurs of the interwebz to have access to my deepest and darkest. I posted a little on my Beauty and the Bypass Twitter and Facebook pages, but the previous drive to maintain my online success was gone. I declined sponsorships, product reviews, and opportunities to make money off my weight loss success. Some days I regretted it…but it was largely a relief to take myself out of the spotlight.

I knew I’d still want to make occasional updates on the blog, but I feel like most of my gastric bypass story has been told. There are bloggers I adore such as Melting Mama and Eggface who continually update the WLS world on post-op life. But since several people have asked me to give an update, here are a few highlights of 2014.

(null)My friend Wendy contacted me and said she was going to be coming to town in October to do the Detroit Free Press international half-marathon. Through her powers of persuasion, i consented. I’m not a runner by any means, and I care about my joints too much to take up rigorous running at this weight. So I walked and jogged 13.1 miles through Detroit and Windsor, ON. It was the most physically taxing thing I’ve ever done, but I hobbled through the last 2 miles and sprinted across the finish line to get my awesome finisher medal.

I was very into tracking my fitness during the year with my Fitbit One Activity Tracker (add me on my Fitbit profile). I made a goal of walking 3 MILLION STEPS in 2015…and I accomplished it. In fact, I ended the year with a total of 3,433,531 steps, which was the equivalent of 1593.95 miles. Also, I climbed 3,748 flights of stairs! But one thing that I learned is that steps alone won’t make you lose weight…and an active lifestyle still requires control of what you eat. I was less careful about my intake in 2014, and that’s part of the reason I had some regain. I own it, and I’m working on it.

(null)Another highlight of 2014 was my family trip to Amsterdam. When the Bullock family travels, we do so in short intense bursts. With only 4 days in the Netherlands, we crammed in as much excitement as physically and financially possible. We walked and walked and ate and enjoyed time as a family (and I celebrated my 10 year wedding anniversary with Taylor). It was such a happy trip, and I would not have been able to enjoy it so much had I not lost the weight from gastric bypass.

My weight has crept up to 270ish, and my goal for 2015 is to tackle some of this regain. It’s hard to stay active through Detroit’s arctic winters, but I look forward to spring when I will be able to ride my bike all over my area and spend my lunch breaks wandering through Detroit people watching and taking pictures.

And that’s my 3-year post-op update.

Comments

  1. Danna Lockerby says:

    Hi Nicole,

    We had our bypass surgeries within a month of each other, and we started at similar starting weights (347.5) for me. The third year is hard. It just is. My 3 year surgiversary is in 3 weeks. I’m 51.5lbs from my goal of 135lbs. Which I openly acknowledge may be too light (I’m 5’7″ tall and 47 years old). I’m up 20lbs from where I was this time last year and it’s frustrating. But, it was entirely due to me not watching my intake. I ran the Disneyland Marvel Superheroes 1/2 marathon in November 2014. It was a HUGE undertaking for me to train for and I let my food slide. Yes I gained weight training for a 1/2 marathon… go figure. I’ve learned over the last year, that it really is 80%+ what you eat. Exercise is great and makes me feel great, I’m still running and doing lots of other exercise, but it is not a magic bullet, at least for me. I’ve also accepted, much to my dismay, that I will very likely need to track my intake forever. Tracking my food on Myfitness pal really does make me more aware of what I’m eating, the nutrient mix I’m taking in and the calories that I’m consuming. It alters my eating behavior when I track, in a positive way. Though I had really hoped that I wouldn’t need to track long term, I’ve accepted that I’m going to have to. Not tracking much of last year brought that lesson home for me. So I’m working on my regain (my 1st step goal is to lose the 19.5lbs of regain), then my 2nd step goal is to get to the top of the “normal” BMI range for my height and out of the overweight range…losing another 11.5lbs after the 1st 19.5, then step 3 goal is to drop the final 20lbs….but on the step 3 I’ll have to see when I get closer if this is realistic or even something that I want to attempt. I understand your desire not to be “weight loss girl”. Please know that you are not alone in your year three struggle and that this is a life long learning process. You’ll do great.

  2. So happy to hear about your life! Keep on, keeping on!

  3. Phoebe E. says:

    Hi Nicole. I’m struggling with motivation to get the last lbs off myself. I had a gastric sleeve in Oct 2013 and it was converted to a full gastric bypass at the end of Dec 2014 when I had to have my gallbladder removed due to gallstones. I had great success with the sleeve – I went from 350 lbs (5’4″) to 195 lbs before I hit a plateau. If I hadn’t mentally “slipped” while on a cruise with my husband -I truly think I would not have had any rebound weight either, but I did and since I still had 60 lbs to go (after losing 15 lb. of the 20 lb. cruise weight gain) my surgeon & I decided the smart thing to do would be to convert to a full bypass while he was in there to remove the gallbladder. I’ve lost 25 lbs since the conversion and have been sitting between 170-175 for 8 weeks now. I know it’s because I have not emotionally invested in the final leg of this journey. I spent close to 20 years morbidly obese and it’s just so easy to fall back into bad habits. The surgery is just a tool – one that only works if you constantly work with it. You are right – if you don’t deal with the emotional reasons for the weight gain in the first place then you can end up right back where you started. I have been seeing a therapist weekly for 2 years now. Even with that I struggle daily to not fall back to the comfort of food in depressing, stressful or celebratory situations – my triggers. 2 days ago I made the financial commitment to hire a personal trainer to get me to where I want to be physically, hoping that the mental part will be pulled in that direction as well. I feel like if I can just make it to the final goal I will have a huge sense of accomplishment and will be able to let food go as my crutch and replace it with healthier options. I have a bad habit of getting things to 95% completion and then never finishing what I started. Even though I’ve lost around 200 lbs altogether since I started this journey (includes weight rebound) I don’t feel like a success because I still think of food as more than just fuel. The hardest thing is to hold myself accountable and not blame others or situations for my poor choices. I hope to be both physically and mentally healthy at some point in my life – hopefully sooner rather than later. Hang in there yourself 🙂

  4. So great and inspiring to see your journey like this. I’m confident that with your passion, you’ll be able to reach what your current goals are too. Congrats on what you’ve achieved so far!

  5. Thank for sharing your experience.

  6. Rachel Navarre says:

    I just read through your entire journey, and let me just say I am INSPIRED! I had my surgery orientation last week and have my first appointment on my list today. Today I am seeing the Dietician and Exercise Specialist. I am so nervous, and so excited for this process. Your story just lit a fire under me! 🙂

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