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.

Reflections of a Two-Year Post-Op

nicole bullock 2 year gastric bypass

February 7th was my two year “surgiversary” of my roux-en-y gastric bypass surgery. I’ve been trying to decide how to commemorate this anniversary on my blog for a few weeks, and nothing felt quite right. I’ve got lots of pictures on Facebook, Instagram, and my blog that show my weight loss progress, so I didn’t want to focus on my external/physical changes. I wanted to touch on some thoughts and feelings about how I’ve changed on the inside…and how I’m still the same.

Reflections of a Two-Year Post Op:

I would like to lose more weight, but I am happy with where I am at: When I embarked on my weight loss journey, I had the ultimate goal of losing 200 pounds. On my absolute lowest day, I had a total of 131 pounds lost. That means that I’m still 70 pounds overweight, and I’m not completely satisfied at my progress. But setting the scale aside, I like ME a lot better. I can look into the mirror and like who is smiling back at me. I can find clothes that I feel comfortable and attractive in. My weight doesn’t hold me back from things that I’d like to do (biking, skiing, swimming, 12+ hour days of walking during travel, etc). I’ve got my problem areas that are managed by shapewear, but I’m not horrified by my bulges and loose skin. I like ME, and even if I don’t lose any more weight, I feel like my surgery was a success.

I still have my taste buds: Just because I had surgery to restrict the amount of food I can ingest, that doesn’t mean that I care if it tastes lousy. I do care. I love food, and willingly admit that I focus a lot of time and money on good food. I tried to get into the mindset “Eat to live, don’t live to eat,” but it doesn’t work for me. I have an emotional attachment to food, and I don’t think that any amount of therapy will change that. I like to celebrate with food, I like to be social around food, and I make better food choices when I just accept those truths. I am not as restricted by the types of food I tolerate as I was right after surgery. I can handle a small dessert without dumping. I eat more carbs than an average RNY patient to avoid reactive hypoglycemia. I usually don’t feel sick after having something rich or fatty. I can’t rely on my “tool” to limit the foods I eat by making me feel sick, so I have to think about the foods I eat. However, now that I’m eating more calories per day, I MUST be active. I feel lousy on days that I haven’t exercised, and I know that eating too much will make it tough to keep my weight in check.

Weight loss doesn’t fix everything: Surgery and the subsequent weight loss have helped me get my blood pressure under control, reduced edema and helped circulation in my legs, and has allowed me to be much more active. But the major disappointment with my pre-surgery comorbidities is that I still have obstructive sleep apnea. I had a sleep study in November that revealed that I have significantly improved my apnea, but I’m still advised to use a CPAP machine (at pressure 5). I have struggled with depression and anxiety since my teen years, and weight loss hasn’t changed those mental health challenges. If anything, I think I have more problems with anxiety. I’ve had some nutritional deficiencies that require ongoing management. I had mono last year, which made me feel tired and lethargic all the time. I consider myself MUCH healthier than I was in 2012, but I’m still not normal or perfect.

Forgive regain, to a point: For the first 10 months after surgery, the numbers on the scale went down consistently. But since December 2012, I’ve been in a constant struggle with my scale. On my absolute lowest weight day, I was at 242. But I was working out like a maniac at that point, having RH crashes too often, and I felt weak. Once my RH was under control, I came down with mono. And peritonsillar abscesses. And I had to go on steroids. And I had surgery. And my doctor restricted my from rigorous exercise for 2 months. On my worst day with the regain from surgery and steroids, I weight 261, 19 pounds up from my highest. For the last 2 months, I’ve been hovering between 248 and 252. I could freak out about what I’ve regained, but I have other things to worry about. However, my RED ALERT weight is 260. If I hit it again, I will be fighting it like gangbusters.

taylor and nicole 2 years

Relationships change, friends come and go
: WLS is like a magnifying glass on relationships – it makes the good things better, and the bad things worse. Taylor and I went through some tough times in our relationship prior to surgery, and I wasn’t sure how our marriage would fare post-op. Luckily, he has been an incredible support, I know how much he loves me, and my increasing health has only made our marriage stronger. But not all people can say the same.  It’s been interesting to watch my friends go through relationship changes since WLS: divorces, infidelity, marriages, serial dating, moving across state lines to be with the ones who make you feel loved. Those in abusive relationships tend to finally have the courage to move on, whether it is a romantic relationship or just a friendship. I’ve lost friends, but have gained many more. And some of the friends I’ve made since surgery have already moved on. You have to do what is best for your sanity, and sometimes that means that you rely on different people than you did in the past. It’s hard to move on, and I’ve shed tears over people I no longer have in my life, but I am so grateful to the ones who continually support me.

I’m not ready for plastic surgery: With all of my blogging and social media connections to the weight loss surgery world, I’ve seen some amazing transformations over the last few years. For many of them, they hit their goal weight in less than a year, and have reconstructive plastic surgery soon after. I’ve been fortunate to have minimal skin sagging and need for major reconstruction, but that may change as I lose more weight. And I haven’t ruled out the possibility of having another child yet, so I will wait for any additional surgery until I have a baby or decide to keep my family as is.

I’m not sure where I’m going with my blog next: I’ve had some pretty awesome opportunities through blogging about my weight loss. I’ve spoken at conferences, I’ve been on TV, I’ve been featured on health websites, and have a loyal group of followers online. But I’m in a bit of a “blog life crisis” – I don’t always feel like blogging about my health, I get offers from brands to review products and want to take advantage of those opportunities, but then I get behind with writing for me. I will probably be writing here less and less. I’ve got a time-intensive job that demands my attention more than past positions, and getting back on a computer after work rarely happens. I’ll post when I have something important to say, and not pressure myself to post for the sake of posting.

Top Ten Non-Scale Victories of 2012

2012 has been an incredible year for me.

I have accomplished so much, and achieved goals that have previously seemed impossible. Obviously, the weight loss has been the highlight of my year. I weigh over 120 pounds less than I did going into 2012. But beyond the total pounds, there have been a lot of other non-scale victories (also known as NSVs in the weight loss community).

Some of my favorite NSVs:

  1. Having the energy to walk 10+ hours a day with my family in London
  2. Fitting into jeans and dresses that haven’t fit since I was newly married to my husband
  3. Being able to go on airplane flights without a seatbelt extender…and having extra slack on the seatbelt when I pull it taut.
  4. Seeing my collarbones again. And my knee bones. And my wrist bones.
  5. Acquiring an amazing support network, both online and offline, by sharing my story
  6. Meeting Beth (aka Melting Mama) and many friends from Bariatric Bad Girls Club
  7. Having the confidence to go on TV and be featured as KSL’s Blog of the Week 
  8. Being able to cross my legs comfortably
  9. Tossing aside my giant beach towel and using a regular-sized towel for bathing
  10. Looking at myself in the mirror…and seeing the real Nicole that I know has been there all along…

Here’s to an amazing 2013!

I Am Thankful

20121122-212920.jpg2012 has been such an amazing year for me. I am accomplished so much, made so many new friends, traveled to great places, have excelled in my career, and feel like I’m in the best place I’ve been in my adult life.

After the intense difficulties of 2009, 2010, and 2011, it has been such a blessing to have a good year. In the past three years, I dealt with 18 months of unemployment. I had a major injury to my back and hip that caused me to have limited mobility for 6 months. I had long-term bouts on steroids for flare-ups of my COPD and countless bouts of pneumonia and bronchitis, which led to 70 pounds of weight gain that felt out of my control. My sleep apnea was severe, and I was constantly fatigued. My mental health struggled. I did not feel like myself. I was doing my best, but it didn’t feel like it was ever enough.

20121122-214628.jpgAlthough I’m only 10 months out from surgery, I began preparing myself for surgery in late 2010. I started compiling medical records, met with my doctors to discuss my clearance for major surgery, and I did research on the different types of weight loss surgery available to me. After Cigna denied my surgery in Spring 2011 (pending an additional 6 months of physician-supervised weight loss), I had lost a lot of hope. I felt like I was stuck in my lot.

But in late January, my appeal for surgery was approved. I have had more success with my weight loss going the surgical route than I did in 20 years of attempts in every way imaginable. It has not been easy, but it’s been worth it.

120 pounds in 10 months. I still can’t believe it.

20121122-213012.jpgOur family is spending the Thanksgiving holiday in California with Taylor’s family. A lot of my friends back home were doing turkey trots or going to the gym to prepare for the massive gorgefests at Thanksgiving dinner. I told Taylor I wanted to go out on a lengthy walk to burn some calories before dinner. He told me about a route that he really likes through San Dimas Canyon, and told me it was just over 3 miles. Last year, I would have told him that he was crazy to suggest it. This year, I embraced the challenge and had a great time being active with my husband. The weather was gorgeous, with clear sunny skies.


I grew up in Oregon, and being active in the outdoors feels like second nature for me. While my body wasn’t able to handle it, I really missed it. I’m so happy to be able to do things outside and not feel like I’m going to pass out.  I’ve started biking again. This winter, I’m planning on giving both skiing and snowboarding a try. I’m even thinking of trying my hand at group sports again.


I am thankful for so many things. I am thankful for the courage I felt to make a bold and risky decision for my health, and for the courage to share my journey on my blog. I am grateful for the support that I’ve received from friends and family, and all of the new people I’ve become acquainted with through this blog and my online support groups. I am grateful for the reduction in my health comorbidities. I am grateful for my family, and the ability my newly regained health has allowed me to be the mother and wife that I’ve always tried to be. My heart is so full.


A Few Thoughts

nicole hair blowing in the a/cI’ve had a lot on my mind lately, but not enough on every subject for a full post. How about some bullet points instead of paragraphs?

  • I’ve started dealing with some hair loss. It’s not enough for it to be noticeable to others, but it’s making me paranoid. My dark hair has been part of my “identity” the past few years because I haven’t liked a lot of my features being so overweight. It’s the longest it’s ever been, and I hope I don’t lose it. Last week I dyed my hair a shade darker because it’s supposed to hide hair loss.
  • When I look at myself in the mirror, I like what I see more and more. For a long time I’d stare and myself and not really recognize myself. It feels good to look more like myself than I have in several years
  • I’m having a very hard time being compliant with taking my vitamins and supplements. The smell of a multivitamin alone makes my stomach turn. Today I skipped splitting my MVI in half, and it got stuck in my pouch. I was painfully uncomfortable for hours, and was scared I would need to see the doctor. I finally decided to drink enough water to vomit (yes, gross I know), and felt soooo much better once the vitamin would out. But ugh…regurgitated vitamins taste much worse coming up than they do going down!
  • I’m getting really nervous about making it through the Color Me Rad 5K I’m doing on Saturday. I’ve amped up my exercise, but I’m worried I’ll collapse and pass out. I get so tired so easily since surgery. I’m going to really have to pace myself.
  • My friend Sue wrote a post, “Be Your Own Kind of Average” a few months ago about her weight loss surgery experience. I read it every few weeks. It has a lot of truth in it about life after WLS – especially the part about people start being nicer. People who wouldn’t have given me the time of day are starting to hold conversations with me. More people make eye contact and smile. It feels good, but it sort of feels awkward too.
  • Right now, all I want is a Coke Zero. Must be strong.

Hmmm…I guess I had enough content I didn’t need to use bullet points. Oh well, my thoughts are pretty scattered tonight.

Despair and Euphoria

nicole bullockMelancholy. Indulgent. Narcissistic. Overly-critical. Impatient. Unrealistic. Moody. Contrary. Impulsive. Unforgiving. Wistful. Confused. Irreverent.

Recently I’ve had a difficult time figuring out who I am. I feel like my life is a constant state of change, and so many elements are beyond my control. When I am in a depressive episode (nearly a year now), I have a hard time focusing on the positive traits I possess. I know I have many attributes that are admirable…it just seems like I can’t admire them in myself. Despite my greatest efforts, I find myself drowning in despair nearly every day.

I have felt so unattractive for so long. While focusing on improving my mental health and self image this year, my eternal quest for weight loss has fallen by the wayside. Other than a brief few months in high school while on Phen-Fen, I’ve always been overweight or obese. I now weigh the most I ever have, well surpassing the “Not in a million years!” weight I set for myself. I actually have no idea of my exact weight at the moment…my digital scale now reads the “ERR” error message. I have very few clothing items in which I feel confident, and little money to buy something new. It takes me so long to find ANYTHING that fits correctly, and I never seem to have the money to purchase something I finally find that works.

I have only found a few things that have made me feel happy…supportive words and good conversation, affection, the beauty of the outdoors, and time with my loved ones.  But when I wallow in the depths for so much time, I find myself seeking things that not only make me happy…I want things to make me feel euphoric. The things that make me feel euphoric…food, sex, travel and concerts. Travel and concerts find themselves into my budget more than most people, but I can’t tell you how happy I feel after I’ve gotten home. Sex…well, when you’re married to a man who is gone 2/3 of the month…you get the idea. So I’ve heavily relied on food to feel euphoric. And in the end, I weigh 50 pounds more than I did last April.

A few days ago, I took the above cell phone picture of myself for Taylor. I sent it off to him via text, and forgot about it till last night. I kept looking and looking at it…not believing it was me. After so many months of being on the edge of hating myself, it was an incredible ego boost to see a picture of me where I looked attractive and beautiful. It was a glimpse of the innate Nicole that I feel so rarely that her image was almost an enigma. After cropping out the scandalous lingerie I was wearing in the photo, I’m sharing this Nicole with you.

I am Nicole. I am talented. I am passionate. I am strong. I am a survivor. I am ambitious. I am tolerant. I am devoted. I am unique. I am sexy. I am conscientious. I am spiritual. I am considerate. I am wise. I am empathetic. I am intelligent. I am a loyal. I am silly. I am intuitive. I am enthusiastic. I am accomplished. I am compassionate. I am generous. I am witty. I am creative. I am flexible. I am skilled. I am assertive. I am hard-working. I am grateful. I am eclectic. I am artistic. I am diligent. I am resourceful. I am resilient.

But most of all….I am honest. Thank you for caring enough to share my struggles and offer support.