Guest Post: Bariatric FoodieWednesday, January 14, 2015
Last year, at the Obesity Action Coalition’s annual conference, I met Nikki Massie, who underwent Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery seven years ago and writes a blog with recipes and other advice for people post bariatric surgery (“Bariatric Foodie“).
As I am always eager to hear the perspective of someone living with bariatric surgery, I invited Nikki to send me a guest post – here it is:
My name is Nikki Massie and seven years ago I underwent Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery in Baltimore, Md.
Last year I wrote an article on my journey in the National Inquiry of Bioethics and in it I described having weight loss surgery as, “stepping off the edge of the earth and trusting there’d be a soft place to land.” I had been overweight my entire life. I was over 9 lbs. at birth and trended above the top of the growth charts throughout my childhood.
The decision to have surgery came by way of motherhood. I was 31 years old and I had two daughters, aged 8 and 6. One day, watching them play at the playground I realized that if I didn’t do something soon, I would probably miss many moments in their lives due to lack of energy and the myriad health problems associated with obesity. At the time I was 340 lbs.
In January 2008, I had my surgery.
That was the start of my journey, and it’s where I’d like to start with a few things I’d like you to know from the patient perspective.
All the tests in the world can’t predict how a patient will react emotionally. I realized shortly after my surgery that I am a food addict. Restriction plunged me into a deep depression and anxiety. Some days the only way I knew how to cope was wandering supermarket aisles looking at food. Thankfully I found a great resource in Overeaters Anonymous and I’m working on my own recovery.
Bottom Line: Stress to your patients the importance of having mental health support. Encourage them to find a therapist, come to support group or utilize any other mental health tools at their disposal.
Weight and self-image vary from culture to culture. I think that’s important to note because within my own African-American culture, being a curvy woman is not stigmatized, but often celebrated. Being “skinny” is not necessarily a cultural value. I hear from many African-American women post-ops that they worry they will get too small and they work against losing past a certain amount. There is also familial and community pressure share in traditional foods and to look a certain way.
Bottom Line: It helps to ask about traditions and culture and how food plays into them and then help them find a healthier alternative!
In the long-term many post-ops feel abandoned. In a blog series I wrote for Obesity Action Coalition, I noted that many long-term post-ops felt alienated at their support groups. Many shared the feeling that they seemed more geared toward newer post-ops than long-termers. In addition, many weren’t sure what follow-up they needed after the two-year post-op mark.
Bottom Line: Does your office see patient’s long-term? If so, reach out to them and get them into the office. If not, make sure your patients know how to talk to their primary care physician about any issues that might arise and also make them aware of the existence of bariatricians!
The Bottom Line For Me
I recently celebrated the seven-year anniversary of my surgery. I’ve regained about 30 lbs. I continue many of the lifestyle habits I adopted: I go to the gym several times a week, I follow a high protein eating plan, but most of all I have more energy and I am in good health, even though I have regained.
These days I stay connected via my website, Bariatric Foodie, which encourages readers to reimagine their favorite foods in a healthier way, but also challenges them to make goals, practice accountability and think realistically and critically about their weight loss process.
If you have any questions I’m happy to answer them in the comments or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org