Monday, October 20, 2014

How I Prepared For Surgery Part 1 - My Body

Many people over this last year have asked me what I did to prepare for my weight loss surgery. There were many things that I did and not one was more important than another. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that your preparation heading into surgery and especially the liquid diet the week or two prior will be the hardest and  most important thing you do as a part of your journey. You will work hard to prepare your mind, your body, and to some degree your spirit to go though the surgery. Once you do have the surgery the hardest part is over. If you can survive the months before taking the plunge then everything you do after will be a piece of cake in comparison.

I am here to tell you that anyone who says having a weight loss surgery is taking the easy way out is someone who will never understand what it truly takes to go through this process. To some degree I feel sorry for those who don't get it. They will never understand the joy and excitement that comes with going through this transformation. To be honest, even though my wife loves me and has been an amazing support through this whole process, she will never full know or understand what it is like to make this decision and prepare for the surgery like I do.
This is part one, in a series of three posts, detailing my preparation for surgery. The first aspect of this preparation I will cover is how I prepared my body. This was pretty simple for me really. I was in bad shape and was huffing after just sitting up from a chair; as my transformation video in an earlier post has shown.  I was miserable! I would practically crawl through my front door after just my first night back to work. I work as a pharmacy technician at a hospital and walk 8 to 12 miles a night. I was living off of Tylenol and Bengay. Honestly I smelled like I was probably 90 years old. Looking back I find myself completely disgusted that I ever let things get that bad.
Since I could  not really do much working out because of the toll work was taking on my body, what could I do? The answer came from my brother. He is a nurse and knows a ton about medicine. I honestly think he should have became a doctor, but he didn't want the added responsibility. Before I had fully decided on having the bypass surgery and long before anyone knew I was even contemplating that option my brother came to me, as serious as I had ever seen him. Those that know my brother know he's a bit of a joker and very lighthearted. His demeanor kind of scared me, but in this conversation would be the answer that would help me prepare my body for surgery.

He explained to me that he wanted to see me healthy, that he wanted me to be able to be the cool uncle when he had kids, and how he wanted his brother back. He was scared that I wouldn't be around much longer and didn't want to see me die. Looking back I really think he was right. Then he did something that floored me and provided and amazing answer to how I would physically prepare for the journey I was about to take. He explained to me that he wanted me healthy so badly he would pay for my gym membership if I promised to go three times a week and swim. On a side note; He religiously checked up on my progress with the gym manager to make sure I was going and even went so far as to meet me at the gym and swim with me. I swam on a team in junior high and he explained to me the benefits of working out in the water.
Water has the ability to take all of the pressure off of your knees and other joints. It can keep you cool if you are prone to overheating and provides an amazing about of resistance if you find ways to take advantage of it. He set up a plan and told me just to come three times a week to swim and do what I could.  So that is what I did. I did not want to let me brother down and I would hope he would agree it was the best investment he ever made.
So that is what I did; I swam. I swam freestyle, I swam breast stroke, I saw backstroke, and when I was feeling particularly squirrely, I swam butterfly. Butterfly was my specialty when I was on swim team but man it is a butt kicker. I started out with 10 laps, which was a lot better than I had thought. I found I could move more freely and with less pain in the water. From there I just simply added one or two laps each time I went. Before I knew it, I was approaching my surgery date and I was swimming close to an hour non-stop!

Why should I work out prior to surgery?

There is a very simple answer. To prepare your body. You need to prepare your body for what you are about to put it through. This is major surgery and not something to take lightly. You also want to work out to build up your cardiovascular and pulmonary endurance. Strengthening the heart will make you strong for surgery because your body will be stressed, because of this your blood pressure will spike for a short time after surgery and it is a lot to put on yourself. Strengthening your lungs will help keep you from a common post surgical complication which is pneumonia. My goal in preparing my body was simply to be able to survive the surgery, keep my complications down, and my hospital stay short as should be your goal as well. I want to tell you right now that preparing my body worked out well. I had no major complications and I left the hospital three days later, which was the minimum hospital stay my doctor required for his full bypass patients.

What if I can't swim?

The key here is to simply get moving. If you can walk, then walk. If you have access to a pool, then you can water walk or water jog. If you love biking and can do that, then do that. You just need to move. Your goals with this are simple. First, you want to make sure you are panting a little from being out of breath when you are done. This will show you that your lungs have been pushed a little and if that is true then your heart will have been pushed also. Second, each time you work out, just add a little to it. If your taking laps on a track, add a lap or a half a lap each time. If you are walking your neighborhood then walk for another 30 seconds or a minute. If you do this early, as soon as you begin contemplating surgery the further along and better prepared you will be, come surgery day.

What if I can't work out at all?

The other thing I did to train my body can just as much be considered physical as it can be mental. Starting about 4 months out from surgery I began slowly decreasing the amount of sugar and caffeine I was taking in until I cut out pop and sugary drinks entirely. The only exception to this was my "bucket foods" which I will talk about more in depth in part 2. I also began making a conscious effort eat more slowly and smaller portions. I would eat off of a salad plate instead of a large dinner plate and would try to span the meal out over half an hour. 

This allowed me to not only begin conditioning my mind for surgery and for the diet to follow, but I began conditioning my body for the changes it would undergo. I would highly recommend starting to work on these to anyone going through the surgery process. Not everyone can work out, or even walk, but everyone can begin taking the steps to reduce the amount of "no-no" ingredients they are consuming and begin making and effort to stretch the amount of time spent on a meal to closer to half an hour. This will begin to prepare your body for the journey of a lifetime.

As always, if you have any questions, or if there is anything unclear, please post your questions and comments below and I will work to answer them all as soon as I can. Also check out my blog again soon for part 2 of the series about dealing with the psychological aspects of preparing for the amazing journey you are taking.