These are some of the questions I am asked regularly by people in a similar situation, or those who are simply curious. I thought an FAQ page on my site might be of help. My responses are based purely upon my own experiences and are in no way medical advice.
Q. Is there anything you can't eat that you could prior to surgery?
A. Not exactly. I certainly can't eat the portion sizes that I used to but there aren't really any foods I can't eat at all. I find that I don't feel great after too much junk food or sugar but I can still have these foods in moderation. I also can't really do dairy (mostly milk and cream) but this has been an ongoing issue since pre-surgery.
Q. How long did it take you to get back to a "normal" life?
A. I took 2 months off work to recover and initially went back part time as I found that I just didn't have the energy to get through a full day. I would say that after 3 months, I felt what I would refer to as a "new normal". My body still felt different but I found myself being able to work full time, go to social events, go out for dinner etc. After 5 months, I left for a 4 month trip around Europe and by this point I felt completely healthy.
Q. How soon after surgery did you start exercising again?
A. To begin with, my exercise consisted of very short walks of about 20 metres down the road starting from about a week after surgery. I was extremely slow to begin with but as the weeks went by, I started to feel stronger and could walk a bit further. After about 2 1/2 - 3 months, I went back to the gym. I really struggled with weights training as I felt I ran out of energy after about 10 mins. So I mostly focused on walking and cardio up until my overseas trip. I now mostly do yoga (4 days per week) with the occasional run/walk.
Q. How much weight did you lose?
A. My normal weight before surgery was about 65kg but I put on 5kg pre-surgery so I was about 70kg. I got down to 58kg post surgery so I lost about 12kg. I was told I could lose up to 20% of my body weight so this wasn't a bad result. Whilst in Europe, I put on 6kg (all of the pizza, pasta and gelato!!) and I now sit somewhere between 63-64kg which I can maintain fairly easily.
Q. Do you ever get "dumping syndrome?"
A. Yes. My surgeon and dietitian had warned me about dumping syndrome pre and post surgery. I didn't really understand what this was until it happened (and I'm sure it's different for everyone). I first discovered dumping syndrome when I ate far too much Nutella. I soon found sugar to be my number one kryptonite (closely followed by white wine).
If I eat too much sugar in one go, it almost has the effect of what feels like low blood sugar. I get really hot and sweaty and feel like I'm going to faint. I also shake and feel really nauseous. This usually passes in about half an hour and I sometimes find that eating something salty can help (cheese and crackers is a good one). I just try to avoid eating too much sugar and pretty much avoid white wine completely as I found this to often have an instantaneous effect often after one sip.
Q. Can you drink alcohol?
A. Yes. I do love wine so I would've been devastated if I could never have a glass of red again! Sometimes I feel the effects really quickly and a lot more than my friends so this is something to be careful of (luckily I've been around close friends on the two occasions that this happened). Most of the time, I feel the effects quite quickly but then they go fairly quickly as well so I'm fine having a few drinks the majority of the time. Knowing your limits certainly doesn't hurt!
Q. Do you have any issues post surgery?
A. Yes. The one issue that I have been having recently is bile reflux (released from the pancreas to the bowel). This problem only started happening just over a month ago and is mostly at night. To try and manage this, I'm trying to cut my portions sizes back a bit (these have slowly increased over the past 12 months) and am trying not to eat too late night. This is something I'm currently still trying to get under control.
Q. Do you have to take any medications?
A. Yes. I have to have a vitamin B12 injection every few months or so. I also had to take iron tablets for about 6 months but I now have this issue under control.
Q. Were you in much pain?
A. I did have a couple of issues with getting my pain under control on the first day after surgery but I was ok after this. I was in hospital for just under a week so this was carefully monitored and I was on pain medication for about a week after I was released. The biggest issue with recovering is learning to eat again, not so much the pain aspect which is what a lot of people seem to suspect.
Q. What happens if you "overeat"?
A. This is really not much fun. It can be quite painful and uncomfortable if I overeat as there is essentially nowhere for the food to go. This leaves only one option - it comes back up. This has happened quite a few times; particularly as I've become stronger and felt I could push my limits a bit more. I'm pretty good now with knowing how much I can eat but this can be more difficult when eating out as you can't control the portions you're being served. I tend to try and eat slowly as it's easier to know when to stop.