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7. Checking Off the Boxes

orange and green pen on graphing notepad

This week I had two important milestones on my list of requirements prior to surgery.

First, I had my second “diet visit,” which was a call with the dietitian. We didn’t talk for much longer than maybe 15 minutes, but I updated her on my progress (more on that below), she gave me goals to work toward (but I’ve got this), and we scheduled my third and fourth visits. The next day, I had an endoscopy, which was a much bigger ordeal than I remember it being 10 years ago when I was diagnosed with celiac disease. Instead of going to my gastroenterologist’s outpatient office and being in and out in a few minutes, I had to trek all the way to Chicago (not just the north side, but way down there–more than an hour’s drive) to the outpatient surgery center in a hospital, waited in the waiting room until they took me back to a private room, met all kinds of nurses, anesthesiologist, and a resident who asked me a whole lot of questions. Urine test to check for pregnancy, blood pressure check, weight, IV, then wait until they were ready to take me into the operating room–yes, a full-blown operating room. More nurses, good music playing, got electrodes stuck to my chest and abdomen, some kind of bite guard placed in my mouth, oxygen mask, and hooked up to the anesthesia line through the IV. My surgeon leaned in to say hi (he has a friendly face, which is nice), then I thought my IV felt like it might have been pulled loose, then I felt the hot sensation going through the line, and I realized that was the anesthesia. Next thing I know, I’m being wheeled into another private room, and my vision is blurry: I’m trying to read the words on the door, but I can’t make them out. Gradually, my vision comes back and I can see it’s a donor plaque. A nurse helps me into a nice leather recliner, and someone brings my husband to the room. The nurse brings me some cranberry juice and takes out the IV, and in a little while they bring me my discharge papers and I can go home. Another long drive home, and I’m still pretty groggy and tired, so I spend the rest of the day watching TV in bed.

The Checklist

These are just a couple of the steps to fulfill the insurance requirements prior to surgery. In the meantime, I’m spending the weeks preparing for the eventual changes that will be my new life.

What I’ve Started


My first step was to find dairy free protein shakes. The dietitian really pushes Premier Protein, but it’s important that my diet is gluten free and dairy free. The first protein shakes I tried were on closeout at Mariano’s, so I grabbed a few at $2.00 a pop: Soylent. Despite the funny name, these shakes are delicious! They taste like flavored milk, and they even have some that are caffeinated. I went back and bought out the rest of their supply.

Soylent isn’t all available in a lot of stores, so I went online, where you can subscribe to a shipment. At $39/12-pack ($3.25 each), I was open to trying other shakes. Unfortunately, most protein shakes have dairy, but I found Muscle Milk and Orgain, which are reasonably priced at Costco. While they taste just okay (artificial flavor or chalky aftertaste), they certainly aren’t filling. Well, most protein shakes have about 100-125 calories, while Soylent is considered a meal replacement drink, at 400 calories. That sounds like a lot, but I can have one for breakfast and one for lunch, without needing to snack. That leaves 400-700 calories for dinner–a feasible option. With a 5% discount for subscribing, it’s within my budget when you consider it’s replacing meals that I often ordered for delivery.

Next, I upped my activity. With a fitness center at work, I don’t have an excuse not to work out. I now go to work early every morning and use the treadmill, with weight machines three times a week. I am currently working toward walking for 30 minutes and consistently lifting weights to strengthen my arms and legs (important to take the pressure off my knees, which are arthritic). I am also trying to jog intermittently (for one to two minutes at a time), but that depends on how forgiving my knees are.

And how do I occupy my time on the treadmill, you ask? My favorite distraction is Zombies, Run!, a smartphone app/game that puts you in the role of Runner 5, sending you on missions. Walk, jog, or run; hear your mission and music through your headphones; and collect supplies to build up your base. The episodic story keeps you engaged, and it connects directly to your playlist to keep you moving.

Other things I have incorporated so far:

  1. Eat three meals per day with high-protein snacks as needed

  2. Decrease portion sizes (still working on this)

  3. Eliminate beverages with calories

  4. Take a complete over-the-counter multivitamin every day

  5. Eat slowly

  6. No liquids during meals or 30 minutes before or after

  7. Lose some weight prior to surgery (no specific amount)

  8. Still to Do

There is still work to do to prepare me for the surgery:

  1. Limit restaurants and fast food to once per week, and make better choices when eating out

  2. Increase fruits (1 serving per meal or snack) and vegetables (1/4-1/2 of plate at meals)

  3. Decrease desserts and candy to no more than once per week

  4. Decrease sugar and fat in diet

  5. Be mindful of serving sizes

  6. Prepare meals with fist-sized portions of lean protein (1/4 of place)

  7. Eliminate carbonated beverages

  8. Drink at least 64 ounces of water per day

  9. Practice sipping beverages

  10. Begin 1,200-1,500 calorie meal plan prior to surgery

  11. Keep food and exercise records (handwritten or in an app)

  12. Begin taking calcium citrate with Vitamin D 500 mg two to three times per day

  13. Begin bariatric multivitamin after surgery


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