The Day I Ate Chicken

February 20th

By now, I should be in surgery, if not already out of it. I wanted to wait until then to post this because…well, I’m paranoid. I suppose if someone at my surgeon’s office happened, somehow, to see this before my surgery date that they wouldn’t really care, but…I’m paranoid.

I started the doctor-recommended pre-surgery diet of protein shakes on Wednesday the 13th. I lasted until Monday morning. That’s five days of eating nothing but six shakes a day that were eight ounces each, as well as water and sugar free gum when I just needed to chew on something. By Sunday night, I was to the point that thinking about breakfast the next morning was making me freak out. By Monday morning, I decided I was overreacting, and decided to suck it up and give the shakes another go.

I decided rather soon after gagging on my breakfast that no, I really couldn’t take it anymore. I just couldn’t stand the taste, the texture, or the smell of those damn things any longer. So later after I’d gotten into work, I called my doctor’s office to see if certain solid foods would be ok to eat.

The shakes, as I’ve mentioned, have several purposes. They’re supposed to help me lose weight prior to surgery. They’re supposed to deplete my glycogen stores so that my liver won’t be in the way during surgery. And they’re supposed to make recovery easier by getting me used to a liquid diet before I go under the knife. I could have held out with them longer if they just didn’t taste so goddamn revolting.

But back to calling my doctor’s office. I asked the nurse if chicken would be ok. Just plain, oven-roasted chicken with no skin, no sauces, no anything. Just. Chicken. She said they didn’t recommend it, but that it was more because it’s like opening Pandora’s Box. I think I managed to do ok with that. So I excused myself from work for twenty minutes, drove down the street, and bought one of those rotisserie-style chickens and some cheddar cheese cubes from the grocery store.

They were, at the time, doubtlessly the most delicious things I have ever eaten.

I did not return to the shakes for the entire rest of the pre-op period. Instead, I ate more chicken, I ate lunchmeat (turkey), eggs, nuts, cottage cheese, taco salad (taco meat, one serving of cheese, and lettuce), regular salad, and salmon. I watched my portions and counted calories. I logged everything in my food journal. I tried to stay away from foods high in fat, and I eschewed high-carb foods (for example, I normally have toast with my eggs…yeah, not so much). I did, however, decide on the Monday before surgery that I wanted to have one last helping of pizza, which has always been my favorite food. I paid for it the next morning.

This restricted high-protein, low-carb diet has been affording me surprising amounts of energy. I haven’t felt so energetic in a really long time, as a matter of fact. But Tuesday at work, I was having trouble keeping my eyes open. This was exacerbated by the fact that the previous night’s storm kept me from sleeping well.

The way I felt that morning is, I feel, important for me to keep in mind. I knew intellectually that introducing carbs back into my diet like that would have some ramifications. I was expecting, in fact, to feel sluggish and drowsy. But it was good to actually experience it so that the first time I begin to contemplate cheating on my diet with a piece of sugary candy I can think back to Tuesday’s experience, remember that it was not enjoyable, and make my choice with that in mind. Something tells me I’ll choose to stay away from the candy. That boundless energy is pretty intoxicating.

But back to my general pre-surgery diet. It turns out that other gastric band patients have different pre-surgery diets depending on their specific circumstances and what their doctor thinks is best for them. So for whatever that might be worth–possibly very little, given that every patient’s needs are different–there is at least a precedent for this sort of pre-op diet.

You should definitely listen to your doctor when you’re doing something like this. But you should also listen to yourself and what your own needs are. In my case, I needed to eat something that didn’t make me want to vomit. Am I glad I stayed with the shakes for as long as I did? Absolutely. It got my body used to not eating as much, and to going without as many carbohydrates as it was used to. I feel better physically now because of the liquid diet. But I also feel better physically–and yes, definitely emotionally, as well–because I’m eating something that my brain identifies as “food”.

I know that if I am to succeed in reaching my weight loss goal that I will have to undermine and reverse a lot of what my emotional attachment to food has done to me over the years–psychologically speaking, I mean. But I think I learned from this experience that doing it in steps is best. And right now, a week before my surgery, I feel like I’m in a pretty good place. I have been successfully resisting some pretty strong temptations over the last few days, and I’m optimistic that I can keep doing this. It will be especially helpful that, after surgery, I’ll be able to add some carbs back into my diet again.

“Not right now but soon” is a thought that’s done much to mollify the squealing voice in my head that doesn’t understand why it can’t have what it wants.

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