How I Lost 86 Pounds In 10 Months With VSG Surgery and OPTIFAST
Hi! Tell us about yourself…why did you decide to start losing weight?
I’ve been overweight since I was 6 years old and yo-yo dieting since I was about 12, so my weight loss journey has been a long one. In 2018, I came across the Instagram account of a girl who’d had weight loss surgery and successfully lost over 60kgs (132lbs). She had very similar stats to me (169cm, 110-ish kg (242.5lbs), 24yrs) and for the very first time, I was able to picture the kind of success I could have through weight loss surgery. I kept putting it off due to the cost, telling myself that in the year it’d take me to afford the surgery, I could have lost the weight myself, but 2 years went by and I weighed more than I did 2 years earlier. In January 2020, I joined a gym, started working out regularly and tracking my food but after 3 months I’d only managed to lose 3kg (6.6lbs) and I was devastated.
I couldn’t do it anymore, I was sick of feeling like I was working my ass off and not getting anywhere. I cried to my mum and begged her to come to see a surgeon with me and that’s what we did. I met my surgeon on a Tuesday and three days later I was under his knife (all elective surgeries were being canceled so he fast-tracked mine). I underwent a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (VSG) and it is the best thing I’ve ever done. Outside of binge eating tendencies, my day-to-day food intake was healthy, I just ate too much of it. For this reason, having 80% of my stomach removed to limit my portion intake was the right decision for me.
What was your workout routine? Can you give us what a typical week looked like for you working out?
After surgery, I started walking around the block for 15, 20, 30 minutes each day until I could walk for an hour without needing a break. We were in lockdown at the time so my only option was outdoor exercise. After 6 weeks I was given the all-clear to start jogging. I’d never been able to run for longer than a minute so I decided to pay for a couch to 5 k app and start learning to run 5km (which I successfully managed 4 months later).
After 8 weeks the gyms opened again and I headed back, ready to gain some of the muscle and strength I’d lost during the lockdown. My program is a mix between free weights and exercise machines that all together are full-body workouts. I try to work out for an hour 5 times a week, weights 3 times per week (Mon, Wed, Fri), and run twice weekly (Tues, Thurs).
If I can offer any advice regarding workouts, it would be to take it slow and start small. Setting small goals is an amazing way to keep yourself motivated, nothing happens overnight so be consistent and persevere, even when you feel like giving up!
What was your nutrition like? Can you give us what a typical day of eating looked like?
My main focus since having surgery has been daily water (2L) and protein (60gm) intake. Weeks 1 & 2 post-ops I was on an all-liquid diet, weeks 3 & 4 I was able to eat mashed food, and weeks 5 & 6 I was on pureed food.
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Following those 6 weeks, I was able to eat pretty well anything, but for a majority of my meals, I’ve been following the OptiFast diet. I generally replace at least 2 meals daily with shakes and then have 2 other meals. I eat within a calorie deficit, focusing on high protein and low carb foods such as white meat, legumes, spinach, eggs, and mushrooms.
I try to get my protein in through my diet so I don’t add any whey protein supplements, though I’ll sometimes add collagen protein to my shakes in the hopes it’ll minimize loose skin! I also take iron, multi, calcium, and biotin supplements daily, the first 3 of which I’ll likely have to take for the rest of my life as a requirement post-VSG surgery.
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How did you stay motivated to lose weight? Did you ever slip up?
I’ve absolutely had slip-ups, weight loss is a learning experience and I stay motivated by focusing on small goals. I’d love to lose 50kg (110lbs) total, but from day one my focus has been broken into 5kg (11lbs) brackets and this has made it so much easier to stay on track. I only have around 10kg (22lbs) left to lose, but my focus right now is getting under 70kg (154lbs), which is about 4kg (8.8lbs) away.
There’s definitely a stigma that weight loss surgery is the “easy way out” but if you’ve ever been overweight or obese, you’ll understand there’s a mental struggle that surrounds the relationship we have with food. Having 80% of my stomach removed didn’t fix my head or my habits, it only changed how much I could eat in one sitting. To help break my old habits of over-eating, I always serve myself less than I think I can eat and I eat it slowly. I think this would help people who haven’t had weight loss surgery too, especially if you drink a glass of water before and after eating to fill your stomach a bit more.
If you’re starting a weight loss journey, remember not to compare your journey to others because there is no comparison. We’re all different and we all have to do this at our own pace and in our own way. Celebrate Non-Scale Victories (NSV’s) such as fitting into a goal dress, being able to walk upstairs without stopping, fitting into chairs with armrests, being able to cross your legs, etc. because these things matter! They’re proof of how far you’ve come and they remind you that weight loss isn’t just about a number on the scale, it’s about no longer feeling held back by your body.
When did you start to notice progress?
I noticed a change in my body after 4 weeks when I took my -10kg (22lbs) progress photos. If you’re starting a weight loss journey (or on one already and feel like you haven’t changed much), take all the photos! I’d then notice my old clothes getting too big and clothes I’d had for years were fitting me for the first time. It was the best feeling, knowing I’d bought those clothes telling myself “this will fit me one day” and that day had finally come.
Did you use any sort of trackers/apps/scales to track your progress?
Yes! I use all the apps! I use ‘MyFitnessPal’ to track my food, weight and sometimes exercise, ‘Fitbit‘ to track my steps, ‘MY Weight’ to track my weight, BMI, progress, and body fat (I highly recommend this app to anyone on a weight loss journey!), ‘MapMyRun’ to record my run and walk progress and I used ‘5K Runner’ to learn to run 5km.
Do you have any weight loss “hacks” or “secrets” that helped you succeed?
There are no quick fixes with weight loss, but there are definitely some tips I found worked for me. I find that tracking my food has made it so much easier to stick to my daily calorie and protein goals and drinking 2L of water each day keeps me full between meals.
But I do want to note that food tracking is not mentally healthy for everyone. At the start of my weight loss journey, when I didn’t have any exercise habits, I’d set up a gym or walk dates with friends and family so that I felt accountable and therefore, less likely to not work out.
Do you have any fitness books/podcasts/websites that you’d recommend and why?
I highly recommend the book “The Bariatric Bible” by Carol Bowen for all things weight loss. It goes a lot into weight loss surgery at the start, but the book is mainly easy low-calorie recipes. I recommend anything by @thebodycoach Joe Wicks, he has a podcast, recipe books, and meal and workout plans.
What is your best advice to beginners who are looking to lose weight?
Start today! Putting it off until tomorrow, or Monday, or the first of the month isn’t going to make it any easier. Don’t treat this lifestyle change as a diet, it’s a health and fitness journey. You’re not torturing yourself, you’re rewarding your body by treating it well. Buy a diary and write down your long term and short term goals, record your start weight and measurements, write down your bad habits (e.g. going to the fridge when you’re not hungry, eating past the feeling of fullness, drinking your calories in energy drinks/alcohol, eating too large portions) and record new ones every time you notice them, recognizing unhealthy habits is the first step to breaking them.
Buy yourself a portion plate and a portion perfection book so you know how much you should be eating of each food type. Buy yourself a 2L water bottle or track your water through MyFitnessPal so you stay on top of your water intake. Don’t deprive yourself of the things you love, fit them into your new lifestyle. Understanding what your body needs nutritionally and what different foods do for your body is important and really helps when making positive food choices.
Where can we find more about you?
I’ve been documenting my weight loss journey on Instagram, my handle is @sleevedsophie.
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