Let me start with a quick primer on fills and restriction for my non-Lapband readers. A gastric band is placed near the top of the stomach and adjusted by adding (fills) or subtracting (unfills) fluid. An optimal fluid level provides good restriction allowing food to pass slower through the stomach creating a feeling of fullness and decreasing hunger. The right restriction allows the patient to maintain the feeling of fullness for a longer period of time while eating less food. Too little restriction results in eating too much or too often. Too much restriction causes the unpleasantness of food to be stuck in the band.
Impatient Patient out the Gate
Fill ‘er up! That was my view of managing my Lapband immediately after surgery in 2008. I was impatient and wanted my weight loss to speed up. I figured that I paid for this surgery, and I wasn’t seeing the changes I was expecting. My surgeon’s view of fills was to slowly increase the amount of fluid in the band on a monthly basis to find the optimum comfort and restriction levels.
I equated more fill to more weight loss. In weight loss surgery forums, I read posts from patients who received near optimum fills just 4 weeks out of surgery. My wait was more like 4 months with monthly small fills. I felt like my opportunity for weight loss was passing me by.
My advice for the early post-op days is to listen to your surgeon and not strangers on discussion boards. Lapband differs from RNY surgery in that a medical device is placed into your body. How your body reacts to this device and how well you learn to use it differs for each of us. Trust your surgeon to work with you as an individual using their proven techniques to get you on the path to success.
I remind newbies to not be so impatient. A wise chat buddy of mine gave me this invaluable advice in my newbie days. – “Five years from now you won’t remember how many pounds you lost in a month you thought you had too little restriction.” That message says it all. Weight loss is a journey. It’s not a smooth road with constant weight loss. The results that count are the results as you see over time.
The Happy Camper
At about six months, my weight loss became pretty consistent. I was in a pattern of eating well, exercising daily, and following my surgeon’s advice. I was a happy camper. I have actually gotten a minimal amount of fills over time. I was wary of going overboard with fills and having vomiting become an everyday occurrence. Working with my surgeon and nutritionist, I learned that it is not all about the band’s tightness.
My advice for anyone in this post-op stage is to be more aware that your weight loss is not totally controlled by a silicon band. Your mental state is a big factor in determining if you need another fill or not. Success after weight loss surgery is partnership between your Lapband and your mind. Being able to recognize and control head hunger, emotional eating and grazing are things that your band relies on your brain handling as part of this partnership. In turn, your band tells your brain when you need to stop eating.
The Selfish Bandster
I was about eighteen months post-op when my happy camper phase came to an end. My weight loss had stopped and I was maintaining. As happy as I should have been about my health and wellness, I wanted to lose more weight. I wanted this nifty device tweaked a little to give me another ten pound weight loss. I convinced my surgeon I needed two tiny fills. I began to experience infrequent vomiting and heartburn. I thought I could endure and ignore them for those ten precious pounds.
I urge you not to follow my path. I had those two fills reversed a month ago. I feel 100% better with no heartburn or vomiting. Had I learned from my experience over the past 2+ years? Actually, I did. I learned that those extra pounds were not to be squeezed out of the Lapband. They need to come from diet, exercise and living a healthy life. I also learned that my Lapand is not there to punish me for eating too much.
This is indeed a lifelong journey. I learn lessons as I travel and make changes accordingly. I’ve broken lessons only to come back to them for reinforcement. I don’t know if my evolving view of living with my Lapband is common with others. I suspect it is. Understanding that mind-Lapband partnership is what defines my success. I know that I fail if I don’t maintain a sound partnership and succeed if I allow this partnership to grow and strengthen.