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My bariatric journey... so far

Guest blog by Celesté Swanepoel

I am 1 year and 4 months post bariatric surgery. I reached a big non-scale victory today: this is the first time in over 20 plus years that I have a normal BMI.

I went from obese class 3 to normal. I have lost 53kg in total. Unbelievable.

Why bariatric surgery?

My story begins a few years back. My oldest son is on the autism spectrum and, if my parents were no longer alive, my sister was always the one that would have to look after him if ever something happened to my husband and I. But in 2021 my sister passed away from Covid, and I was compelled to contemplate my own health. I started to investigate options for a permanent fix, not a quick fix.

Since having bariatric surgery, I take part in activities that I never would have done before. I have been part of an action hockey team, I go down supertubes with my kids when we are on holiday, I swim in the ocean. These are some things that I have never done before, and I will always be thankful for the opportunity to do it.

I had the SADI procedure in April 2022 at Zuid-Afrikaans Hospital in Pretoria.

Here are some lessons I have learned along the way:

1. Listen to your team of specialists. They know best. They know better than any Facebook post or support group.

2. It gets easier - the first few months are really, really tough. This too shall pass - hold on to it!

3. You will enjoy food again - different food, in much smaller quantities.

4. People will judge - let them. They are not in your shoes and you made your decision for many different reasons. Let them judge.

5. Many people won't judge - keep them close. You will find out who will support you in all circumstances. These are the people you need to rely on. Don't try to convince others to support you.

6. You will change. Not only physically but emotionally as well. You will have more confidence and will not tolerate certain behaviours towards you. Some people will not like the new you. That is totally fine. As long as YOU like the new you.

7. Don't buy too much clothes. You will keep on losing weight and will spend a lot of money on clothes. Buy smart. Buy two or three pairs of pants and a few tops that go with everything.

8. Buy from Shein ;). Your new body will love you for it. You can buy lots and lots of items for a fraction of the cost of big retailers in SA. And now you can fit into it.

9. There will be situations that you are not prepared for. You will figure it out - I do counselling and have old clients making appointments again. It was very difficult when they did not recognize me and thought I was someone else. I was not prepared for this. I figured out how to deal with it and still make them comfortable to be able to do my work.

10. People will criticize your weight loss. Many people tell me now that I am getting too skinny and should stop losing weight. I remember my dietitian warning me about this. She said I will go back to the weight I was meant to be if I follow the guidelines. I was very skinny in school, many people thought I was anorexic (I never was). So I decided to be okay with others commenting on my weight loss. I don't want to loose more but so what if I do and that was what my body was meant to be? This is not about others being comfortable but about me being comfortable.

11. Go for your follow up appointments. Yes, it is expensive. But it really helps to know that you are still on track, it keeps you accountable and you can make sure that there are no complications.

12. Do things right the first year. It will become much easier to do things wrong after a year. I have to really make good decisions now because I can eat almost anything and I am sure if I allow myself I will be able to eat too much as well. Get yourself into the habit of eating better within the first year.

13. Reach out to others who have been there. Other bariatric patients have been my saving grace. Especially in the more difficult times.

14. Skin is okay. Oh my.... There is a lot of skin. I would rather have the skin than have my old body back. But yes, if I win the lotto, I will see a plastic surgeon ASAP!

15. You might lose some friends. It is okay. If they only kept you around because you were the awkward chubby friend, they were not worth it.

16. You will make new friends. Your new found confidence will make sure of that.

17. Life is too short for excuses. Live (and love) your life now. Even when you don't have the body you want. I still regret not doing things because I was ashamed of what I might look like.

18. You already have what is most important. Even before the operation. This might be your husband/wife, children, parents, friends. What was most important to me did not change. Even when I changed. If you for some reason can't have the operation, remember this: you already have what you need to make your life complete. Just embrace that as well.

I have had a difficult journey, especially in the first few months. I was hospitalized two times and it was extremely difficult (emotionally more than physically). Yet I would not change one thing about my journey. Except to change who I was before this journey. We are all worthy, it does not matter what size we are. Many people will never be able to have bariatric surgery. And we who have had it will understand that losing weight without it will not be possible at all for some people. I would not have been able to do it without the surgery. We need to remember not to judge people that are in "our shoes". To understand and be empathetic towards their pain.

*Celesté is a wife, mom to two boys and counsellor in Vanderbijlpark. When she is not working, she loves relaxing with her family, having a braai, playing boardgames or spending time with friends.


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