August 2022

Charlie Palupe

1. What made you decide to have WLS surgery?
Given this is a very broad question, which could be answered in many ways; I will say the reason for my decision to have weight lost surgery (or in my case, surgeries; I had lap band in 2009 and sleeve in 2019) is love; that is, self-love.

I will always do everything in my power such as utilising medical innovations accessible to me to ensure I give myself the best option (for me) to attain and maintain good health and wellness.

I define self-love as looking after myself (however I choose to define that ‘choice’ on any given day).

I had a lap band in 2009 and at my 10-year revision, in conjunction with my GP and surgeon, decided to convert to a sleeve gastrectomy in 2019.

2. What was your weight prior to your WLS, and... What’s the goal?
At the beginning, I was focused on the scale. However, as my journey progressed and my fitness and health improved, I realised it was only one dataset that told part of my health story. It was useful, however, from time to time, it can trigger long-term negative thoughts I had to unlearn about what the scale displayed.

Now, back to answering this question ☺

My highest weight prior to wls was 135kg; I was around 124kg when I decided to convert to a sleeve; I was around 110kg the day of surgery (***I have not checked my personal notes so these numbers may just be off a little, but hopefully this gives you a picture).

My goal weight was 80kg to 85kg, but I think I secretly wanted to reach my recommended range (for my height) of 70kg to 75kg. In hindsight, I think part of me did not want to dream too big. I have now learned that my dreams could have been bigger.

I reached my lowest weight around 8 months post-op. That is, 72kg.

3. Did you get to the weight you wanted?
Short answer is ‘yes’.

Nevertheless, as I progress on my health journey I have shifted my focus to building muscle and improving my fitness. While my lowest weight was 72kgs; I am currently around 75kg to 76kg (maintained this for about 2+ months).

I completed a DXA scan in October 2020 at QSCAN that showed I was 12.5 body fat and had about 64% of lean muscle.

4. How do you feel now that you have had the surgery?
I feel hopeful for the future.
My physical health feels amazing.
My mental wellness feels sharp.
I am in a very good space.

5. Were there any problems along the way?
I look at life with my glass half full and my mindset is conditioned to see lessons and opportunities.

While one person may view some of the matters I have had to deal with along my journey as a ‘problem’; I would frame them instead as a lesson or opportunity.

When I encounter an event or situation that does not serve my purpose; I pause and evaluate what it’s trying to teach me; I acknowledge and address the best I can; or I shift and try something different.

For example; I had a minor wrist injury from lifting weights; the lesson was I was applying the incorrect grip while doing my exercises. The opportunity was I decided to try yoga (while I was healing from injury). I can report yoga is not for me (at this stage at least hehe). I acknowledged that I would not be able to train how I planned initially; but that is ok, I would research and find other options for moving my body.

6. Would you do it again now that you know what you know?
The short answer is:
‘yes’ based on my knowledge pre-op; and
‘yes’ based on my knowledge and lived experience post-op.

A lesson learned from my lap band is that I did not invest sufficient time to research and fully understand the procedure and the requirements of me to ensure it was successful.

Prior to converting to a sleeve in October 2019; I committed to reading extensively about the sleeve; I also listened to podcasts by medical health practitioners and wls patients.

7. What are some of the inspiring things you can think of that you have noticed along the way?
The quality of my physical health and mental wellness is sharper and more optimum than at any other stage of my life (that I could recall).

I can walk (very fast now) without losing breath or sweating excessively. I can fit in an aeroplane seat comfortably. I sleep better and so forth.

8. Did you have some happy unexpected surprises?
I now enjoy working out (I know, me, likes working out lol).

I am officially addicted to working out. It has become part of my day and I need as much as air, food, water, and sleep. It is my ‘me time’ where I self-talk and mentally prep for the day.

9. What advice do you have for anyone preparing for surgery?
Invest the time prior to your surgery to write down your life goals and aspirations. Dream big. Write it down. Also write down your reasons to undertaking the surgery.

Join a safe and inclusive online support group. I joined the BN Bariatric group. Observe and learn from the lived experiences of others; but keep in mind that every person has unique personal and environmental circumstances so do not measure yourself to their progress, but draw inspiration from them (if it serves your purpose). When you are ready (it is ok if you never will be ready) give back by sharing your lived experiences so that someone else may be able to take something positive and apply to their journey.

Listen to podcasts about wls by medical practitioners and other patients. I listen to the following:

Weight Loss Surgery Podcast – by Reeger Cortell
Australian Weight Loss Surgery Podcast – by Jacqui Lewis
Bari Banter – Shan and Lita
The Bariatric Grind – Emma and Lian.

Read extensively about your procedure. Ask you surgeon and/or dietician for recommendations.

Take control, this is your journey and you want to equip yourself with a wealth of knowledge to make sure you succeed.

Finally, take lots of pictures now! I have a photo album of documenting my fitness journey; as well as pictures of foods that I liked.

10. What is the one very best thing that has resulted from your surgery? What has been the hardest part of your journey?

The best thing that has resulted from my surgery is mindset around obesity and my relationship with food and exercise.

Obesity has no cure. That is, I am currently in remission from obesity. This means I must commit to planning nutritional meals, move my body through space, drink water, take my supplements, and sleep well. All these things used to scare me, but they are now part of my day-to-day routine. I eat 6 small meals throughout the day (based on advice from my dietician), I exercise everyday, I drink 5+ litres of water everyday, I take my supplements, and I go to bed at a regular time every night.

If you look at my before/after picture I look fit and health. However, given that I am in remission from obesity (and not cured from obesity); there is risk that I become obese in the future if I do not actively plan nutritional meals, move my body through space, drink water, sleep, and so forth.

The hardest and most rewarding part of my journey has been having the hindsight and grace of time to recognise how my past behaviours contributed to my obesity. I recognise those behaviours; I recognise what triggered those behaviours; and I will work hard everyday to ensure those behaviours do not creep back into my life ☺