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Sex – Excess Skin and Body Contouring After WLS Weight Loss

I’m a Gastric Bypass patient that has lost 260 lb. I’m a WLS Exercise and Bariatric Fitness Enthusiast and I am now a four time Reconstructive Plastic Surgery patient.

I’ve written several articles that approach the concept of Body Contouring Surgery after WLS or Massive weight loss from a couple different directions, the emotional journey, the body image issues, the pain involved, I’ve even talked about body functions and genital relocation. This next topic shouldn’t shock you at all.

totally-naughty-panda-emoticon-12-1Sex. Yup, Sex, because let me tell you Reconstructive Plastic Surgery affected my sex life in epic proportions.

First, let’s talk a little about sex before plastic surgery…

There is a moment in one of Yvonne McCarthy’s [ Bariatric Girl ] videos when she used to do her show that stuck with me forever when I was a post-op gastric bypass patient looking for information about what the excess skin would be like after my RNY and after my weight loss. She was doing an interview with a gentleman [ WLS Journeys: Guest Ramon Lopez ] that talked about how there was a moment after his weight loss where he heard the sound of clapping during exercise and didn’t realize at first that it was his skin smacking together as he ran. I remembered this story probably more than any other that I had heard pre-op RNY because I knew, it was something I was going to go through later and not a lot of people seemed to discuss the excess skin openly.

I had a very similar moment pre-reconstructive surgery. I was in the middle of a very intimate moment, swinging my hips back and forth and when I realized that my movements were causing my stomach to swing forward and make a skin on skin slapping sound as it swung back. It nearly paralyzed me. Of course, I was reassured that this wasn’t an issue “Stop worrying about noises and just be with me,” but once something like that gets in your head it’s hard to get rid of. This was one of those defining moments for me when it came to skin removal surgery. There were lots of other factors in my decision, just like when I decided to have weight loss surgery to begin with, but this was one of those embarrassing moments that I promised myself I would “fix” so I never had to endure again.

totally-naughty-panda-emoticon-6Let’s talk about how my first few surgeries changed my sex life… guess what.. it made it REALLY difficult. My first surgery, I had a lot of swelling complications, I would say that I was easily what we will refer to as “out of commission” for a good 8-10 weeks. There were big changes in my body after that surgery, parts of me that were numb to the touch and it felt strange to have someone touch me there, see that they were touching me and yet not feel it. I had this spot on my upper thighs that was right about the same place the dogs would run up and put their paws on me at when I was sitting down, and to this day, I still have a duller sensation when I am touched there than before. But it took me getting past the complications, pain, and strange feelings my body was experience before I even wanted to be intimate again.

My next surgery in August changed things for me even more. In this surgery, we took the excess skin out of my breasts and did a breast lift which included relocating the nipple and areola. My breasts were so sensitive it was ridiculous. This surgery probably only knocked me out of commission for another six weeks while everything was healing. But my nipples developed hypersensitivity [ Its not Masturbation its exploratory ]and it was like, if you blew on me those darn things got hard and when it happened it wasn’t a “happy” sexy moment, it was painful, sent shivers through me, and felt very awkward. I had to start working on desensitizing them to touch, and to be honest, it never went back to normal. After about six months it got to a point that my nipples could be involved in sexual play again, but in a completely different way than before…  suddenly my nipples were one of the most sensitive parts of my body in bed they required a stamp of “Fragile Handle with Care”

When we did my medial thigh lift a few months later in November all bets were off. You have incisions from your knee all the way up to your groin and from that point forward along the crease between your thigh and your girl or boy bits with that sort of thigh lift, and to be blunt, my legs weren’t opening like that for a while. In this case I’d say it took another 6-8 weeks.

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The time that you’re “out of commission” isn’t the only big changes though. I noticed a difference in my sex life very quickly after that first surgery. A lot of the skin in my mons area had been removed and my girl parts were re-arranged a little. Suddenly I didn’t like the way things felt at times. Positions I used to like, I wasn’t comfortable in anymore, and at every turn I was saying things like “Gently Please,” or “Slow down please,” or “Please move your hand that feels weird,” when I was being touched in a place that still had numbness, and after three surgeries there were a lot of places I felt numbness. Yeah ok, let’s be blunt, when I was a bigger girl I liked things a little fast and rough, maybe I had more cushion inside ( I’d have to ask some doctors about that theory ) but it changed for me a lot after losing weight and cutting my body and sewing it back together a few times. No more Lady GaGa “If it ain’t rough it isn’t fun.” theology in my bed. It was more like, “I really want to do this please don’t hurt me, please don’t hurt me, please don’t hurt me.” There was a lot of me feeling fragile to myself, and even more of me feeling fragile to my partner who was afraid of touching me the wrong way because really, who wants to hurt the person you love in bed unless it’s in a kinky way, right?

Also while we are being blunt and honest, there was a change in what felt good to me in regards to size. Suddenly things felt “bigger” to me than they were before. As a woman we get used to where things fit inside us, we get used to a sensation where a certain place perhaps gets rubbed at a certain angle. Suddenly, that changed for me, it was like moving my mons around moved my insides around or losing all that weight shifted where things were inside me and things were more sensitive, seemed tighter, and less accommodating to my partner. It was a scary transition too. Suddenly you don’t like things the way you used to like them and if you have been with someone for quite a while, that can be an awkward place of “re-learning.”

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Let me just also give you this little head’s up my friends. A lot of these reconstructive surgeries to do excess skin removal after massive weight loss are done on parts of your body that are very active during times of intimacy. Your thighs, your mons, your abdomen, your breasts, your arms. Imagine taking a few of those out of commission during your sexual activity for a while. It’s changes things a lot. Now once you get past that here is my tip. Keep in mind as you “return” to sexual activity that the first time good things happen and your muscles all tighten and your body gets rigid… it’s going to hurt in a way that makes you want to roll your eyes in not so great way to deal with the pain. Seriously, it reminded me of losing my virginity, I just sort of laid there gasping going “Why did that hurt so bad?”

I have no idea yet how this last surgery is going to change my sex life. I know that I was released and allowed to have intercourse a lot earlier. ( I had the green light after three weeks ) but that doesn’t  mean my body is ready, and I know it isn’t.

After having implants done, I have no nipple sensation at all yet  ( They say it will come back eventually ) my breasts are extremely tender, like, they feel like I’ve been punched in them several times and have the sensitive hurt and achy feeling I used to experience when I still menstruated. Since my surgeon re-cut my bikini line and lifted my pubic area quite a bit ( He made that area of my body look AMAZING really ) there is a lot of painful sensitivity in my mons area and until that goes away I know sex isn’t something in which I’ll be remotely interested.

So if I had to add it up, in the past 68 weeks of having reconstructive plastic surgery, there were about 24 weeks of healing time that I simply could NOT be intimate at all and likely another 24 weeks or so of “Not tonight hun my body still feels weird to me,” that I didn’t want to be intimate whether I could or not.

No matter how you spin it, reconstructive plastic surgery after massive weight loss affects your sex life on an epic level. I’m not sure how many people would really tell you that, but you know I will. I’d love to hear the male perspective on this and see if it follows the same experience mind did. Just to end on a note of humor, it’s a darn good thing that sex wasn’t one of my transfer addictions, because if it had been, I would have been in big trouble when I started the WLS Plastics part of my journey.

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Emotions Post Reconstructive Plastic Surgery After WLS

I’m behind on blogs and there are so many I need to write. Since this is the most prevalent in my mind, it will get written first.

As usual, I will be sharing the full experience of this fourth bout of reconstructive plastic surgery with you once I am fully healed and can write about it from bringing to end. What I want to talk about today is the emotional and mental aspect of this part of the weight loss journey.

dd7222daa7986c2ad775cc3885e20b34Rarely a day passes without someone somewhere in the weight loss community talking about loose skin, how much they hate it, how ugly it makes them feel, and how much they wish they could get rid of it. I won’t lie and say I wasn’t one of them, in fact, I think I was one of the worst. I honestly think there was a point where I was dangerously close to this place where no matter how much I cut off my body it would never be good enough [ See: My Body Issues vs My Support System Them Zero Us One ] and I would never achieve the vision I had in my head of what I wanted to see in the mirror.

Thankfully, I found an amazing surgeon who has been able to do for me exactly what I needed him to do. Even before the swelling goes down, I can tell looking in the mirror that this time things are different and that this time around, my body looks more like the body I feel I have put the last 2 years and 9 months into creating. – ( This is how I feel most of the time – until the irrational emotions kick in. )

I’ve been very honest and open about my journey, my mindset, and how I put myself in a very unhealthy place when I started to associate cutting the skin off of my body with cutting my abusers out of my life.

I’ve been open and forthright when it comes to telling you that there is a big difference between reconstructive plastic surgery and cosmetic plastic surgery and that having realistic expectations of what your body is going to be like after these surgeries is of the utmost importance. This is also an area where I had to learn from mistakes, because the over-compulsive-virgo-perfectionst in me, struggles to realize that I will never have a perfect body, that I will never look like a Barbie doll and that my body will always have some part of it that remembers it once weighed 420 lb..

Reconstructive Plastic Surgery is by far the hardest thing I have ever put my body through both physically and mentally. It is NOT easy. It is the single most painful experience I have ever had in my life. I can still honestly say that I have no buyers remorse, though there were a few times in the first few days following this last surgery when the pain levels were so high that I am pretty sure the sentiments “I wish I hadn’t done this.” and “Why did I do this to myself?” were expressed multiple times.

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Me trying to put on a very big smile despite the pain and discomfort.

The answer was clear for me though, I did it because it was what I needed to do for me mentally. It was what I needed to do for me emotionally. I had to get my body to a place that when I looked in the mirror I saw the woman I had worked so hard to become and not a remnant of the abuse that I had endured through my life that had pushed me into unhealthy addictions, relationships with food, destroying my body and committing suicide with a fork and spoon. The problem here, is that even going into this last surgery, I thought the surgery would change this for me somehow. When the reality is, whatever remnants of abuse I see when I look in the mirror, are in my head; I am the only person that sees my body now as some sort of taunting of my past. Nobody else looks at me and goes “Oh look at Pandora, her left arm is bigger than her right arm and she would never look like that if she hadn’t weighed 420 lb. and she would never have weighed 420 lb. if she had not been a horribly abused little girl.” – Nope nobody would say that if they looked at me today, only I negatively empower myself with those automatic negative thoughts when I look in the mirror. This my dear friends and fellow Slender Seekers is a break though moment for me. Because it really is one of the first times that I have been able to separate my negative thoughts about my body image from my body and say; “This is something that is wrong in my head,” verses “This is something that is wrong with my body.”

c022d749a8f8154307dd8875189def22I cannot honestly say that I believe reconstructive plastic surgery is the right answer for everyone. I think a lot of factors have to be considered. How close to your goal weight are you? Because the further away from it you are, the less likely you are to be happy with your results in the end and the more likely you are to have to have more surgeries. I also think you have to ask yourself why you want it, what it is going to change for you, and if you want it enough to endure the massive amount of pain that it puts you through.

I can honestly say, that I wish Reconstructive Plastic Surgeons asked you to see a mental health specialist before having reconstructive plastic surgery. It is something that I personally would highly suggest, because I think that when it comes to reconstructive plastics we start to reach into a whole new emotional part of the weight loss journey.

I remember my first few days post-op gastric bypass. I remember the emotional roller coaster that I endured in that first 12 months of my honeymoon phase. I remember all the emotional set backs I battled. My father having a stroke, me going back to smoking cigarettes and struggling to quit again, my Father passing away, the intense relationship changes I was going through in my marriage, being on crutches for 8 weeks after learning I was an extreme dumper. It was like life suddenly said “Oh look Pandora is doing something to try to get her life back, let’s see what we can throw in her way.”

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Me trying to play “Super Pandora” with my nephew wrapped up in compression gear and trying not to let the emotional breakdown in my mind seep through in my face.

This journey with reconstructive plastic surgery has been no different. The last 17 months of my life have been just as much of an emotional roller coaster as the early post-operative part of my gastric bypass was and my body has changed just as drastically in those 17 months as it has in the first 16 where I was shedding 260 lb. at star speed. In those 17 months I’ve gone through even more relationship issues, cut myself off from my entire blood related family, watched my mother try to commit suicide and go in and out of mental health counseling, and then last October I got involved with the Weight Loss Surgery community online more intensely, and boy let me tell you, that alone is more of an emotional roller coaster than I am sometimes sure we even realize.  I’ve worked on a complete career change that has intimidated the heck out of me on levels that include being intimidated by “learning” for the first time in nearly 20 years, and for the last 7 months I’ve pretty much been home in my own environment for all of 7 days as I bounce from place to place dealing with the different crisis that life has handed me.

This is my 4th round of reconstructive plastic surgeries and I can think of a ton of other things I COULD do… another breast lift, an outer thigh lift to make them look better, butt implants so that I could actually have a butt instead of suffering from the “No Ass At All Syndrome” that my 360 Upper Body lift left me with, a face lift to get rid of the rooster chin I hate when I see from a certain angle… I could go on and on.

But the reality is, if I did, I would probably still always find something to be unhappy with when I look at my body in the mirror. People who love me ask me often, “Why can’t you see how amazing you look and how far you have come?” – I wish, I honestly do that I had the answer to that question. I think that I am working towards it. I am using the right tools, talking to the right people and getting a little bit of help from some mental health professionals when it comes to trying to address my body image issues.

What I can say, is that it isn’t that I don’t realize how good I look. I see the progress. I see how much better I look now than I did when I had all that skin hanging off me. But I see my flaws and my mind focuses on them more than it does the positive. I suffer from over compulsive disorder. For me personally it is very easy for me to look in the mirror and go “My right breast is larger than my left breast” and have it become something that consistently bothers me. It is very easy for me to look in the mirror and see my arms and say “My arms are asymmetrical,” and have it become something that I obsess over.  The next time I am standing in front of the mirror naked, instead of looking at the amazing flat stomach my surgeon gave me, or appreciating how there isn’t skin dangling from my forearms anymore, my eyes are instantly drawn to the flaws I see.

I can cover those flaws up and play the out of sight out of mine game. I can tell myself how great my breasts look in a bra and how the difference is hardly noticeable, I can wear clothes that highlight features I am happy with and draw attention away from ones I don’t like. How many times did you all see me add a shrug to a sleeveless dress to cover the arms I hated so much?

But covering my flaws wasn’t ever my goal. My goal was to be able to stand in front of the mirror buck ass naked, and not only like what I see, but have the confidence to know that if someone else was looking at me, they were going to like what they saw too. I mean we don’t talk about sex a lot in this community, but hey, let’s go there for a second…

I remember when I weighed 350 lb., hated the way my breasts sagged out of a bra and was so afraid of someone seeing me naked that I literally wore a t-shirt during sex. Sure you could touch me anywhere you wanted too, as long as it was covered up and the lights were out.  Then there was the me having sex after losing 260 lbs. Same thing, I wanted the lights out, I wanted to not be seen, and oh Gawd, I wanted the sound of skin to skin contact to be between me and my partner not me and my loose skin as I tried to move in a sexual rhythm to theirs.

So post reconstructive plastic surgery, what I wanted most, was a body that made me want to leave the lights on, that made me want to let someone look at me, that empowered me to feel sexy, to want to wear lingerie and feel confident in doing those things.

I can hear what several of you are thinking already, I’ve heard it said to me more than once…

“If someone loves you, these things won’t matter to them.”

“You have to love yourself despite your flaws and learn to be happy with who you are.”

“Nobody is perfect.”

“Everyone has one breast that is different from the other, your breasts are sisters not twins.”

“Everyone has a little asymmetry to their body, one side of our body is not a perfect clone of the other.”

“Nobody notices these little things but you.”

And you know what… those statements are all probably 100% true and accurate. But that doesn’t mean my brain can rationally accept them, or rationally apply them to my situation.

We talk often about how it takes awhile for our minds to catch up with our bodies where the weight loss is concerned. So many of us lose weight so quickly after weight loss surgery and we look in the mirror and we still see ourselves as “big” or “fat”. We talk about how we have this misconception that we are a lot bigger than we are, we see ourselves different from others see us.

I don’t think reconstructive plastic surgery is any different. I’ve done four very large-scale surgeries in a 17 month time frame and they haven’t been spaced very far apart. My first was 02-12, next was 08-12, next was 11-12 and then 07-13 — and after each surgery, we were already planning the next one.

The weight loss journey as a whole is an extremely emotional one. Whether we are in the pre-op phase, early post-op phase, the honeymoon phase, or the maintenance phase, there are always big emotions involved. I haven’t even reached my three-year surgiversary yet and I have gone through them all.

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There are times when I feel like perhaps I rushed forward too quickly. I had just reached Onederland at my one year surgiversary and weighed 195 lb. when my surgeon said I could go ahead and consult with a plastic surgeon because my honeymoon phase was over and I had lost the weight I was going to lose. Just four months and another 20 lb. later I was having my first round of reconstructive plastic surgery. Then it was nothing but cut, heal, cut, heal, travel, cut, heal, travel, cut. So I spent 16 months losing my weight, and 17 months doing reconstructive plastic surgery immediately after doing so.

If you asked me “Pandora, if you had to pick the part of your journey that you saw the most changes in your body, was it the weight loss or the reconstructive plastics part?” My answer would be by far, the reconstructive plastics part and because of that, for me personally, this last 17 months has been one of the most emotional roller coasters of my life.

Someone asked me not too long ago “So when does the knife get put down for good?” – my response was “Hopefully after this surgery.” – My IM box was flooded by people in our community that were concerned about me when talks about transfer addictions to plastic surgery began to surface right around the time that I announced I was having my final surgery. Some of my dearest friends were concerned that I’d just always keep cutting on myself because nothing would ever be good enough.

78e5937ba1ef644bfe671872cf388409My feelings on these things change daily right now. I am through with reconstructive plastic surgery. I can honestly say, I won’t be doing any more big surgeries. There are some minor touch ups that need to be addressed after my body is done healing from this last surgery, that is completely normal. I will do those. But I am done enduring this sort of pain. I am done being out of commission from exercise; my major coping skill. I am done being cut in 3-4 directions or 8 different locations at a time and I am ready to close this chapter of my life and move on to the next one.

Since I haven’t begun but an outline of that chapter, I am not sure what all it entails just yet, but I do know for sure, that it doesn’t include any more rest and recovery days unless they come in the form of two days off of a marathon training program.

The next chapter of my life involves moving on with my new career and making that my primary focus. The next chapter of my life involves figuring out how to stop letting my past taunt me in the mirror and detaching my associating with my abusers with my body, because really, the Pandora that abused her body because everyone else always had is someone I left behind a long time ago, and now that I realize that is what I am doing to myself mentally each time I look in the mirror and search for my flaws I realize that emotionally I am letting them win again, and that is something I promised myself I would never do. The next chapter of my life includes some very serious and very deep cognitive work, which I can’t honestly promise I will be sharing and I will be talking more about this in the weeks and months to come.

We have a lot to talk about my friends, I have a lot of things to process with through with you now that I can sit and write comfortably so stay tuned lot’s more to come.

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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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