Subscribe: My work, sitting patiently in your inbox.

Saturday

Takeaways from my first surgery, and how it's making me healthier

“You’re going to drink more blood in those first few days than anything,” said a friend.  

“You’re not going to remember the first twenty-four hours,” said another.

With these kinds of comments, I can’t say I was too stoked about getting my wisdom teeth ripped violently out of my mouth.  This was my first surgical procedure, so I was already on edge about the process and the support of my friends made matters worse.

To be fair, they actually offered a lot of helpful advice and are probably to thank for my unexpectedly quick recovery.  Unfortunately that wouldn’t make for a good blog post, so let’s pretend they made everything terrible.  Sound fair?

This guy probably got his wisdom teeth removed.
What bothered me most about getting oral surgery wasn’t having chemicals injected into my body that would in turn make me unconscious, but the stipulation that I’m not to raise my heart-rate for one week after the operation.  If you’re reading this blog, or know even the slightest tidbit of information about me, you know that I’m kind of a health-nut-in-the-making: I want to eat better, get fitter, and am always making strides to replace my unhealthy habits in order to live a healthier lifestyle.

It has been 72 hours since my operation, which means it has been over 72 hours since I’ve gotten any real physical exercise, and means I have roughly another 96 hours left before I’m allowed to.  

But while being forced to abstain from physical activity is frustrating, and while I will probably go running in fewer than 96 hours, I’m finding that this experience is actually making me healthier.  

I’m eating less.  Overeating is probably the biggest impediment I have.  When the sun goes does, the blerch within me takes over and I devour everything in my cabinet from chips to ice cream.  When your face is numb and your mouth convinces itself that it’s obstructed by a monstrosity of a lip, however, you don’t really feel like eating very much.  It’s painful, and even eating pudding becomes a task that requires all of your focus.  

While my adventures of having to eat less by necessity are now over and I am already back to eating whatever I want, I’m holding onto some of that mindset.  Instead of eating when I get bored, I’m resorting to other activities like writing, reading, or, admittedly, watching some TV.  Once I’m well enough the “TV” portion will be replaced by exercise, but work with me here.

I’m more mindful while I’m eating.  Piggybacking off of the last point, I had to focus diligently on what I was eating for the first couple of days.  Eating is a pretty common thing for most of us, so it’s easy to let one of the most important parts of our daily life become overshadowed by our other tasks.  Unless I wanted to make a mess and only consume about 25-percent of my meal, I had to divert all my focus towards what I was trying to consume. 

Eating slowly and more mindfully is universally accepted as a way to lose-weight and stop overeating, so I welcome this experience as an added reminder that focusing on what I eat is both practical (it didn’t ruin my life) and beneficial to my health.

I get a fresh start.  I’ve made the mistake of going several consecutive days without running in the past, and so I know that my return to the pavement isn’t going to be a pain-free experience.  My legs are in for a rude-awakening.  

Nevertheless, this forced reversion to a sedentary lifestyle is permitting me to do some well-needed recovering.  In recent weeks, I have really done a number on my legs by frequently pushing myself to go further, and randomly running a half-marathon when my longest run prior to that had been only 8-miles.  I wouldn’t take any of it back, as the random motivation was a great confidence-booster, but it meant frequent discomfort in my legs and a broken capillary in my toe.  Hooray for purple toenails! 

So while getting to start fresh will mean not being able to do what I could do a few days ago, it will also mean I will be ready to tackle my running aspirations in a more healthy, gradual fashion.  Instead of running 8-miles and then randomly jacking the distance up by an additional five, I’ll slowly increase my distances so that I’m not screwing myself in coming weeks.

Getting my wisdom teeth taken out has been a pretty good experience thus far.  It’s meant having a viable excuse to eat some ice cream and other things that would normally be strictly off-limits.  It has also helped me overcome some of my fears of anesthesia and medical procedures in general.  Getting back into the swing of things might be a challenge, but at least I know I can come away from all of this with a better perspective than when I went in.

Find better perspectives @steven_chaffin.