Trans Fitness for surgery preparation by Vixx Thompson
Updated: Oct 18, 2019
Vixx Thompson founder of Trans-Fitness (Trans-Fit) a CIC and online directory with the goal to help Trans and Non-Binary people find sports, activities and social networks in their area discusses why he set up this vital resource and how he prepared for surgery.
Why I set up Trans-Fit.
I set up Trans-Fit in 2014 after being discharged from the gender clinic. I had recovered from chest surgery and noticed a letter pinned to the noticeboard. The letter stated that anyone (MtF) who was being put forward for surgery needed to have a BMI of 30 or less, or they would not be seen.
My surgeon had said similar to me, but I was borderline, so I didn’t have a great deal of work to do. She had also appreciated my physique, which was more muscular than fat and had taken that into consideration when making her decisions about how she was doing my surgery. I was also extremely active at the time, running marathons on a regular basis, and her main suggestion to me was to work on building up the chest muscles, so that she could use the definition to sculpt the chest during surgery. Not all surgeons ask for this, so check with your surgeon if in doubt.
My thoughts went to those people who would be waiting for appointments at the gender clinic, and then waiting for hormones and surgery. I had only been told about the BMI target at my surgical consultation. I felt that it should really be mentioned earlier, as many people don’t know that hormones can contribute to weight gain – and imagine waiting all that time to get toward surgery to only be told at the last minute that you’ll have to lose weight and come back then?
I hold qualifications in many different areas, including personal training, nutritional therapy and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), I decided to set up a secret group on Facebook for people who wanted help to get ready for surgery through fitness and eating healthily.
The BMI limit is much more well-known now (as well as which surgeons work with that limit) and people are starting to take action well ahead of their surgery being scheduled, which is great as it means more time to get prepared mentally and physically! Surgery is a big thing, and should not be under-estimated. The further out that you can start preparing, the better. But even if you are closer to surgery, there are still things that you can do to allow your body to be ready for the big day, as well as things that you can do post-surgery to allow your body to recover.
Recommendations to help you prepare for surgery:
(I am self employed and was lucky to be able to schedule my surgery during a period where I am quiet and wouldn’t lose work.)
Even if it was only a short walk each day, I wanted my body to be as fit as it could be to get the best recovery. I mixed it with running and gym work, so that I could have both lower body fat and a good cardiovascular system. A good CV system allows the blood to get the nutrients around efficiently and get rid of the stuff your body doesn’t need.
Tried to eat as healthily as possible.
The phrase “You are what you eat” is completely true as your body uses the nutrients within the food to do what it needs – look after your muscles, grow your hair and nails, keep your bones strong, and so on. The better your food choices, the better your body can be prepared for the surgery and your recovery afterwards. I aimed for my 5 a day in terms of fruit and vegetables and ate good quality proteins, both in terms of meats/fish and beans, pulses, lentils and so on.
It was essential to keep the body hydrated. Our bodies need water for so many different things within the body – and many of us don’t drink anywhere near enough for our daily needs. By keeping the body hydrated we are placing less stress on the body by allowing it to put the fluid where we need it, rather than having to ration it. We need fluid to keep our eyes moist, to allow us to breathe properly, to sweat as well as for our blood, our bodily tissues and our digestive system for example.
Made a list of questions for the surgeon.
This allows you to mentally prepare for what is ahead, and get yourself completely ready. All surgeons have their own system and their own rules (mine is now retired), so the best thing to do if you have any questions is to make a list of the things you want to know, and ask the surgeon. Mine included:
When can I go back to work?
Will I need to have a post-op binder?
How long will I be in hospital?
When will the drains be removed?
What do YOU need me to do to prepare for the operation?
Time off is different for us all depending upon how we recover and what our occupations are. Being self-employed, I don’t get sick pay or holiday pay, so I have to look after myself in that respect. Just be aware that if you get a sick note and want to return to work ahead of schedule, you need to get a Fit Note from your GP to allow you to safely go back to work.
Recommendations for post-op recovery:
Avoid caffeine and stimulants for the first few days.
If your body is having to spend time making insulin to deal with too much sugar, caffeine or nicotine, then it doesn’t have time to make the hormones that will help you to heal properly. Many doctors specify whether they want you to stop smoking or not (and most do) because the effects of smoking can prevent or slow the healing process, and so if you can stop, please try your best.
Drink plenty of water and fluids.
I drank plenty of water, along with lemon and ginger tea for nausea and peppermint tea or liquorice and peppermint tea for digestion. I also had fresh juices (mainly green ones) to help get extra nutrients.
I took a multivitamin pre- and post-op to help ensure that I was getting the nutrients I needed and any gaps that I might have were being filled.
Had a slow, gentle walk at regular intervals through the day.
This was to get the circulation going. It did actually help me to feel better too, less sluggish and gave me a little bit of extra energy without overdoing it.
Ate small, regular meals.
Good quality protein (I actually took pre-made protein shakes into the hospital with me in case I wasn’t hungry) combined with salads and vegetables. Low sugar snacks and nibbles such as yoghurts and nuts/dried fruit to maintain energy levels.
Rested as needed.
Don’t pressure yourself to do things if you don’t feel ready. Your body will tell you if it needs a rest, so try not to ignore it. If things can wait, let them wait. If friends can help, let them. It will be to your benefit.
I set up the Community Interest Company earlier in 2019 with the aim of extending the online presence into the real world by being able to provide workshops, seminars and activities for people who wish to learn more about health and fitness as well as becoming more active themselves. I want to help Trans and Non-Binary people achieve their goals!
If there are any groups or people that wish to be added (free of charge), then please feel free to get in touch so that I can expand the website and help as many people as possible in their area of the United Kingdom.
FB: Trans-Fit.co.uk (the Trans-Fit group is secret so I’ll need a message from anyone wishing to join the group).