Getting Fit After Stoma Surgery

Nathan Feb 2021

Hey everyone!

My first blog of 2021 – I hope everyone is well and keeping safe! As it’s a new year, I thought I would talk about fitness with a stoma. We all get on the band wagon of wanting to change something about ourselves each year, but even if you have fallen off the ‘new year, new me’ trend, I hope this blog helps you in some way…

Let’s start at the beginning, I have always hated working out.

PE (Physical Education), at school, was quite possibly my worst nightmare. I’m not a competitive person – so playing sports with people I really didn’t like anyway, was the last thing I wanted to do. I was quite a large, shy kid and although I was always doing every fad diet under the sun, fitness was not for me.

I have learnt now that I am extremely grateful for that extra weight because it saved my life! The surgeon said that if I didn’t have that extra bit of fat on me, I wouldn’t have survived my illness. I dropped from 16 stone (224 pounds) to under 11 stone (154 pounds) in a little over 2 weeks before I was rushed to hospital to find out I had been suffering from ulcerative colitis and had to have my colon removed.

After my first stoma surgery, I decided that I wanted to get fit.

I let myself heal, but I wanted to get in shape as soon as possible. I had been given a second chance and while sports were, and are still not, my thing – I found that home workouts really gave me a buzz. For the five years between my ileostomy surgery and deciding to have a proctocolectomy, aka my Barbie Butt, I did become a little bit obsessed with diet and fitness. I think it was because it was the only thing I was in control of.

I had never been slim before and I would still see myself as a fat person.

It was the starting point for my body dysmorphia because all I wanted was to get smaller and smaller. I did get obsessed because in my mind, I thought I was being healthy. I wasn’t in a hospital bed, I had energy during the workouts, and it made me feel like I was alive. My family were worried about me and the doctors started to comment on my weight loss – but at the time I didn’t care! Later down the line, I realised what I was doing wasn’t healthy, but I continued with the workouts and I started to eat to fuel my body and I did feel tons better and was less exhausted.

One of my questions before deciding to have the proctocolectomy was, “Will I be able to do a squat?” – because like many that haven’t experienced a Barbie Butt, I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to ‘spread my cheeks’ as it were! Thankfully, that is not the case and I am able to do all different types of workouts!

I go through stages of doing lots of working out and then giving myself a break, but my favourite workouts are definitely home HIIT workouts. I love yoga and weightlifting, and I pretty much do it all without any problems from my stoma or the proctocolectomy surgery. I have never been a runner – but one of my goals this year is to try and run 5K, so I am starting the Couch to 5K and if you are interested in that, I will give you another update later in the year on my fitness progression.

Tips for getting into fitness with a stoma and proctocolectomy…

Some tips I have for you if you’re worried about getting into fitness with a stoma and proctocolectomy; I would definitely get a good waistband to use during your workouts. It helps to support your stomach muscles and prevent hernias. This was always one of my biggest worries, but the waistbands really help to keep your stomach protected and helps to keep the stoma bag in place. Do not push yourself in the beginning – start off slow, yoga is the PERFECT way to start as the series of stretches will help you build up your core muscles. If you ever hurt during your workout – STOP. Working out is not meant to hurt – it’s meant to push you to get fitter. It is about listening to your body and enjoying what you do.

I’ll never ‘enjoy’ working out, but I do enjoy the feeling after a workout (and it means I can eat more!) and I love seeing the changes in my body when I am consistent. Give it a go and see how you feel!

Give my Instagram a follow @thatsnathan for fitness tips and the workouts I do from time to time! Always here to offer advice if you think I can help with anything…

Stay safe everyone!

Nathan x

by Nathan Wheeler

Nathan Wheeler

About the author

Hello - I'm Nathan Wheeler! I'm a YouTuber and I've had an ileostomy since 2007 when I was just 17, so I have a pretty good idea about how to deal with the struggles of a stoma! I want to share my experiences with you and bring a light-hearted approach to all the questions that no one wants to ask! You can follow me an Instagram and YouTube.

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