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There has been a sudden explosion of advice and opinions floated out there by a brand new crop of bariatric experts. I would like to make a few points that I feel have been lost in the shuffle of bariatric information that is all around us. Generally, having more information is helpful, but just because someone writes something, does not mean that it is so. Present company included – although I have a pretty good track record over the last ten years for accuracy and consistency.
This surgery is not a walk in the park. It takes a concerted effort to actually live in a way that is diametrically opposed to the way we have been living for most of our lives. You don’t just wake up after bariatric surgery and find that you no longer have a taste for a Krispy Kreme. You have to develop that disdain and disinterest in such foods by finding other things that while are not a Krispy Kreme, give you just as much or even more happiness than the soft squishy donut when paired with weight loss.
My RNY surgery was in 2001 and I can assure you that I would not have had a shot at keeping off 125 of my original 150 lost if I had not stopped eating the crap responsible for my morbid obesity in the first place. Many of the current crop of advice givers, most still in the ‘honeymoon’ phase of one to three years, don’t seem to grasp this concept as they have not yet lived through it. I have done it too along this journey – loudly proclaiming that the twenty pound bounce was ‘an excuse’ – but I was just a couple of years post op and holding the line quite well so it was reality for me at that time.
The phrase Honeymoon Period is an often quoted and vague concept to some (sort of like saying ‘Gold Standard’ when referring to RNY surgery – what does that really mean?) Marriage is rough in the long run – but when we first get married, we live in that fog of bliss for a brief moment called a Honeymoon, where all is good and the reality of money, housecleaning, laundry, kids, money and personal habits have not had a chance to drive us mad.
Ditto for bariatric surgery. When we are first turned into surgically altered freaks we have no idea that we are not actually steering the car. Or better yet, we do not realize that we have absolutely nothing to do with our massive seven month weight drop. Some folks are already off the path at this point, snickering all the way ‘I am eating all my favorite stuff, nothing is making me sick and I am still losing weight, hehehee.’ or my all-time favorite justification for early Krispy Kreme eating, ‘I have lost 55 pounds in four months, I must be doing something right.’ Nope, during the Honeymoon Phase – we could have been washing down Fluffernutters with McDonald’s shakes and still have lost that first 85 pounds.
Reality Check: If you have ever been on a diet, think back to what you had to do in order to lose even 45 pounds. How many salads with lemon juice, horse urine injections, public WW weigh-in humiliations, pots of cabbage soup, making yourself throw up after meals, and prescription speed cocktails did we endure for a forty five pound loss? Why would this suddenly get so easy that we could have our internal organs rearranged and not have to change our eating habits as well? Give that some thought.
Folks who are two years post op have no idea what it’s like at six years post op when what you have been doing not only comes to a screeching halt but seems to reverse itself and the weight begins to creep back on while you watch in shock and horror as every bite seems to count. Things that didn’t matter suddenly do matter – in a bizarre Revenge of Pretzels and Drinking with Meals.
If you have not used surgery as a turning point in life – a line in the sand, you are eventually in for a world of bigger hurt and guilt than you could ever imagine. What I am getting to in a delicate way is this: Don’t let people BS you that you can simply eat whatever you want in smaller amounts and not only lose on down to a size eight, but keep it off forever.
We have a serious personal responsibility after bariatric surgery to take care of the body that we have willingly cut apart and rearranged. While the surgeons have got the procedures down to a science it’s not simple, nor is any of it truly reversible or non-invasive. Don’t minimize what you have done. It’s a big deal and the changes are drastic. Don’t order the pasta when you go out to dinner – don’t put the bag of chips in your cart at the grocery store – don’t even go there and order the side of fries – don’t eat the rest of the macaroni and cheese on your 6 year old’s plate as a habit – think about where those moves got you.
A few words about compulsion and emotional eating. I know that some of the things I just said are actually impossible for some of you. You don’t want to eat certain foods but are driven to do so. You don’t know why you are not able to stop buying or eating chips or the donuts at the coffee machine in the office and you feel as if you are a failure because of it. During the last four years in particular I have learned more about emotional disorders than I would have ever dreamed possible unless I had not been living through it by proxy. You are not able to fix this by yourself or stop eating these foods simply by willing yourself not to. Weight loss surgery is not the answer to fixing your life.
If you have already had bariatric surgery and find that you are upset over lack of control in your life, are careening out of control, obsessed with not being able to comfort yourself with massive bowls of food, are not able to keep relationships, can’t help stuffing even good foods mindlessly into your mouth, have fallen into deep sadness, look at others who are losing weight with hurt and jealousy, and find yourself crying out for attention – get professional help. Your situation may not have a lot to do with being morbidly obese – being morbidly obese is probably a symptom of situations you have had in your life that were not your fault.
The brilliance of Connie Stapleton PhD nailed it and I am paraphrasing here but she said that having bariatric surgery will not do anything for you other than physically making your stomach smaller. That is it. You will have the exact issues and emotions you have always had. There is the distinct possibility that if you fix your life or at least attempt to do so, that you will be able to take control of all aspects of life, including your eating patterns.
Treat yourself with kindness and love, know who you are taking advice from, and if you feel a bit lost it is a very good thing to find a professional so you can talk through what is on your mind. Life is a Journey – but a Bariatric Journey is even more challenging if we don’t pull together and help each other.