They say when you have weight loss surgery, they operate on your stomach and not your head. Most of the time when I hear this said it’s pertaining to hunger, appetite and eating.
But it’s true in so many ways.
I don’t know about you guys, but there were ways I was much more balanced as an obese person than I am as a person “in the struggle.” (Because I am…forever…perpetually…in a struggle with my weight!)
But this year as I celebrated the 8th anniversary of my RNY gastric bypass, I find that I’m a bit more centered than I was in years past. Definitely more centered that I was my first two years.
I think it’s because over the past year I’ve been forced to accept some hard truths. I share them with you here in case any of them help you to put your experience in perspective.
Obesity is a disease and WLS is part of my treatment plan
This is a big one. I thought of WLS as “the end of the road.” As such, I thought if I didn’t lose the weight – and keep it off – that I had failed and that there was no hope for me.
And yet in 2013 the American Medical Association declared obesity a disease – and a chronic one at that. A chronic disease means that obesity isn’t a disease where you can just take a pill or get a shot and it’s gone. Its effects can linger, sometimes for long periods of time and sometimes forever.
When I finally embraced that obesity is a disease I have and that my weight loss surgery is part of my treatment plan (not the entire plan) I began to realize that, yes, I do still have to stay active in managing my weight for the remainder of my life. This may depress you, but consider this. To maintain your dental health you have to remember to brush your teeth multiple times a day. To maintain good hygiene you have to maintain a regimen of washing yourself. To maintain overall good health you have to commit to going to sleep every single day. We have a million and two routines that we do every single day for our overall health and we do them. Managing my obesity is no different!
There is no “one-size-fits-all” WLS journey
This drove me CRAZY in the beginning of my post-op life. I wasn’t losing as fast as this person. I was able to eat more than that person. This person eats everything and still loses weight. That person maintains without ever having to exercise.
You know what these folks all have in common?
NONE of them is me!
My body is different from anybody else’s. While my body can work similarly to someone else’s in some fashions, there are countless ways it doesn’t. That had two big implications on how I live my life.
#1 – I don’t compare myself, my body, my eating, my routine, my exercise or my progress to anybody else. I know that’s hard for folks to actually practice. Sometimes you have to manually force yourself to stop doing it. But I’ve finally arrived at a place where the only person I compare myself to is myself.
#2 – I hold fast to MY rules. Just because this other post-op doesn’t have to do x, y and z doesn’t mean that I should stop doing it. It’s taken a long time but I have a good working understanding of MY body and how it reacts. I have an even better understanding of my mind and spirit and how they both play into how I think and behave. Most of the time I am practicing my process in ways folks will never notice. But I don’t give myself “a pass” because someone else can “get away” with doing things that I know I can’t.
I may never be 100% satisfied with the way I look
I mean generally, I have a healthy sense of self-esteem (folks on my Facebook friends list know this about me by virtue of the amount of selfies I take) but in reality we all have this vision of “skinny” in our heads. And I probably will never be that.
The reason I point this out is because I see a lot of folks discrediting their progress because of loose skin or other features they don’t like. (Stop that, by the way, you’re awesome!)
For me, plastic surgery is kind of out of reach. I’m a single mom of two kids, I just bought a house, my oldest goes to college next year and the youngest isn’t that far behind. Add to that the fact that my insurance won’t cover any of it and…yeah…it’ll be some years before I could even think of getting plastics.
But I’ve worked hard to appreciate my body. I love my body. But no…I’m not 100% satisfied with how it looks all the time. And that’s ok. I live in that space of dissatisfaction quite well these days. I recognize there’s a place I want to be, but I appreciate the place I’m in now because I remember where I came from.
There was a time, however, when I was working toward total satisfaction with myself. And I always came up short.
Food is not the enemy, and torturing myself with it is not the answer
Ohhhh but doesn’t it seem like it should be?
But it isn’t! I’ve learned that food (by itself) did not make me obese. Food didn’t single-handedly cause my unhappiness with myself. Food didn’t cause my regain after WLS, and food isn’t the reason I’m steadily losing that regain.
It all comes back to me.
To choosing myself, each and every day. To acknowledging what’s healthy in my life and what’s not. That includes acknowledging that in my life, there has to be room for indulgence or else I will go completely off the rails. I can’t live restrictively. And I also can’t live in environments where people don’t support my healthy goals.
Sure, when I started to regain, I tried to severely restrict my food intake. And sure over the past 8 years I have done all liquids, all protein, and many other miserable things. But in the end I had to ask myself, “Am I happy right now? Do I feel fulfilled right now?” My mother’s death in 2012 brought home to me that time is finite. Once you spend it you do not get it back. Now I’m committed to enjoying as many moments of my life as I can. And if I can’t enjoy a moment, I endeavor to learn from it.
In keeping with that, when folks ask me what I eat/don’t eat. I eat what I want. What I want happens to be pretty healthy, but if I want a cookie, I eat a cookie. If I want some chocolate, I eat some chocolate. Food is not the enemy. And torturing myself with it is not the answer!