Holistic Wellness: What is it and why does it matter?

In the weight loss surgery world we often say, “they operated on our stomachs, not our heads.”
That’s true but I think I’d revise that a bit to say, “they operated on our stomachs, not our lives.” Because in the five years since having Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery, I’ve learned that losing weight does not automatically make you healthier. We can see that in the studies that tell us that post-ops have high rates of transfer addictions, especially to alcohol.
No, a healthy lifestyle starts with a healthy self. And a healthy self is about more than just your stomach!
Shortly after my surgery, I enrolled in a 12-week group therapy class where I learned about making a Comprehensive Wellness Plan. This plan doesn’t just focus on my body but all areas of my life. The psychologist who led the sessions taught me that bariatric surgery is not just about the physical part of losing weight. If I didn’t get my head on straight and focus on my complete health, I’d never be a success — in weight loss surgery or life.
Five years later I’m still working my plan. I’ve had success in some areas, set-backs in others. I’ll work this plan for life. But having it helps me to make healthier life decisions. And isn’t that what this is all about?
Here are the dimensions of health I’m focusing on, in case any of you would like to make a plan for yourself. You can choose to work on any area of your health that is important to you. But do it! You’ll thank yourself later.
  1. Physical Health: Bariatric surgery gives you the opportunity to get a jumpstart on your physical health. But losing weight is only one part of the battle because the scale doesn’t tell you the whole story. Staying healthy with proper exercise and a solid vitamin regimen is also important.
  2. Emotional Health: Keeping an emotional journal has helped me get in touch with my feelings and more fully understand what’s going on in my own head. Bariatric surgery is definitely about the physical health, but I believe that the surgery itself is only about 10% of the equation. The rest is all about the emotional journey: getting your head screwed on straight, establishing a healthy relationship with food and finding a way to love yourself enough to do make the healthy (and often harder) choices for your body.
  3. Spiritual Health: Whether you are religious or not, you have a spirit and it needs to be healthy too! I personally spend time in prayer and practice meditation for overall spiritual health.
  4. Financial Health: Especially now during this economic recession, many of us are facing difficult financial situations. Taking control of my financial health helped me find peace of mind and self-confidence and has helped me weather this stressful time. Does money ever drive you to make
  5. Intellectual Health: I’m always learning new things. Right after my surgery I was very focused on learning as much as I could about my new body and how it worked from an anatomy and biology standpoint. I also knew that I wanted to go back to college and finish my degree. I achieved one of my the biggest goals on my plan when I graduated from college! But the learning hasn’t stopped for me. I always seek to learn and grow.
  6. Vocational Health: If you’re not happy with your job, then find a new job. My vocational goals fed directly into my educational goals. I wanted a new career, so I had to finish my degree. For me, these two were closely related, but that might not be the case for you. In any case, everyone has a passion. An important first step in vocational health is discovering your passion.
  7. Relationship Health: Too often we, as morbidly obese people, put ourselves last on the priority list. And when you finally decide to put yourself first with bariatric surgery, relationships can suffer. My goal was to be the best family member and friend I could be without sacrificing my overall health. Working extr
  8. Character Health: This goal is not as easy to define as the others. The strength of my character has to do with who I am at the core of my being. Integrity, humor, tolerance, reliability, loyalty, courage, and wisdom are some of the character traits I’ve worked on over the years. Shame and guilt are two emotions that can be associated with ill character health. They both occur when you do something you don’t believe in. They are warning signs!

The diagram above is one I found on the Internet for a rehab facility and wellness program in Washington D.C. Although my wellness goals do not match the ones shown in this picture, it still gives you a general idea of how the individual parts of a Holistic Wellness Plan work together to promote overall good health.
If you make a Holistic Wellness Plan for yourself, I encourage you to share it with others. This process is not exclusive to bariatric patients. A plan for a healthy lifestyle can benefit anyone in any stage of life.
I hope that by sharing my plan, you can start on the path to your own holistic wellness.
This month we asked all Foodie contributors to share their guilty pleasures. Pam’s is a never-ending love of collecting fonts (or “typefaces” as she tells us REAL graphic designers call them). While the rest of humanity gets by with the free fonts that are pre-installed in our programs, Pam actually pays MONEY for new fonts. (Yeah…we don’t get it either…) But, as she points out, she’s not sure if this can be considered a guilty pleasure because she is not ashamed!

And when she’s not busy with that, Pam is also a graphic designer, support group leader and author of several blogs and the upcoming book entitled “Journey to a Healthier Me.” She’s a good one to know. Learn more about her!

Have a question for Pam? Send it to bariatricfoodie@yahoo.com!

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