Thursday, August 1, 2013

The 10 Steps To Successful Weight Loss Surgery

I’ve been overweight since I was a child.  I’ve also been depressed and angry since then too.

When I decided two years ago that I wanted to finally lose the weight, it wasn’t just because I was tired of being fat.  I had an emotional revelation in which I realized that I was not in control of my own happiness and thoughts.  I knew that I needed to improve my mental health and went on a spiritual mission to change my perspective on life.  I took 18 months to really figure out why my life seemed so difficult, and in that journey I discovered that my mental anguish was the root cause to my weight gain.  I had a long road ahead of me in changing the beliefs I held about myself and the beliefs I held about other people.  Once I discovered and changed those beliefs, I decided it was time to let go of the weight that seemed to be holding me down. 

Most people go the opposite route with their weight.  They think that if they let go of the weight, they will also be letting go of the emotional issues.  Many times those people find that the weight is hard to keep off too.  I fully believe that weight loss surgery should require life improvement therapy too.  The problem is that in our health system, our doctors are only concerned with the physical aspect of our weight, and not the mental.  The treatments have been improving over the years, but I think there is still a long way to go in changing how we look at weight loss, and the benefit of surgery.   

I have spent a good amount of time in the past 11 months since my surgery date really looking at the mental changes that I’ve had to make to be fully successful with my progress.  I have since reached my original goal of losing 130lbs and improved that goal to being physically fit and healthy.  I composed this list of what I believe are the 10 most important actions you need to take to be successful with your weight loss surgery.  I hope you can learn from this, and please feel free to share any additional things you find important in your long term success.

1. Take responsibility for your choices.   You may have had an upbringing that caused you to have a weak belief structure, but you are still responsible for the way you take care of your body and mind.  Blame and shame are easy distractions for your mind to give up on your responsibility in how you got to the point you’re at.  Embrace your mistakes and love yourself.  You can’t get better until you embrace your responsibility and make a promise to yourself to do your best.  You cannot do your best when you make excuses for yourself.  When you take responsibility you are not making excuses for yourself.  Responsibility is a total acceptance of who we are, and focusing on self-love and improving our lives.

2.  Be honest with yourself.  It’s easy to avoid thinking about how you take care of your body every day.  Being honest with yourself is uncomfortable, but your “comfort” is what has lead you to the current state you’re in.  Progress is impossible without discomfort and anyone who’s had weight loss surgery can tell you that “comfort” is not part of the process.  Ask yourself if the choices you’re making are truly making you happy.  If not, change them.

3.   Keep a food journal.  This goes along with being honest with yourself.  An honest food journal will keep track of every bite, taste, lick, and sip.  Everything that goes into your mouth should be on that page.  This isn’t to feel shame or guilt, but to try and find each and every trigger in what is causing your weight problems.  You can’t change your appearance without changing your habits.  So for this, you must understand that writing these things down is only to help boost your progress, not to make you feel ashamed.  You’re already eating these things, so looking at them on a page isn’t going to harm you.  It’s going to help you see what you need to be more focused on.  This is to help teach you how to treat your body well.

4.   Remember that being “skinny” isn’t a solution to emotional turmoil.  It is not going to fix your relationship, make people like you, and get you a raise or a better job.  Your life will not improve because you are thin.  Your life only improves when your outlook improves, and you don’t have to be thin to improve your outlook.  You have to really figure out what in your life needs to improve and work on that separately from your weight.  Weight gain is a side effect from many emotional issues, and you can’t treat a problem by only treating the side effects.

5. Meditate.  You need to learn to calm your mind in moments of extreme stress.  I’ve learned that when I feel overwhelmed I fall back into my old habits of comfort food and inactivity.  Now that I’ve discovered meditation, it helps me get back to the inner calm I need to make better choices.

6.  Educate yourself on proper nutrition.  Many people I’ve spoken to, myself included, try to fit our comfort foods into the list of what we should be eating.  I can tell you that even if you take the bun off a burger, it’s still a burger.  Really learn what your body needs to stay healthy and fit, and realize that food is not strictly for enjoyment, but fuel and nourishment for our body and soul.  Remember how guilty you felt just writing a food journal?  Now if you ate foods that benefit your body, it would be EASY to write a food journal every day.  The one thing I was told in my pre-op class was “Oh, you don’t like to eat _______?  That’s too bad.  But I’m telling you that you need to eat it.”

7.   Don’t deny yourself anything in moderation.  I don’t eat healthy 100% of the time.  No one does, and if they do, they have more self-control than anyone I know.  The key is limitation.  You can indulge in a craving, but if you don’t nourish your body with proper foods more often, you are not going to be successful.  The benefit of surgery is that a lot of the unhealthy foods are difficult to eat, or cause severe discomfort, but that doesn’t last forever for some of us.  We have to keep in mind that head hunger and cravings are not an excuse to treat your body poorly.

8.  Be present.  Every time you make the decision to eat, you have to be present in the decision of what foods you’re going to nourish yourself with.  Imagine what each food choice you make is going to do to benefit your body, and how much of that food is nutritionally valuable for your health.  Picture what your goal is and decide if that food choice is beneficial to your goal.

9.  Move your body.  Physical inactivity is proven to cause anxiety and depression, both of which are difficult to handle while dealing with weight.  When you move your body, in any way, you are not only aiding yourself in weight loss, but in boosting your mental health.  When we make excuses and stay inactive, we are taking away from the progress we could make.  Find a physical activity you enjoy and do it as often as possible.  Also remember that exercise isn’t easy, and it isn’t supposed to be.  That physical strain is actually physical improvement.  The burn is growth.  Embrace it instead of fearing it.

10.  Get help.  If you find yourself struggling with making good choices you need to talk to someone about it.  If emotional turmoil or pain has deterred you from your progress, you need to seek out a professional.  Get a therapist, go to a support group, read a self-help book, or find a coach that can guide you through it.  When you internalize and refuse to move through your emotional pain, you cannot successfully utilize the weight loss tool you have chosen.  This is why so many people regain the weight.  They have not dealt with the emotional and mental side of weight loss and used the surgery as an ineffective solution.  You have to improve your thoughts before you will ever improve your body.

Lauren Vento
The Happiest Woman Alive

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