What are we Weighting For?

During my journey, I have found that nurturing my inner self has been one of the most important keys to my success, especially during the challenging plateau periods.

In order to navigate my way through these periods, I realized it is necessary to reconnect with myself and affirm my sense of self-love and self-worth.

I remind myself that we are already perfect as we are, and that this bariatric wellness journey helps bring that inner beauty out.  It’s a process that applies to our whole selves—exercise, eating habits, fluid intake, looking our best, relationships, spirituality…every part of who we are. My bariatric surgery not only bypassed a section of my stomach, but just as significantly, it bypassed or cut out the illusion of who I thought I was and revealed who I really am.

During my obese life, I remember engaging in negative self-judgment and allowing others’ expectations to affect how I felt about myself. If you buy into the lie that weight loss surgery is the easy way out, and that you are a failure for taking this option, you set yourself up for failure any time the scale doesn’t move downward.

I have come to believe in a new paradigm. I did not have the surgery because I did not love myself. I chose surgery because I love myself, and I love life so passionately that I wanted to give myself the gift of living more fully. Otherwise, why would I suffer the “slings and arrows” of recovery? As Les Brown, says, “Because it’s worth it.”

Some days I barely looked at myself in the mirror below my neckline. But am I willing to dwell on a negative self-perception just because my weight loss slowed down for a few weeks? Definitely not!
In his latest book, The Five Levels of Attachment: Toltec Wisdom for the Modern World, don Miguel Ruiz, Jr. states, “Let us enjoy this moment in life. The past is done, the future is coming, and the best way to say hello is by learning to say goodbye.”

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A Surprising Truth about Relationships and Bariatric Surgery

I became so much healthier physically and mentally after weight loss surgery. Not only did I lose all that weight, but my relationships have become healthier as well.  Some relationships that weren’t so healthy pre-surgery—with other people, and with things like sugar—have faded away on their own, while others I’ve made the effort to transform.

The world seems to treat you differently when they perceive you as a “normal” person because you are slim, trim and beautiful. That reflects itself in the way you behave and experience the world.
A healthy relationship is anchored by reciprocity and authenticity.  A frequent common denominator of some of my previous relationships was weight issues.  Oh how we commiserated with each other around the dissatisfaction of being overweight and unhealthy and our activities around futile attempts to lose the excess pounds.  I am eternally grateful for these relationships because they provided support in lots of areas.

Actually, I still need these relationships and if some folks perceive me differently post-weight loss, then I hope the ups and downs of my journey can inspire them on theirs.

I find that relationships with men generally take on one of two different personas. When they see the new me, they are super complimentary and supportive, then go about behaving the same as before. On the flip side, others have a hard time making eye contact, make no mention of the new me and sneak in a compliment quiet enough so their partners don’t hear anything.  I feel like I need to go to confession, but I can’t figure out why.  If they are post-bariatric, I become a comrade and sometimes a mentor.

Reactions from women are much more diverse, ranging from super-affirming to never calling me again. Most immediately mention their own weight-related challenges.

This isn’t just my perception either.  Researchers from Arizona State University spoke with over 200 adults who had bariatric surgery.  Participants reported they felt better after the weight loss surgery, had more energy and were more likely to engage in social activities than before.

It’s clear, the psychological benefits of bariatric surgery go deep.  But when it comes to relationships, sometimes it’s hard to know how to react to the responses you get.  I try to let me positivity flow outward, and be supportive of other peoples’ choices.  Your true friends will accept the new you, and be there when you need them on your journey.  And of course, you’ll be there for them too.

 

I Chose Healthy Living

I suppose you could consider bariatric surgery a “quick weight loss” program.  But it differs dramatically from everything out there today.

Like most of you out there, I have tried every quick loss scheme in the book. I remember fasting until my tongue turned pasty white.  I spent so much time in the bathroom I considered installing book shelves for easy access to reading materials. Then came the cabbage diet, diet pills, liquid diet, Dr. Atkins, carb-loading, and on and on.

Oh I lost weight all right—only to put it back and invite more fat cells to the party. They even brought some friends along.

Now that I’ve had weight loss surgery, I love the new me and I refuse to go back to the past.  Here’s one of my favorite quotes:

The mental and physical space we create by letting go of things that belong in our past gives us…the option to fill the space with something new.    Susan Fay West

Bariatric surgery, which does result in quick weight loss, is not the easy way out.  It’s taking control of our destiny. It’s making the choice to recognize our shortcomings and develop new strategies to overcome them.

Still, I don’t believe this choice is for everyone. In order lose the weight and keep it off, we have to change our entire lifestyles. Smaller portions are a given, in fact, I never eat off a plate bigger than a saucer or bread plate. I eat more slowly. I put away half or more of my food in restaurants even before I put one forkful in my mouth.  I concentrate on protein first, and I put off drinking anything one half hour on either side of the meal.

Besides changing my eating habits, I work out consistently and generally move around much more. Can’t say I love exercising, but I feel a tremendous sense of achievement after every session.

I probably weigh myself too often, but I try to stay within a 5 to 7 pound range and/or within a normal BMI score. And yes, even though my diabetes went away almost immediately after the surgery, I still take my glucose readings a couple times a month. Can’t take anything for granted.

Oh, I am not perfect. I try to ward off the “dumping” syndrome, but every now and then it catches me. Still, I remain undeterred. I just think of the slinky, fabulous clothing trends that don’t elude me now and the fact that I don’t take any medications, except allergy pills when I need them. Oh, and the looks and the compliments I get are thrilling.

Most importantly, through the quick weight loss afforded me through bariatric surgery, I have discovered a part of me that I had forgotten or buried. My confidence in myself and my future is off the charts. I truly feel beautiful inside and out.

So my advice is this: Love the new you. Do everything you can to keep the weight off.  Join a support group. If necessary, see a therapist, nutritionist, look in the mirror constantly, check in with a shaman, wear knee braces, live on Crystal Light, eat lobster every day, and express gratitude. Whatever works for you.

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Have You Lost Ground Since Your Initial Weight Loss?

I recently watched a documentary on obesity on HBO, entitled “Weight of the Nation”. It highlighted the success stories of two women who lost the pounds after weight loss surgery, and managed to keep them off.

One secret to their success was participating in the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks over 10,000 individuals who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off for long periods of time. The program consists of detailed questionnaires and annual follow-up surveys that help researchers identify success factors, as well as areas you may need to work on. Both women claimed that their success was due in no small part to their participation.

I applied to the program and was accepted!

Completing the survey, I discovered the benefits of participating in the Registry myself. The survey helped me identify my current challenges, and the areas of my new lifestyle that needed improvement:

  • I had regained about 10 pounds
  • I had lost a little muscle tone
  • I had been stress-eating

This really gave me some perspective. I revisited my fitness and nutrition plans, thought about how I was doing, and came up with some new goals:

  • Eat breakfast every day
  • Use my portion control tools
  • Stay away from the Pretzel Factory
  • Grocery shop more often
  • Increase the track visits
  • Walk more briskly
  • Pray, meditate and give thanks to God every morning to reduce my stress and help me keep the faith.

Setting specific goals was incredibly helpful, and so was realizing that I shouldn’t beat myself up for a little slippage.  It’s a journey, not a destination. Aside from personal benefit, I have a philanthropic goal of helping others who are on the journey, and making an impact on childhood obesity. No matter what my current stresses are, I am determined to walk the talk and be an inspiration. These are the things I remind myself to keep me motivated.

Finding Your Personal Style After Bariatric Surgery

It might sound surprising but weight loss surgery can leave you struggling to come to terms with the “new you”. Lots of us who were overweight at one time still spend a great deal of time feeling undeserving.

The first time I had a photo shoot to start building my website, I had to confront these feelings head on.  As I made my way into Sephora for my makeover, I thought I should keep the engine running in my car to make a quick getaway in case I was exposed as a fraud. A fat woman trapped in a skinny woman’s body, who had cheated to get there.

What nerve I had wearing skinny jeans and daring to be photographed for the world to see.  My niece came by to help me choose the outfits for my shoot, and when I saw the shoes she brought along, I had visions of falling flat on my face and my feet being permanently frozen in a pixie-like shape.  Oh, the pain.

I conquered my fears, and the session was so much fun. It was very exciting working with a professional photographer, Laura Pedrick, and being transformed by a bona fide makeup artist!  I discovered my runway persona. My mind has still not caught up with my body size and every other week, I see the overweight person I used to be when I look in the mirror.  The doctors say that will go away after a while.

You know what I realized? Yes, we deserve to flaunt our personal styles. After all, it’s not just the outer image that others see, but our style reflects the joy and confidence that we have as a result of our new healthier selves.  Weight loss surgery survivors rock!

I’d love to hear your experience. What do you most want to wear after bariatric surgery?

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Drink Well to Feel Well

I wish that I loved water.  It would be so much easier for me to get in the recommended 64+ ounces of fluid every day since my #WLS weight loss surgery.

You can only drink so many diet drinks, and besides, I’m not comfortable with artificial sweeteners, although I love my sugar-free popsicles.  Fruit juices have too many calories. I don’t want to risk dehydration. I also got a real scare recently when my urine was bright yellow. Thank goodness it turned out to be from my B2 vitamin.

Lately, my Facebook friends have posted some awesome recipes for fruit infused water that look good. I’m going to have to try that.

Staying hydrated is critical, especially when I’m perspiring as a result of my exercise program. So I’m reminding myself of the benefits of drinking pure water. If I think more positively about water, I might grow to love it. Here goes:

  1. Water keeps my skin moisturized and helps with sagging skin issues.
  2. Water lubricates my joints. My knees aren’t the greatest as a result of my obesity years.
  3. Water removes toxins from my body. I don’t want to strain my liver and kidneys for sure.
  4. Water prevents me from retaining fluids.
  5. Water helps keep my blood pressure down. I don’t have a blood pressure problem and don’t want one.
  6. Water helps me exercise longer, which is good for my muscles and will help me lose more weight.

If you’ve come up with good solutions for fluid intake, let me know so I can share!