A confession has to be part of your new life.
– Ludwig Wittgenstein
One of the blogs I follow that deals with WLS and post-WLS living asked a question of its readers today: do you do anything that you feel might eventually cause you to regain? The replies came fast and thick: ‘grazing,’ ‘not exercising,’ ‘emotional eating,’ ‘bored eating,’ ‘giving in to cravings,’ and so on. Most of the commenters went on to berate themselves for making mistakes and being human. Even though the post did not ask for details, they were offered freely:
‘I am 4 weeks post op and cheated already by licking Doritos.’
‘Every time I add a new food into my diet, I wonder, is this going to be my downfall?’
‘I am 7 years post op, and I am almost back to my pre-surgery weight.’
‘I make bad food choices.’
‘I get so stressed out and then I eat.’
‘Every time I eat I am afraid of stretching my pouch.’
There were many, many more, all with similar issues.
This is the reality. I still graze sometimes instead of eating small meals and snacks at regular intervals. I still crave chips and chocolate. I still mosey out to the fridge when I’m bored, looking for something quick to eat. Not that I’m hungry, mind you. It’s that same rut that I fall into as soon as I lose focus and feel lazy.
It’s tough. Now that Number One Son is working so many hours, he’s often not home at dinnertime. When I come home, Mr. Stuck is often working outside in the nice weather, and when I ask him if he’s hungry, he says no. So I don’t make dinner. When he comes inside after dark, that’s when he’s hungry, and then it’s nearly bedtime. Instead of eating a nutrition-packed, tasty meal lovingly prepared, we end up grabbing a couple slices of cheese and a few crackers, some cookies, or a hard boiled egg. Or a beer. Or maybe nothing.
This is not how I envisioned my post-op life. I was going to have a fridge full of perfectly-portioned, healthy meals and snacks that would keep me from eating the unhealthy stuff. I wasn’t going to indulge in chips and cookies and ice cream. That was the old me. I was going to cook up new, exciting recipes from my new WLS cookbook. There would be kale and broccoli and fish and chicken and all sorts of nutritious goodies to choose from. I would eat like a thin person, not like a fat person.
Well, we did pretty well for a while. Mr. Stuck discovered he loves kale, and we started eating more fish and chicken and far less beef and pork. I tried a few new recipes. I would bring home produce and immediately prepare it, cutting celery into sticks and chunking up cantaloupe. We cut out almost all starches like bread, potatoes, and pasta. We drank mostly water. When we ate out, we would split an entrée and have more than enough food.
But then the old habits returned with a vengeance: junk food appeared in my grocery cart. Instead of splitting restaurant meals, we would each order what we wanted, and sometimes we had cocktails, too. Instead of trying to stick with our schedule of eating every couple of hours, we found ourselves skipping meals, eating here and there, and grazing whatever was available. Instead of small, measured portions, we ate larger quantities over longer periods. We got complacent.
This is a huge lesson. As much as I’ve heard it and said it myself, I still need to remember that WLS is not a magic wand. My surgery did not change my poor eating habits, my self-image, my cravings, my emotions, my baggage, or my conditioning. It didn’t make me automatically love exercise. It didn’t give me license to return to the way I did things before, like a ‘get out of jail free’ card. It didn’t excuse me from having to watch what I eat, and it didn’t make me healthy.
I am the only one who can do those things.
I noticed also on that blog post that several commenters mentioned counseling and support groups. I was glad to see that. I, for one, need the support and encouragement of family and friends. (I think we all do.) I am convinced that the best way to be successful for me and Mr. Stuck is to go to our meetings and talk that stuff out. When I do, I find that everyone else feels the same way. They offer ‘been there, done that’ tips on dealing with the problems we all encounter. They acknowledge that we are all human and we will make mistakes, but they offer encouragement, not criticism like we so readily give ourselves. It is so easy to fall back into those bad habits, and it is so hard to admit that to ourselves. Being with people who have stubbed their toes on that same rock makes it so much easier to deal with.
I may look like a whole new person, but I’m just the same old person in a smaller package. It is not surgery that makes me new – it is the commitment I make to myself, that I love myself enough to make these changes and stick with them. It’s not my smaller stomach — it is that I value myself enough to work hard, learn from my mistakes, and get back up after I fall off the wagon.
Thanks to Bariatric Foodie for the food for thought.
photo credit: Steve Wilson