Voices in My Head.

 

Dad says, Don’t get overconfident.

Mom says, You’re too smart for your own good.

Grade school me says, Why are they so mean to me?

Middle school me says, I’ll never be one of them.  I hate myself.

High school me says, I wish I was beautiful and popular instead of dorky.

College me says, You’re a dropout.  You can’t finish anything you start.

Mom me says, I wish I had been a better mom.  I have so many regrets.

Conscience says, Follow the rules.

The child says, It’s too hard.  I don’t want to do it anymore.

Work me says, I hope I don’t screw up.

Fat Girl says, You’ll never be good enough.  You’ll always be fat.

Orphan says, I wonder if they’re proud of me.

Insomniac me says, I feel like a fake.  What if they find out what I really am?

Wife me says, I’m not who I used to be.

The mirror says, I look and sound like my mother.  I’m getting old.

 

Optimist me says,

“Keep your head up. You can do it. It gets easier. Don’t listen to them.”

 

 

image credit frankieleon

Your Results Will Vary.

I remember when I began the process leading up to weight loss surgery. I read everything I could find about it, talked to people about it, and joined online groups so I could learn even more. I had plenty of ideas about how much better my life could be if I lost weight. I envisioned the clouds parting and the sun finally shining down on me.

I was apprehensive, though, and I had a lot of questions, because I was afraid and I wasn’t sure if I could make it through all the required hoops. I mean, besides all of the medical tests, I had to be on a supervised diet for six months and I needed to lose weight before surgery. Like a lot of folks who face that obstacle, I was discouraged and got cold feet. I thought, If I can lose that weight, then maybe I don’t need to do something as drastic as surgery, after all.

Yeah, no.

Then there was the liquid diet after surgery. How would I manage that? And how would I make (and stick to) an eating schedule? And how would I get all my water AND all my protein AND all my supplements? (There are only so many hours in a day, you know.) And that’s only the first couple of weeks! What will I do after that??

Those who know me <ahem, Mr. Stuck> know that I worry about things — mostly those things I can’t change. My mother used to warn about ‘borrowing trouble’ and I seem to do it a lot. I had myself in a complete lather with all the ‘what ifs’ I came up with in the months and weeks before surgery, not to mention afterward. I concocted all kinds of scenarios, some more believable than others, but I worried about them all.

What if my hair falls out? What am I going to do about saggy skin? What if the surgery doesn’t work? What if I’m left with strange digestive troubles? What if I don’t lose weight? What if I develop some weird side-effect that nobody’s ever heard of? What will I do at parties — restaurants — friends’ houses? How do I eat without drinking? What will I do without coffee? How soon will I be at my goal weight? What if I never get to my goal weight?

What if I fail?

And then there were the WLS support group stories. I listened to people who couldn’t eat without throwing up, those who could no longer handle certain foods, and those who had constant digestive issues. I heard people worry about how they would balance their own dietary needs against those of their families. I heard people worry about if they should ‘come out’ about their WLS, and if so, to whom. And I noticed something.

I noticed that everyone was worried about something. Everyone had questions, even if they never voiced them. And I noticed something else. For every question, there were as many answers as there were people. None of those answers were ‘wrong,’ and none were ‘right.’

The common theme was, Your results will vary.

Just like there is no such thing as a typical WLS patient, there is no such thing as a universal result. Each person’s success hinges on their personal health history; the time and effort they invest; follow up care; exercise; spiritual, emotional and mental factors; their support network; their commitment to a healthier life; and a host of other elements that can change every day.

So while I urge you to read and learn and talk to folks and ask questions throughout this process, I also encourage you to understand that there are a million things that will affect how this surgery changes you, and while some may be somewhat predictable, most are not. You may find, as I did, that the issues you have after surgery are not the same things you worried about beforehand. I will guarantee, though, that you will learn some things about yourself that you might not have realized before. That may not be easy, but it will be valuable.

Your perspective and your insight change with your physiology. You will reassess what is important — your blood pressure? Your goal weight? Your waist size? Your activity level? Your relationships? These things will all change, and so will their significance to you.

On the other hand, there are things that WLS doesn’t change. It doesn’t give you the ability to avoid consequences. It doesn’t make your food issues disappear. Let me say that again: It doesn’t make your food issues disappear. It doesn’t automatically make you a “skinny person” (whatever that means) for life. It isn’t a free pass to get away with something. It doesn’t erase the bad habits you have developed over your lifetime. It doesn’t give you a great personality, a better job, more friends, or instant happiness.

It gives you another chance – a fresh start. It gives you an opportunity to take stock of things and make adjustments. So use it. Just remember one thing:

Your results will vary.

Smilin Bo

 

 photo credit speedpropertybuyers.co.uk/ and Leo Hidalgo

Have Courage.

 

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
 – Eleanor Roosevelt

 Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
 – Neale Donald Walsch

 

Comfort zone.

As much as I believe the term has been overused, it is an easily understood concept. We do what we do out of habit and out of a love of routine. Just like when we nestle into our warm beds, once we’ve set ourselves up in a comfy spot, mentally or physically, we are loath to change. It doesn’t really matter if our zone is actually, truly comfortable; as long as it is familiar, we are more likely to stick with it than choose the alternative. Even when the alternative is better, we often find ourselves mired in the wheel-ruts of our routines. Why?

I’ve asked myself this question many times over the years and with increased intensity since WLS became part of my life. Why do I continue to hold the negative thought processes and perspectives that landed me here? Why is it so hard for me to embrace a more positive self-image? Why am I unable to let go of my old self?

What am I afraid of?

I have to believe that many of you are also struggling with embracing the change and leaving the old you behind with all its associated beliefs and baggage. It’s why we can’t let go of the past. It’s why we still have closets full of clothes that don’t fit and pantries full of food we don’t eat. It’s why we brush off compliments but take every slight to heart. It’s why we take tentative steps forward, all the while looking behind. It’s why we let the opinions of others dictate how we feel about ourselves. What if we fail? What if this new thing doesn’t work out? If you listen, you can already hear the ‘I told you so’ chorus warming up.

I am motivated, in large part, by fear. Fear is an unwieldy and unwelcome part of my life. I’d like to say I’m getting better at dealing with that part of my psyche, but honestly, I don’t know if that’s true. What I do know is that I have made it into a big, scary monster that either keeps me from doing certain things or compels me to do them. I’m afraid of the dark, so I leave lights on unnecessarily. I’m afraid of what other people think, so I don’t always say what’s on my mind.

What are you afraid of? Ridicule. Embarrassment. Being misunderstood. Failure. Risk. Success. Revealing yourself. Loss. Not being good enough. Commitment. Rejection. Missing out. Death. Action. Inaction. Change.

Real or perceived, fears can easily control us.

Fear can give me a ton of reasons to do something, and it also gives me a ton of excuses not to. It’s been very prosperous in my life; I’ve allowed it unrestricted access to my decisions, my self-image, my language, and my activities. I’ve deferred to it and allowed it to be my default position, whether I realize it or not.

As a result, I haven’t challenged myself much. It’s much easier this way, you know: if I do what I’ve always done, I’ll continue to get the results I’ve always had, and there won’t be any doubt or uncertainty about it. I can coast right along.

Right?

Well, if I am to be honest with myself, I’d have to admit that I like challenges. I like them because they offer me the opportunity to achieve, to learn, and to overcome. Challenges, by their very nature, are confrontational; they defiantly stand in front of you with arms crossed as if to say, “So what?” Challenges dare you to act; dare you to upset the status quo; dare you to prove them wrong.

In January of last year, I viewed starting a blog as a challenge, so I braved the naysayer in my head and met it head on. It may be too early to tell, but I think it was a good decision. Blogging has been good therapy for me in many ways, but it hasn’t healed my grief or solved my problems; rather, it has brought those things front and center for me to deal with. It has made me recognize and appreciate the flaws and frailties that make me who I am. Writing has helped my comfort zone expand, and as it has grown, so have I. I highly recommend it.

Losing weight and changing myself has been an even bigger challenge. It has dared me to rethink everything about my life and my choices. It’s teaching me things I never knew and giving me strength. I’m coloring outside the lines now.

As I live my post-op life, challenges arise on a regular basis. I admit I haven’t taken up all of the gauntlets thrown at my feet; some will have to wait until I feel a bit more confident. But each one I do accept makes me that much happier and secure in myself.

I’m slowly coming to the realization that allowing for what other people think should not be a platform of my personal development. In some ways, that position reflects how I felt through my grief – what is right for you is not what’s right for him, or her, or me. I can’t live my life in fear of the judgment of others. Chances are, they care far less than I give them credit for, anyway.

I’m 50 years old, but in some ways I feel like I’ve just started living.

 

 photo credit Garry Wilmore

It’s All In Your Head.

Time for a bit of an update.  Two and a half months since surgery, and I’m doing pretty well.  Still working out the details, like chewing more thoroughly and slowing down my meals.  I’m still doing my 15 minutes of stretching exercises at work each morning, with few exceptions (we’ve been doing it in an area undergoing renovation, and now the carpet, cubicles and cabinets are in and we’re losing our spot).  I feel better, I look better, and I move better.  Baby steps, but I’m committed.

Went to my friend’s birthday party this weekend and enjoyed mingling with the family; this is a great, big, loving clan, and being in their midst reminds me of home; I feel like burrowing in that familial warmth.  Big families are awesome; when the house is full, every nook and cranny has a smile and a hug.  I miss my family like that.

Chatted with my friend Amy, who has been very successful in losing weight with a diet routine and exercise.  She looks great, and she’s rightfully proud of her success in maintaining that loss over several months.  We talked about the mental aspect of making changes and making them last.  I was glad to hear that she related strongly to a couple of my more recent posts regarding my transition from obesity to health.  The things she mentioned caused me some reflection.

Self sabotage – I am guilty, guilty, guilty.  I am trying to change my mindset that says if I fall off the wagon, I’m a loser who failed again and I should just give it up.  Do you tell yourself the same things?  As a battle-scarred veteran of too many diets for too many years, do you find yourself falling into a preordained pattern?  You find a new diet or program because your friend is doing it or your sister is doing it or a celebrity is doing it, or maybe you saw it on Pinterest or Facebook.  You buy the book, watch the video, go to the website and read the testimonials.  You get all excited and shop for what you need, tossing out the half-eaten Cheese Nips and leftover pizza from the fridge.

You do pretty well for awhile, high on enthusiasm, but then the old habits and thought patterns come creeping back.  You find yourself thinking all day about what you want to eat that night.  You are distracted by cravings for food you know you should not eat, and when you give in, too easily, you immediately shame yourself:

Stupid.  Lazy.  Fat.  Disgusting.  Hopeless.  Loser.  Failure.  Quitter.

You tell yourself to give up.  It’s just like all the other times.  It’s no use.  It’s too hard.  You always do this.  Why even bother?  You will always be fat and dumpy.

Why do we do this to ourselves?  Why let one misstep end the journey?  I have had to learn how to forgive myself for these small mistakes and keep going.  Do you remember the old Family Circus comics?  The ones where one of the kids will take a meandering path from point A to point B?  I love that cartoon.

That is a good visual of how my brain works and how I do things, but it is especially relevant to my progress on a diet.  Sometimes sideways is my only progress, and sometimes it’s one step forward and two steps back.  But it’s important not to stop.  Don’t give up.

More things I’ve learned:

  • It’s okay to leave food on your plate.  I am no longer a member of the Clean Plate Club.  (my family had a song that went with it — not sure if other folks did, too. ;-))
  • It’s okay to not take that food home from the restaurant, especially if you’re not going to eat it or give it to your dog.  Why waste the room in the fridge to throw it away in a week and a half?
  • If I say I shouldn’t eat something, I should actually NOT eat it, instead of just saying it as I put it in my mouth.
  • It’s okay to remove the strings from the celery, because it makes it easier to eat.
  • It’s okay to not drink coffee anymore, even if it is kinda weird for me.
  • It’s okay to be picky!!  (I have never been picky, but I am learning how to be.)
  • Mr. Stuck and I should always share our entree, not order separately.  That is a waste of money and food.  Duh.
  • It’s okay to eat the protein first; in fact, it’s a good idea.  I load my salad up with chicken or tuna or ham and add cottage cheese; I use much less lettuce and much less dressing, but I still add broccoli, cukes, and tomatoes.  I’m even trying things like garbanzo beans.  Yum!
  • I’m still working on cooking small amounts, but I can always share extra portions with my neighbors.  Recently made a huge pot of Tuscan potato/sausage/kale soup, and gave most of it away.  It was a win-win: I satisfied my craving, and none went to waste!
  • I can allow myself treats, because if I deny myself, I want it more.  We all know that reverse psychology ploy.  I can allow myself a bite of something and then I don’t have to binge on it in secret or in the car on the way home.
  • Habits can be insidious — they can be so deeply subconscious that you don’t realize what you’re doing until you’ve done it.  I got myself so hooked on McDonald’s sweet tea (cut with unsweetened) in the summertime that it was automatic for me to stop there on my way home. And sometimes, it was too easy to order a cheeseburger or chicken sandwich to go with it, especially if I thought I was hungry.
    After I started my nutritionist appointments, I stopped doing that.  But I noticed that when I’d hit that leg of the highway, I would be thinking about the tea and the cheeseburger.  I’d find my brain negotiating with itself on whether I should stop or continue past.  I have to deliberately focus on something else, to redirect my thoughts into something productive.  I would feel victorious if I didn’t stop.
  • It’s okay to go up a little or stay the same on the scale once in awhile.  We’ll have those days.  Maybe stop weighing yourself so much and look at how you feel and how your clothing fits.  Use a different gauge for your success.  The term Non-Scale Victory (NSV) is meant for just that.  Getting to where my wedding set fit my finger again was an NSV.  Fitting into the jeans I was sure I wouldn’t — that’s also an NSV.
  • It’s okay to struggle.  I’m human, and so are you.  We make mistakes, we screw up, we give up, and we sabotage ourselves.  We have to really work at staying the course, but that’s okay.  It’s okay to stumble, but make sure you get back up.

I haven’t smiled this much in a long time.  So many people have taken the time to tell me how happy they are for me and Mr. Stuck, how much better we look and must feel, and how we are radiant these days.  Who wouldn’t smile upon hearing that?  I am so grateful for the love and support that is coming in from all of my family and friends.  It means so much and encourages me to stay strong.

Thank you.

image credit lovelornpoets, Bil Keane