A Pep Talk.

Are you still making excuses for yourself? Are you still downplaying and sabotaging your success? Did you forget how badly you wanted (needed) this weight loss? Are you finding it hard to make the changes you have to make?

Me, too. Time for a pep talk.

Back when Mr. Stuck started his journey toward surgery, I said, ‘You go first.’ It had not been very long since I’d had two major surgeries, total hip replacements, and I was in no hurry to go under the knife again. I wanted to see how it went for him before I decided yes or no. He was my guinea pig.

But that wasn’t the only reason. Even though I was unhealthy and unhappy, I was also unconvinced. Sure, I thought, maybe the Mister’s only option was to have that drastic surgery where they rearrange your insides, but it wasn’t mine. I didn’t really need something that extreme. Since he had to make huge changes in his diet, and I was the one feeding him, I’d have to make some changes myself, right? Then I could avoid having surgery, because it would be up to me to revamp our whole way of eating and I would lose weight as an added benefit. Win-win!

I saw how laughable that line of reasoning was as he got closer and closer to surgery. I made salads and chicken and substituted fruit for desserts. I tsk-tsked at him when he dared express a craving for chocolate or wanted a beer. I nannied and nattered and nagged. I told myself (and him) that it was for his own good – I was just trying to help.

I am ashamed to admit that I watched him like a hawk, but I was still living and eating the same way I always had. What a surprise – I didn’t lose like I thought I would – no, like I was certain I would. As I saw him losing, but not me, I realized that I wasn’t able to do it alone. That’s when I decided to seek WLS for myself. I wasn’t going to lose weight as a side effect of Mr.Stuck’s efforts — I had to do my own work.

And I did. And when I had my surgery, I promised myself, like everyone else does, that I would not be one of those folks who regain after surgery. I was DONE being obese. I was DONE with the unhealthy habits, the sedentary lifestyle, the unrestrained snacking, the bad choices. I was putting my life on the line; surgery was no off-the-cuff decision. This time, it had to stick, and I had to be the one to make it happen.

So here I am, ten months post-op, with the majority of my extra weight gone, and I have experienced tremendous benefits from this change. But in the last couple of months my weight loss has slowed down, even plateaued, for a number of reasons: I’m not exercising like I should; I’ve allowed myself too much leeway in my diet; I’ve stopped measuring portions and returned to the ‘eyeball’ method; I haven’t been drinking enough water; and the number one reason – I’ve fooled myself into thinking that all of these things are okay.

The sad truth is that Mr. Stuck and I are enablers for each other: I love cooking the foods that he loves to eat, and he loves to bring home treats. We have to be on our guard all the time, lest we ‘enable ourselves’ right back to where we started. No way, we say — there’s no way I’ll ever be obese again! 

But I can see how it happens. You get comfortable, you get lazy, you get overconfident. Right after surgery, you’re elated at the pounds in freefall — every time you step on the scale or go clothes shopping, the number is smaller. It’s intoxicating! You look better, you feel better, and you begin to feel invincible. Where before you felt restricted, later on you’re embracing the new mantra of WLS: I can eat whatever I want, just in smaller portions.

You tell yourself it’s okay to hover over the hors d’oeuvres tray at the party because they’re small, and your tummy is small, so no big deal. You go ahead and have that beer. Don’t even get me started on lattes or Halloween candy. It’s all part of the big story you’re telling yourself, because all that you’re doing is making excuses and setting yourself up. Sadly, I know this from experience.

So it’s time to fall back and regroup. For me, this means remembering what it felt like to be obese and miserable: my feet hurt every single day. I was always tired. My back ached. I didn’t sleep very well. My skin was awful. My clothes didn’t fit very well, and I resisted buying new ones because I hated trying them on and I hated how they looked and I hated the size I wore. It means remembering how I never wanted to be in front of the camera and how futile it felt to me to dress up, wear makeup, or get my hair done — I’d still be the same fat, dowdy chick as before. And it means remembering the desperation — the tearful pleas and deals I made with myself, the promises, the threats — all of that.  It means remembering the struggle of trying to diet, denying myself in an effort to see a quick loss, which never worked for very long and made me grumpy, besides.

It means remembering how I blamed myself for my failure and saw myself as worthless, lazy, helpless, and stuck, refusing to look beyond the fat – and then being resentful when other people followed my lead and did the same.

I remember all of that. I never, ever want to forget. It seemed like it took a lot of time and determination to finish all of my prerequisites for surgery, and then – finally – it happened. Now, that part – the easy part – is behind me, and the rest of my life lies before me. It’s up to me which direction I go.

I didn’t come all this way to make a u-turn. None of us did.
Relapse is not an option.


photo credit Lauren Lionheart

‘Fessing Up.

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