Since my gastric sleeve surgery, the theme of changing habits is resonating with me. The motivation for this topic came from an old weight watchers journal from 2015 called “Find your Fingerprint” (Author). One section that jumped out as I was flipping pages reminded me of the steps involved in changing a habit. One particularly interesting exercise asked to reflect on family patterns of eating and on value of food in my upbringing as a child. It was interesting to see how food equated with love, nurturing and support in my family of origin and adulthood. I distinctly remember many experiences in the kitchen watching my grandmother cooking amazing dishes laden with butter and/or Crisco.
Fried Chicken Issues
Crispy crunchy fried chicken was my mother’s legendary greeting anytime company caned. In fact my own kids grew up on a steady stream of it and although she passed more than 10 years ago, this one food remains a trigger for me. To this day I can salivate at the thought of yummy southern style seasoned fried chicken. I have always known that fried chicken is not good for me, but there is an emotional pull causing me to crave this . I know it’s an emotional tie because generally I’m tired of chicken and would prefer fish or seafood in any other instance.
Lately my diet has consisted of a steady stream of chicken breasts. I know chicken breast is low in fat and high in protein, and I will continue to eat them as a nutrient for my body. But it’s hard to get excited about a naked boneless chicken breast; even the color is not that appetizing. However, this decision to have the gastric sleeve was a decision to change my life for the future and for the better. This means I have to develop new habits and I have to rethink the origin of those habits and re-imagine a Context where love, nurturing and support can equal things other than food.
Self Care as a Habit
One area of growth that I’m pround of is self-care; this week I had a pedicure this week and even splurged on a lip and brow wax. Taking care of one’s physical body causes us to nurture, love and care in a way that has nothing to do with eating. So I’m working on this new practice, and while it won’t be easy or happen overnight, I know that it must happen. I’m committed to self care for the future and for my best life forward.
As a psychologist, I’m tempted to discuss phases of change and behavior modification here… but there are so many other places where you can learn what it takes to develop new habits. I won’t digress into that content in this blog post because my purpose is writing for motivation and accountability. Additionally knowing what to do and doing it (that disconnect) was my main issue before surgery and sometimes now. These are two entirely separate issues when it comes to following through; it’s actually a mindset issue. Even the ability to teach behavior modification content or coach someone through it won’t translate to the “teacher.” We all have to do our own work.
Make Up Your Mind
In closing, what I can’t do is allow myself to overthink this. There comes a point when one has to make up your mind and act on that decision. It’s like when Rosa Parks got sick and tired of being sick and tired, and so she decided to sit in the front of the bus. The sleeve decision was sort of like that for me: a symbol of a line in the sand. Moving forward I will eat protein, drink water, move more, exercise with a trainer …and do all the things it takes to make and maintain my success from surgery.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.
I recently began a decluttering project which means I’m stumbling upon lots of old mementos. One such artifact was a workbook I completed during one of the MANY (dozens) of attempts at weight loss. This book begins with a May 2015 time stamp and is entitled “Find Your Fingerprint.”
For so many years, I wanted to be where I am now (basically at the number on the scale). Weighing well over 350 a few times in two decades has had a huge influence on how I think about body image and size. In fact, I remember the day I realized I was over 300 pounds the first time at age 31. It was somewhere between my 39th and 40th week of pregnancy with my daughter. During that pregnancy, I knew I’d gained, and I suspected it was about 30 pounds. However, I also knew I’d lose a lot breastfeeding.
That day in the presence of the nurse, I saw 303 (on a digital scale). I was simultaneously shocked, depressed and rationalizing this reality. While pregnancy is often a time to indulge, it was not okay or even medically necessary to weigh 303 a week before delivering a baby. I also recall that my daughter was 9 lbs on delivery day. Part of me rationalized that through breastfeeding this excess weight (30#) would melt away.
But that day, I know something shifted in the atmosphere. Once a person crosses a line, it can be hard to see yourself differently. Another memory of that season was that depression was weaving itself in and out of my consciousness. I tried my best to push it down (with food), with overcompensating, with education, with church work, and with overall busyness. In hindsight, like most depressed people there was a lot of “fog;” so pinpointing any specific reason was and is challenging. Motherhood and even marriage often left me feeling overwhelmed and inadequate.
These feelings of Inadequacy spilled over into my work, my relationships, my finances and obviously my eating habits. Out of respect and honor for that woman who was trying so hard to keep up, l have to also acknowledge that some negative experiences with death, grief and emotional pain set me off balance. Perhaps With a different set of genes, I would have turned to drinking alcohol, smoking, visiting casinos, or perhaps had an affair. Okay, that last one is tough when you have a breastfeeding newborn 👶😂. But I digress,..
So today, I want to celebrate the comeback. The road to emotional and physical health. It’s not the destination but the journey that matters, and 57 pounds later (as of this writing) I’m at a place to acknowledge this new road. In fact,one of my main motivations for writing this blog is to chronicle the wins and the losses on the journey ahead. I know that this new blogging ritual will get harder as I proceed. I can see already that this is a hard commitment because it’s “my own thing” to borrow a phase. No one is standing beside me saying you deserve better, you must heal, you must be intentional about your growth.
This post is also a letter in honor of my mother’s legacy and to celebrate the things she tried to tell me. She left an amazing journal with stories of how her life was impacted my various health experiences. So in some ways, this blog is effort to send a life raft to the twenty something or thirty something aged woman who today used food or whatever she has to cope with what feels like the most unbearable pain, loneliness or isolation.
Whatever it is, I see you. I really see you. And more importantly, I believe in you and your capacity to heal and deal with life. Intellectually we know that weight and scale numbers in general are symptoms or manifestations of deeper wounds. Not everyone copes in the same way, but it’s still important to honor people’s journey- and especially your own.
May this next chapter be the one that brings you healing and helps you learn to sing again. Thank you for reading, please comment below if this is helpful or share it with someone who you think would benefit.
In pursuit of health, joy and peace 💕!
I’m grateful for a trainer who has a sense of humor while applying her torture methods. 😃
This week’s post is about how my decision to have WLS has and is impacting my significant relationships.
Last week, I made a day trip to visit my male BFF or as the old folks used to say, “my special friend.” But his reservations
notwithstanding, this decision also impacted my children, my girlfriends and even my church family and co-workers.
While most would agree that male-female relationships can be fraught with issues of self imposed body discomfort
and self consciousness, this process is no exception. As background you should know that is relationship is longer
than a decade and has been long distance since its inception. Also my BFF has seen me at every size between 20
and 28 in those years. When I began the WLS journey, he seemed excited but his enthusiastic support eventually
waned. For example, he processed one of the many delays by suggesting I’d changed my mind entirely and saying, “It’s
okay for you to not do it, or put it off…” One side benefit of this WLS decision was increasing my capacity for patience
because so much of the timing is beyond one’s control. Now, BFF and I both knew that my health required this surgery,
and I NOT decide to back.
It’s a Necessity
One of the mitigating factors was learning that I was pre-diabetic. The suggestion that I take medication to control
diabetes was something serious for both of us. As the process continued, we also went through a phase where we
agreed not to talk about surgery directly, but instead discussed only the activities related toqualifying for WLS: doctors
appointments, insurance approval, and opinions about skin removal. I saw these discussions as ways to be involved and
supportive without addressing any fears he had about future negative complications.
So our first real date with was fun, wonderful and also a bit awkward. I tried not to let the mechanics of what I
could and couldn’t eat cloud the evening. (Let’s save this for a future topic). On one hand, I’m the same woman. On the other
hand, I’m 32 pound less than when he last saw me. I look mostly the same, but My needs are very different. I know that
there is nothing I could do to impact the love we share. However, I noticed and enjoyed seeing his positive reactions and
even relief that the surgery was over. I was able to share the experience of my first steak since surgery. Amazing!😊
Another impact of WLS is that BFF and others (including my kids) involve me in significantly more discussions
about bulges, workouts, scales, weight, nutrition and the like. I might add that BFF does not have a significant
weight issue (maybe 30 lbs). However, in the decade we’ve been together he hasn’t mentioned being dissatisfied
with these pounds before my own WLS decision. I’m happy with whatever he decides of course, but we are both in our
50s and metabolism does slow.
In the family camp, things have also been good, my two adult children were initially reserved and showed quiet concern.
They knew instinctively to act like it was a positive step, as they too had watched me regain a large sums of weight in
their lifetimes. As mentioned in earlier posts, Weight regain is one of the topics that is largely taboo even in close families.
My children became increasingly active in the educational process and ultimately my post op care starting from the day of
surgery. One tip that I would highly encourage is to make sure children who are 13 and up (mine are in their 20s), have
multiple opportunities to be informed, ask questions and decide how involved they want to be. My close female friends
including one who’d had this same procedure four years prior were very vocal, active and encouraging on all fronts.
Some close girlfriends were recruited for what I called my “support team.” I’m an only child and so this was partly of necessity. All in all, I can say that we survived through all these difficult conversations because I tried to be very open with everyone who had a sincere need to know. I’m happy to support these folks in whatever way they need, but I don’t want to talk about food and weight all the time. My own life is still largely consumed with vitamins, protein tracking and shakes.
In closing, if you are considering a medical weight loss solution, the earlier you can start the conversation with family and
friends, the better for almost all involved. But remember this it’s a decision that will affect everyone. Thanks for reading.
Please leave a comment below if you enjoyed this post, and share it with anyone who you think would find it helpful.
This week’s post is dedicated to the lessons I’m learning from the online community called, The Bariatric Foodie. This online community has a month long pledge that was so helpful in my first month since surgery. I was motivated to join because with the exception of one friend who is four years post op, I anticipated that lack of support with the day-to-day grind of adjustment who lead to emotional eating and other barriers to long term success with the bariatric lifestyle.
Shortly after joining this community and watching welcome videos by its organizer Nikki, I learned about the pledge month which is a four week commitment to accountability. Weekly pledges are made on Sunday and at the end of the week participants check in and hold themselves accountable for the items that they pledged at the beginning of the week. Sounds easy, right? Well, sort of…
During the pledge period, I hoped to gain discipline and to set some guard rails up to succeed as I entered the phase where I would return to eating real food. At the time I made my first pledge, I was actually eating puréed food, and looking forward to advancing to eating the “soft food” diet. By definition soft foods are those that can be matched up easily with a fork. This community has a history of doing this pledge. Annually, and you can see that the organizer Nikki has a great system set up.
One of my motivations was to become an active member and to establish some accountability to stay within the guidelines I had been given after surgery. Another motivation was to ensure an efficient recovery after surgery in hope of to going back to work a little early, and also feeling healthy and prepared for balancing it all. Through the weekly pledging process, I gained an opportunity to reflect on the week and to identify what I could improve over time. Initially I was totally overwhelmed and managed to barely implement the plans I’d set out to monitor. However I’m proud to say I survived all 4 consecutive weeks of the challenge.
My biggest challenge was on staying focused the first week; I was doing too much and had pledged to implement three goals. The main issue I’ve struggled with is that 80 g of protein per day seems impossible. I learned quickly that week to look at it each day as it comes and each meal as it comes. I cannot focus on what comes next. Tracking has helped me stay aware of where I am in my daily protein allotment.
Throughout the challenge I also learned to set small manageable goals. I eventuality stopped tracking protein because I found it was self-defeating to miss th e mark. I did decide that I would be consistent on tracking water consumption and the number of workouts per week… particularly as I started to feel stronger after surgery.
To be honest, I have a history of doing too much. Normally I’m not a fan of a lot of structure and rules, but surprisingly I looked forward to visiting the Bariatric Foodie check-in page and seeing that I was developing consistency. This structure allowed me to hold myself accountable.
Behavior and mindset changes
This week is the final week of the pledge month, and I decided to focus on tracking. During my qualification for surgery, I developed a fondness for MyFitnessPal.
Some days the commitment to track every meal is the linchpin for me that requires careful review to my protein goals and needs in every meal every and snack. The constant thinking: do I have enough water? or where can I get more protein in?
Setting up time to meal prep is another huge thing, but I’m eventually going to implement this important practice too. As I stated earlier, when the challenge started I was eating puréed foods and spending days in the house so meal prep was more fluid.. Moving forward I need to hold myself accountable for preparing food for the day the night before. Just thinking about this means that I have to buy healthy good options for protein before I need them.
In closing, I’m slowly learning that I CAN DO THIS…. From reading about other people’s journey, I see good strategies that I can adopt and regular humor and inspiration from my fellow Sleeved sisters and brothers in the online communities.
Thanks for reading, please share if you know someone who is considering WLS. In future posts I will also address the impact of WLS on family and friends.