by Kaye Bailey
If you have undergone a bariatric surgical procedure to control the metabolic disorder causing you to suffer from morbid obesity then you understand what it means to jump through hoops. Unlike any other life threatening illness people suffering from morbid obesity have to prove they are sick enough to undergo surgical intervention and mentally healthy enough to adapt to that treatment and its consequences.
I jumped through the hoops to get treatment with hell-bent determination that if I could just get this one break, some help from the good doctor, I would follow the rules and comply with every request. I would never be "one of those people"
who get the surgery only to briefly lose weight and gain it all back. I did everything in my power to convince myself, my doctors, my insurance company, and even my Lord that I would die a miserable sickly death of co-morbidities if I did not have surgery to lose weight and save my life.
And that hell-bent determination carried me well, for a time. I did lose weight and I did comply with the rules and restrictions of surgery. And I did praise my surgeon, and my insurance company, and my Lord that my life was spared and I was healthy, alive, and living
. I suppose with all that praising going on I kind of lost sight of the path, left the course really, all in the name of living
. Pretty soon I wasn't eating protein first or drinking lots of water. My daily exercise was hit-and-miss and a little snacking never hurt anyone, right? Somewhere the fighting survivor personality gave way to a what-me-worry wanderlust personality that didn't bother to look at the map.
We cannot successfully manage our health with this surgery if we enable split-personality behavior.
The minute we give up the hell-bent fighter and survivor personality in exchange for the happen-chance dieter of lost-pounds-past we are at risk of gaining weight, of feelings of failure, and worst of all: we are at risk of succumbing to the metabolic disorder we fought so damn hard to have treated with bariatric surgery. We cannot have it both ways. If we truly believe our obesity is a medical condition -and by medical definition it is-
then we must yesterday, today, and always consider it a medical condition. We cannot be gut-whacked one day for the sake of saving our life and the next day abandon the dietary rules like we could a few weight loss programs back when on a whim we joined a strip mall diet program advertising "Join Now! Walk-ins Welcome."
You see, this bariatric surgery, it is serious business. There is no whimsy in the decision to get gut-whacked, no neon sign blinking "Walk-ins Welcome." No lose 10 pounds or get your money back promotion.
Think back to the days and weeks prior to your surgery. Like me, you talked the subject to wearisome repetition with your closest confidant. You put your personal and financial affairs in order. You signed a liability release praying not to be the rare death-on-the-table, a risk to one out of a hundred of us. You set goals. You made your expectations known: what you expected of yourself and what you expected from others as you beseeched their support in this - your last hope at saving your life from a slow painful death from the complications of morbid obesity. Your claims were heartfelt and emphatic: You wanted to be there to see your children grown and maybe grandchildren too. You wanted to live.
This bariatric surgery is serious business.
It is a funny thing, the way the mind works. The healthier we become the less we remember how truly sick we were before surgery and before weight loss. Similar to the memory of pain reported following childbirth, findings indicate that the more positive our experience is with weight loss, the less vividly we recall the pain (physical and emotional) of obesity prior to weight loss. This suggests when we fall off the wagon of dietary compliance it is not so much about a moral breakdown or environmental pressure (think food pushers) but perhaps we just don't remember how bad obesity felt. The same is likely true for a recovering addict who returns to the drug of choice: they simply do not recall the agony of the addiction. This could explain why highly intelligent people often repeat the cycle of recovery and relapse befuddling those around them.
Toddlers are taught very quickly not to touch a hot stove. It only takes three little sharply spoken words, "Hot! Don't touch!" and one breach of the command and even the dimmest child learns not to touch the hot stove because doing so causes immediate pain. Behavior modification therapy works in a similar manner for adults. Some are taught to wear a rubber band on the wrist and when temptation for relapse occurs the band is snapped in a "Hot! Don't touch!" alert that danger looms.
The problem we encounter in the recovery from morbid obesity is that the environmental factors that feed our metabolic disorder don't burn when we touch them. Chocolate cake tastes good and macaroni and cheese feels comforting when we eat it. There is no sting from the snap of a rubber band, no burn from the heat of the stove. A 1972 love anthem recorded by Luther Ingram gave us those memorable cheating words, "If loving you is wrong, then I don't want to be right."
Remember that classic? How easily it could be the theme song in our forever battle of the bulge.
I dare say the best "Hot! Don't touch!"
snap for us comes when we understand the risk for split personality behavior following a bariatric surgery for weight loss. While it doesn't seem desirable to dwell upon the pain we suffered from our obesity it would serve us well to not forget it. Photos are a good reminder. I suggest not just the usual "before" picture, but how about a photo of your prescription medications or the CPAP breathing machine you had to wear at night, or the cane or walker you needed because your mobility was impaired? Those photo reminders will feel very much like a snap on the wrist and catapult your personality to being hell-bent on sustained recovery.
At LivingAfterWLS we use the Quarterly Self-Assessment 2-page worksheet (download here for free
) to take inventory of where we are and where we want to go. The second assessment question is "What was my original goal when I had WLS?"
This personal contract is an accountability tool to help us keep our morbid obesity in remission. And I'm pretty sure that for most us keeping morbid obesity in remission was the original goal. More free downloads from LivingAfterWLS
Peer support also effectively nurtures our hell-bent personality in recovery. We can learn from those who are further down the road from us and we can tap into the enthusiasm of those new to recovery to boost our resolve when things feel redundant and routine. And who doesn't like having a cheering section when those baby steps become big accomplishments? Join our online safe haven circle of friends - the LivingAfterWLS Neighborhood
- to learn what I'm talking about.
Keep learning. Continued education works to keep us informed, trying new things and having new hope that a remission from our medical disorder is achievable. And reaching out to support others becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as we benefit from the give and take of a generous spirit. Learn, teach, share. We are in this together.
Now that I have laid this out for you I want to bring back the pom-poms and the cheerful optimism. The surgical tool gives us something no strip-mall "Walk-ins Welcome" weight loss program ever will: the ability to bounce back time and time again. We can get back on track and we can work our stomach pouch to manage our metabolic disorder. We have learned how good it can feel to manage our weight and we can do it again. So harness that hell-bent personality. Grab your original goal by the love handles and take charge of your destiny. I am here for you and we are in this together. Not for just a few pounds; not just to goal weight. We are in this together for the purpose of living
. You can do this!More articles by Kaye Bailey