During this first stage after WLS, what I call the "honeymoon", we replace the time previously spent with food, with more interesting adventures. It is a time spent enjoying our newly evolving bodies - buying new clothes, receiving compliments from others, beginning to be physically active, traveling, reclaiming all the normal activities of living that slowly slipped away when we were obese.
Eventually, life begins to settle a bit, we get to a normal weight and are then challenged with learning the art of healthy weight maintenance. For most bariatric patients, healthy weight maintenance is not a skill that we've practiced for very long as most of our experience has been based on a past filled with yo-yo dieting and struggling with obesity.
As the initial "melting-away" process concludes, the "honeymoon" begins to end. The compliments begin to recede slightly, our closets are filled to the brim with new clothes, and most of the new adventures and milestones have now been experienced. This period becomes challenging as our external worlds aren't feeding us to keep the euphoria going, like they used to do.
Let's look at the tasks we're confronted with after the "Honeymoon."
This is a time when many people begin to fumble and slip with their weight and food issues. It's when we most often see those old pesky habits returning to our repertoire of coping skills. Some are trying to lose that last bit of weight that is stubbornly holding on, and others begin to see a bit of regain slowly creeping up.
In the ideal, during that first year of post-op life, we would have been digging deep, doing what I call the emotional excavation work, to root out those habits that caused our obesity in the first place; the first year, post-operatively, is the time to do some serious soul-searching to come to terms with our relationship to food, and to develop a strong plan of relapse prevention.
But the first year after surgery is deliciously euphoric, and effortless in some ways, and we often get caught up in the other various aspects as mentioned above. So our skill level, in terms of emotional excavation, might be weak and still undeveloped.
After the "honeymoon" is over, if a person has still not mastered their weight loss, it is imperative to seek out support: 1) to develop insight in regard to one's relationship to food; 2) to learn how to develop a healthy relationship to food, and 3) to learn how to develop and implement a plan or strategy for long-term WLS Success. Being willing to do this work will guarantee a much greater level of success for the long-term the rest of your life!
Once adequate insight and self-inquiry has been done, most bariatric patients come away with a list of the ways they participated in emotional eating over the years. Once we understand what our primary emotional eating tendencies are, we are then empowered to begin to create a strategy and plan of action to avoid falling into those vulnerable potholes in the future. We learn to replace food and eating with other, more powerful options for action.
We often begin overeating for emotional reasons because we have not yet developed the skill to tolerate intense feelings. When we are in the throes of disordered eating, the ability to tolerate intense feelings is short-circuited by using food to quell uncomfortable sensations, thoughts and feelings. We resort to food, our drug of choice: the ultimate comfort substance. One of our tasks in experiencing long-term WLS Success is to learn how to tolerate intense emotional feelings to empower ourselves to make other, more life-enhancing choices.
Developing a Plan for Long-Term WLS Success
As we develop the skills earlier discussed, it is important to rely on concrete, tangible tools that will also ensure long-term WLS Success. When we notice that we are unable to just keep it simple and work our tools, it is important to then review the previous steps of developing insight and self-inquiry. And with our new compassionate attitudes, we can do more emotional excavation to get to the root of what's driving us to deviate from our long-term WLS Success Plan.
By following the necessary steps for insight and self-inquiry we can empower ourselves to live our dreams for long-term WLS success.
Long-Term WLS Success Plan
Long-term WLS Success involves engaging in the following, simple but extremely important tasks every single day. (It is Interesting to note that naturally thin people report practicing these same skills in maintaining their weight.)
1.Meal Planning. Stick to a structured eating plan and stay accountable to your dietary intake, using tools such as www.fitday.com, if necessary to get real with what you'e putting in your body.
2. Mindful Eating. Practice Mindful Eating. Put your fork down between bites and develop an awareness in your mind's eye, of what is happening in the moment pressure on the tongue, taste, texture, swallowing, swallowing, swallowing, feeling the food move down your esophagus, taking a few breaths before picking up the fork again, asking yourself Am I satiated?,Am I full?.
3. Inner Dialogue. Develop a growing awareness of your inner commentator in terms of how it supports or does not support your long-term goals, and replace the negative self-talk with more affirming self-talk.
4. Grazing. Avoid grazing behavior once you begin, you may not so easily be able to stop.
5. Weighing. Create a weight-window for yourself and weigh yourself weekly to make sure you stay within your window.
6. Vitamins and Supplements. Be dedicated to take your supplements and vitamins EVERY day.
7. Hydrate. Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day.
8. Exercise. Move your body in some form of exercise at least 3-4 days a week.
9. Restorative Activities for the body mind and spirit. Incorporate restorative activities on a regular basis for yourself. Remember to love yourself as you would love a child. Nurture Yourself.
10. Personal Accountability. Practice Personal Accountability. Refrain from using excuses and recognize when you lapse into excuse making, and then make a course correction and get back on track.