No matter what your lifestyle prior to bariatric surgery was like, it is important to recognize that it did not work. Many patients entering a bariatric program are concerned with what they will and will not have to change post-op. The answer is: almost everything AND anything that does not serve your new lease on life.
What areas of your life should you examine first? The following are common areas requiring improvement for many bariatric patients:
Relationship to yourself
Self-sabotage has no place in your new life. Examine your daily thoughts for signs of negativity and replace those thoughts with positive ideas that you can accept as true. Thoughts that sound pleasing but are not believable to you at this moment will not successfully replace negative thinking, no matter how much you would like them to. The key is to come up with thoughts that you can believe and that are also positive and helpful.
An example might be when looking at yourself in the mirror. Rather than immediately accepting thoughts like, “I’ll never be thin or attractive,” focus on ideas that you would like to believe about yourself. Phrases like, “I look great in blue” and “Every day I am closer to my goal body” will help re-frame negative states of mind that keep you stuck in the past when what you need to do is step into your wonderful, transforming present.
Having trouble? Try brainstorming a list of ideas based on your best vision of yourself or compliments you have received over the years. If this is difficult, call a friend and ask her to give you a few ideas.
Friends tend to see us in our best light, often clearer and more positively than we see ourselves. Consulting a friend can help you begin to see yourself in the best way possible and to come up with in-the-mirror-affirmations that you can use daily to curb negative thinking.
Relationship to exercise
So you don’t like exercise, or you feel like you can’t commit to it. Don’t give yourself the option not to exercise. It is essential if you are to lose weight and keep it off to commit to some form of exercise regimen, whether that means walking around the block every day or joining a gym and working out for 30 minutes, 3 times a week.
Looking to make big changes stick? Try adding some form of exercise every day for 30 days. Matt Cutts of Google discusses the process more fully in this inspiring video. By rehearsing your new habit every day for 4 weeks, you reshape your mind and your schedule to accommodate the change, performing the activity for a long enough period to experience real benefits.
Relationship to family and friends
Toxic personal relationships can lead to distressing personal habits, including overeating to numb the pain or creating a physical barrier between yourself and others.
Consider speaking with a counselor to help you sort out relationship issues, whether with lovers, family, or friends. Your happiness may depend on dropping people from your inner circle who stress you out or reinforce negative thinking. A counselor can help you work on establishing personal boundaries with people you would like to keep in your life so that you no longer need to make your body a protective shield.
Counselors can also help you decide when and if dropping someone from your life is really necessary. Though losing long-term connections can be painful, making sure only positive individuals surround you is essential for building a happy and healthy future.
Relationship to stress
Do you feed your feelings with food? Many people have strong relationships to certain comfort foods, which seem to heal the pain during tough moments. What is essential to remember is that, after the binge, the unpleasant feelings and concerns will still be present unless you target them directly.
How can you avoid stress eating? The first step is to acknowledge the behavior. Next, make a list of things to do instead of stress eating, including taking a walk (on your 30-day list?), making a healthy snack, calling a friend, volunteering, crafting, or pampering yourself (mani-pedi, anyone?). By taking care of yourself rather than hurting your body with addictive eating, you go long way to healing negative habits and sustaining weight loss.
Lifestyle change is necessary after weight loss surgery in any bariatric program. While any change can be daunting, eliminating negative behaviors from your life while enacting positive change will start you on the road to health and a brand new you.