Habits

One thing that has become greatly apparent since my gastric bypass surgery is how much of my behaviour around food was purely habitual. Once you have had any type of bariatric surgery it is essential that you let go of pretty much all of your habits around food because especially in the first few months post-op you just cannot do lots of things anymore.

I’m loathe to label habits either good or bad because they are just habitual behaviours at the end of the day. One thing I really recommend is that you make the absolute most of the first 6-12 months post surgery and work on setting up your new habits how they should be and not letting any old unhelpful ones slip back in. My 10 Golden Post-op Rules post is here and you may find that useful.

I was incredibly disciplined for the first 9 months after my surgery and I did hardly anything that I wasn’t supposed to out or fear of breaking my new plumbing in the process. Since then I have recognised how strong habitual behaviour is and how quickly new unhelpful habits can develop.

It’s as simple as picking up something you don’t need at the supermarket or petrol station and eating it for whatever flippant reason you can justify. The n the next time you’re there you think, “Hmm well that went well and I enjoyed it,” so you pick one up again. The you find it becomes almost an unconscious process and you’re doing it everytime.

But I find it’s also as simple as if there’s a morning tea on the table in the office kitchen. Our morning tea’s tend to last all day so everytime you go into the kitchen there’s food sitting there. If I have just one bite when I go in one time then every time I go in thereafter I will have another bite or two of something. Essentially I’m like a Pringles can and once I pop I cant stop. To combat this I know I just cannot start on it. If I don’t start it doesn’t worry me so that’s my strategy now.

What is important is being able to recognise this behaviour for what it is. You need to become very aware of your behaviour around food and what kind of things trigger, in some ways you could term, a loss of control around your behaviour when it comes to food. This is why you always need to self monitor for the longterm in order to continue to be successful after surgery.

The weight loss part of this whole process is one of the ‘easiest’ bits. Straight after surgery and for a while thereafter the tool is working amazingly and to a point there’s not much that will stop you losing weight. It’s months out from surgery when the tool’s function starts to shift and change that you need to really consider how your behaviour influences your eating and keep it in check.

Mindful introspection is going to be one of the nest things you can do to ensure you continue to maintain your successful goal weight and not end back up where you were. You need to realise that habitual behaviour can take over so easily and it can be a really hard fight to get back on the right track.

Once I recognise that I have started a new habit that is not going to contribute to my success I stop it completely. I find if I have a break from something for a couple of weeks I lose interest and don’t miss it, whatever it was. I also find distraction a great technique and I’ll be writing a post about that soon.

Do you struggle with habitual behaviour and can you see that it makes things like trying to lose weight harder? Let me know what habits of your own you’re trying to break and have you found a great way to substitute them to make the fight easier?

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There are 12 comments for this article
  1. Katy at 9:59 pm

    In my journey – the habits are what I have noticed in myself and my family (where many seem to stem from). Bread was my bit habit & was the hardest thing to move away from.

  2. Meagan at 7:42 pm

    I think this is really important, whether you’re having surgery or on another form of weight loss journey, or even if you’re just trying to break a few habits (smoking is a good example). Recognising what things trigger those habits (like you did at morning teas) is super crucial, and I’ve found that once I’ve recognised them it allows me the opportunity to build a healthy habit in it’s place. One I’ve always had trouble with is remembering to eat – which is worse now that I work from home by myself – and I find I’ll often work through lunch and past dinner time and be absolutely ravenous (and subsequently overeat), so I am trying to make sure I give myself regular breaks to eat, drink water, stretch my legs and generally practice good self care 🙂

    • Nigel Pearson at 8:07 am

      Megan, I am now on the pre-surgery optifast and vegetable binge (sorry about that choice of words!)….anyway at work I find i keep on going and forget to have the regular shake as I am so focussed on what I am doing. There are no hunger pangs to remind me to have the shake, and I know it’s important to get some protein in my body. The solution has been simple! My mobile alarm rings mid -morning and mid-afternoon to tell me it’s shake time. That strategy is working so far.

  3. Nigel Pearson at 9:10 am

    Habits I noticed in myself in the past….like popping in to the bakery, or convenience store because it’s on the way home! It’s so irresistible! And, as you say, you remember the past pleasure or satisfaction of eating something bought there. The thing is this time, you’re looking around and nothing at all looks appealing or satisfying. So really, I should leave empty-handed until I know what my body really wants. Perhaps it’s just the friendly smile of the shop assistant that was drawing me in to the shop?? Anyway, many times in the past, I’d buy something and eat it – just because that’s what you do. (Forgetting the harm I am doing to myself) Taking it home and letting it go to waste never seems right. I also think of the power of advertising that persuades me to take in those sugar and fat-laden goodies. Starting the reverse habit of saying no, keeping on walking right past those temptations, and exerting my own will-power will be the true lesson post-surgery.

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 6:14 pm

      It’s really interesting how easily those habits slip in isn’t it. Even when we really don’t want something its so easy to get it down. It’s great that you’re starting to recognise how the behaviour works for you because seeing it helps you eliminate it.

  4. Nerida at 2:53 pm

    Its so interesting to read your article as I have been struggling with just this issue lately. I did so well for 6 months and then started to let things slide. I’m trying to pull myself out of that routine now and its hard. Will get back to eating how I should, I’m certain of it.

  5. Carolyn at 4:46 pm

    This is my hardest area I think. Habits!!! I know I am doing them….go to get petrol and pick up a bar or two of chocolate. Go to the supermarket, the dairy, the list goes on….
    Forming new habits to replace these could be excellent. ..you mentioned distractions too…
    One step at a time…one habit at a time to replace too…

  6. Crystal at 1:55 pm

    when I’m tired – Food, when I’m stressed – food, when I’m angry – food when I’m dehydrated – food! knowing is not enough I need to apply what I know but somewhere between knowing the reason for my head hunger and stopping my hand to my mouth I fall into a ‘dark zone’. Its almost a form of self abuse because you beat yourself up and feel terrible after because you knew all along what the main reason for eating was. Its such a vicious place mentally – working on it daily, struggling with it daily.

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