*Please note I am a lay person and am certainly…
So much of the personal journey many of us will have through bariatric surgery is in our own heads. Our minds are powerful and can influence so much of what we do. I prepared myself mentally as much as I could for the shift that was going to take place after surgery. While it was hard and still a big adjustment, mentally I felt totally on top of it for quite a while after I had my gastric bypass. As you can probably tell from my amazing artwork (haha!) the head games started getting harder the further out from my surgery I get.
I think a large part of me feeling so on top of it was that I had totally come to terms with what I was giving up and for the most part (except when I had a few meltdowns) it didn’t bother me in the slightest. Mentally the first 6-9 months were the easiest for me. I had totally lost my appetite and interest in food. I had to make myself eat because I knew I needed the protein most of the time.
I think things started to change as I got closer to my goal weight. I had come so far and as I got used to my new physiology I started to test the limits a bit. To begin with I stuck to my dieticians advice to the letter. I lagged behind a bit the whole way through in terms of portion sizes and some of that was because I was so scared of stretching my stomach back out but also because I was really listening to my body.
Through testing the limits I learned that I can eat some things I shouldn’t. I definitely have limits in terms of how much I can eat at once and if I eat too much sugar it’s all over. Once I figured out I could have the odd thing I shouldn’t it opened me up to having a ‘little treat’ or something I shouldn’t every now and then. As we know our brains find this extremely rewarding and before you know it you’re having a ‘little treat’ everyday.
Then comes the crushing reality that you have got so far away from where you were in the early stages after surgery. In my mind I catastrophised it and put pressure on myself to get my head back to where I was after surgery. The thing is I will never get back to that point. Mentally, this is always going to be a progression and it will be a constantly changing state.
Intellectually I know many things about this process. I know that when I’m tired food actually doesn’t make much difference to how I feel. I know that when I’m stressed those lollies aren’t going to change anything and I’ll still be stressed if I eat them. I know that my body only needs three meals a day and no snacks. I know that most of the time I’m not feeling physical hunger it’s usually just head hunger. I know that if I buy a packet of those new Goody Goody Gum Drop biscuits I will eat most of them. It takes me a few days but I can manage it.
Sometimes though even knowing all of those things you still give into them because your brain convinces you it’s a good idea, that you NEED it or that voice is just so loud you can’t escape it. You need to keep a close eye on the things that are happening up there. If you let these thoughts get away on you and build up it will be harder to fight through them.
If you are really struggling with the mental and emotional side of your bariatric journey please talk to a professional counsellor or psychologist about it. There can be so many things that have contributed to our weight problems over time and our mental health is crucial. I don’t have any specific recommendations of who to talk to so if you feel you need it get in contact with your team and I’m sure they will be able to help you with a recommendation.
One of the things I do is think, a lot, you may have noticed since I tend to blabber most of it out here. I think the introspection and periodic evaluation of where my head is at is helpful in picking up thought patterns and recognising behaviours that aren’t helping me towards my ultimate goal. Much like I weigh myself everyday, although that’s a habit I’m trying to calm down on a bit, being aware of what’s going on and having your eyes wide open to what’s happening is going to help you conquer this stuff. It’s vitally important that you are totally honest with yourself for this to be of any value.
You had your surgery for you, you have worked so incredibly hard to get to this point and you’re worth it. You deserve every bit of success this has brought into your life. If you’re finding things aren’t going exactly to plan find someone you can talk to and have a good old chat about it. Chances are they can probably relate and help you put some things into perspective and help you come up with a plan to tackle it.
Have you found the mental journey change and get harder the further out you get from surgery? Comment below I’m interested to see how others have found it.