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Most of us cannot help but compare ourselves to others. We like to have an idea of what to expect and where we sit in the grand scheme of things in life. Our bariatric journeys are no different. We want to know what weight others started at, what surgery they had, how far post-op they are and, most importantly, how much weight have they lost? Depending on how you have fared in relation to them will probably inform how you decide to feel about it.
The best thing you can do for yourself and your journey through bariatric surgery is to stop looking to others to help you define how ‘successful’ you are at this whole thing. The main determinant of your success is you. Not your surgeon, not the kind of surgery you choose (although this may influence your results), and certainly not what that person you know or those online groups you’re getting advice and support from are telling you.
You need to set your own definitions of success. Think of where you started from, or where you are at now if you’re only beginning to embark on this path. Think of the things that meant most to that person, the big things like not needing diabetes medication anymore and the little things like being able to wrap a normal sized towel all the way around yourself. Be brave enough to dream and then make record of the things that you want, this might be scary because you won’t be entirely sure if you’re ever going to get there.
The choice to have bariatric surgery is such a personal and, for yourself, a heartfelt decision you’re making that afterwards it’s important to focus on the things that mean most to you and not just the number on the scale. Much of the comparison I see between bariatric post-op’s is around the numbers on the scale, how many in total have been lost and how quickly an individual was able to do that.
There is joy and success in so much more than the scale numbers and how quickly you get there. I admit, I was obsessive about my numbers for a long time. I weighed myself daily for, I think, at least two years after my gastric bypass. You get such a rush from seeing them drop and stay lower than you ever imagined and while that’s exciting it doesn’t last forever. In saying that I mean the rush and high you get from seeing the low numbers, not that they don’t stay low forever!
To fully appreciate the experience after bariatric surgery you need to widen your focus, stop comparing yourself to others and keep making choices and doing things that will contribute to your overall success. It’s a time to develop new habits that fit with maintaining a large amount of weight loss for the long-term. It’s a time to rediscover exercise and how awesome it can make you feel when your body isn’t so big and hard to move around. Have fun finding the person who has been buried under the excess weight for so long and work on doing all the things you’ve held back on for too long.
The best comparison you can do is with yourself. I encourage every person who is getting bariatric surgery to take photos of themselves at regular intervals. I started this before surgery and took them about every 4-6 weeks after surgery. Even if you don’t want to look at your pre-op ones when you take them, that’s fine, but it’s better to have them than regret not taking them six months later. When you put them side by side after a few months you will be astounded at the progress you have made in such a short time.
If you are finding it hard not to compare yourself to others and it’s affecting how you feel – not in a good way, maybe it’s time to remove the temptation. If this is mainly coming from online groups it can be a bit easier because you can remove yourself from them for the time being, set limits on when and how much time you can spend on them or change the kinds of posts you read and interact with. If it’s people you know in your day to day life, then try and step back from them for a bit. If they notice and ask why you can always say that you feel like you need to focus on yourself and your health for a bit. It’s always okay to do the right thing for you, whatever that is.
I’ve written before about how self-absorbed you will be after your surgery and a lot of that is for good reason. The changes happening in your world are of a magnitude you’ve never experienced before and you need the time to make sure you look after yourself properly. Look at your journey solely through the lens of yourself, your successes, your achievements, the things that you have overcome to get as far as you have. Admit when you can do things better and just get on with it and get it done.
Do you find yourself comparing yourself and your progress after weight loss surgery to others? Is it something you consciously do or does it just happen? Comment below and let me know.