Post-op bariatric head games

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.

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There are 8 comments for this article
  1. Joye at 8:17 pm

    Thanks Melissa this is exactly what I was talking about the other day. It’s reassuring to know I’m not the only one that struggles with this sometimes

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 8:30 pm

      I’m glad it has helped you feel less alone. Our struggles while different are often quite similar and it’s good to talk about it. Just remember how far you have come and how much you have got this.

  2. amanda at 9:04 pm

    Such a good article Melissa, you’ve made such sense on a topic that needs to be talked about more, thank you! We have that experience pre/post surgery where weight loss is usually a given & then there comes a point where we face our demons albeit old or new, the challenge is facing them & continuing to work on them. Some days are easier than others. Cheers once again!

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 9:10 pm

      Thank you Amanda, I appreciate your kind words. I think the main thing that gets you is the horrifying realisation that you’ve fallen off your pedestal and it’s not going to be smooth sailing.

  3. Nigel Pearson at 3:51 pm

    Yes, we are experiencing something new with our tiny tummy that is an adjustment – and it’s not the same every day. I have memories of what food used to be like and still respond to those at times, especially when choosing something to eat. But I so often feel cheated or disappointed when the mouthfuls I do manage no longer taste the same or offer the kind of satisfaction they once did (even if that was false!).
    Since I work as a teacher, this week my students had to listen to a lecture about coping with stress…..and I was reminded of the importance of mindfulness, keeping focus, relaxation, breathing and treating yourself well. This brings about a sharpness and clarity of mind that might help some of us through the adjustments we must make.

  4. Pauline at 7:56 pm

    Another great read as always. I don’t normally comment even though I read each and everyone, but this one is particulary raw and close to my heart as you know, after my novel the other night! Wish there was a magic switch I could flick, but as we all know that is not the name of the game, and we continue to fight together to overcome our hurdles. Thanks for always putting it all out there Melissa 🙂

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 10:04 pm

      Thank you for commenting Pauline I appreciate it! Sometimes it’s nice to know we are not alone and more importantly not weak by struggling with this stuff. I’m glad you could relate to it and that me talking about it was helpful for you.

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