Mentally preparing yourself for weight loss surgery

Mentally preparing yourself for weight loss surgery

Mentally preparing yourself for weight loss surgery is something that is really necessary but is incredibly hard to do. How do you know what’s going to happen and how you are going to react? There’s absolutely no way to know beforehand. If you don’t do anything before surgery to try and ready yourself it’s going to be much harder after surgery, so in this regard doing something, anything is infinitely better than doing nothing.

I came up with a perfect analogy the other day and I’d like to share it with you. Unfortunately, if you haven’t been lucky/crazy/blessed enough to have kids this isn’t going to be much help. Going through the weight loss surgery process is much like preparing yourself for the arrival of your first baby. You read and research as much as you possibly can beforehand, so many people give you advice and you get to a point where you really truly believe that you know exactly what’s coming. Then it happens and you have the biggest ‘what the actual f*%&’ moment and it dawns on you the actual magnitude of what everyone was trying to tell you.

I really truly believe that while there’s no way you can be perfectly prepared for a journey like this there are some specific things you can do to make the transition easier and get yourself in a good space mentally for what’s coming. I thought I’d list some specific things I’m able to articulate to help you get a head start if you’re coming up to or thinking about pursuing bariatric surgery.

Time is so beneficial.

One thing that drove me crazy to begin with was just how long it took me to get through the public system from when I was referred to when I finally ended up having my surgery. In hindsight, now I can see exactly how valuable that time was it really let me come to terms with what I was giving up and the changes I was going to need to make to my lifestyle permanently. If you can afford to go privately and the process seems to be quite fast then don’t hesitate to do all of the initial consultations and then ask for a few months to really think it over. Even if you don’t feel like you need it, I still highly recommend you take that time.

You need to figure out your habits and triggers.

Almost everyone I know who has had weight loss surgery has used food like they would a drug. You can be fine and in control for a while but then something really hard and stressful comes along so your eating habits go out the window and you abuse food for a while. This is just not going to fly after surgery so you need to figure out in the months leading up what the things are that set you off and what are the best ways to identify it’s happening and then find ways you can avoid it happening to begin with.

Start getting more introspective and honest with yourself.

This is related to the point I made directly above. If you do not take the time to watch your own behaviour in relation to food, get comfortable with thinking about what you could have done better and starting to get really honest with yourself then things are going to puzzle you afterwards. Being honest with yourself is so crucial and important because it gives you a better perspective and lets you admit to others, if necessary, when things aren’t going as planned.

Make an effort to totally drop the absolute no-no’s before surgery.

I had a horrendous Red Bull and V energy drink habit before my surgery. I knew there was no way my body would cope with them after surgery so to make it easier on myself I totally removed them from my diet beforehand. I needed to so I met the initial surgery goal my team set for me, once I was okay with that I dropped all soft drinks completely. The same goes for any vices that you currently have that are on the ‘No’ list post-op.

One huge thing I have learnt after my gastric bypass is just how pervasive habits are and just how easy it is to create new bad ones when your focus shifts a bit from where it should be. Do you get cravings when you’re tired? Do you under eat throughout the day and then go totally overboard at night-time? This is the stuff you need to look inwardly, recognise and be very honest with yourself about because it will give you the best chance at success after surgery.

Take the time to think, get right up in your own head and make yourself pay attention to what’s going on up there. We are so good at being our own worst enemies and the amount of time and effort to get to know yourself and take your time to recognise your habits that aren’t helpful and build some new strategies to deal with them. The more you do this, and time can often be the most influential factor here, the better you’re going to cope with the magnitude of the changes after surgery.

If you have other factors and things going on in your life that complicates the mental and emotional side of the journey it’s a good idea to make sure, if it’s at all possible, to have extra support already set up and available to you after surgery. It’s not included in the public system (that I know of) but if you feel you would benefit from talking to a counsellor or psychologist then please make sure you do. Give yourself the best chance of getting amazing results, you’re worth it!

Are you going to get busy mentally preparing yourself for weight loss surgery? Can you think of anything I missed or anything you did in particular to prepare yourself mentally for bariatric surgery? Comment below and share it with us all because we’re all in this together and by sharing our tips and tricks we make it easier for everyone 😀

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There are 4 comments for this article
  1. Donna Drummond at 7:21 am

    I am gradually (for want of a better term) winding down to the WLS and two week Optifast diet. I have started using a bread and butter plate for my evening meal and believe it or not I am actually satisfied with it. I am having an Optifast shake for my breakfast. My plan is to move pretty much to the Optifast diet before the actual two weeks.

    At this point I haven’t cut out alcohol but that will go eventually. We go out for dinner on a Thursday night with friends so I am ordering lite or entrée meals. I will have a last supper on the Thursday night before the Optifast diet but I have planned for this. I have found it hard going to some restaurants as I think about what I will eat before hand only to find there is nothing suitable on the menu 🙁

    Triggers are something I have spent a lot of time thinking about. Probably the WW in me. I know I eat carbs when tired, eat when I am p#@#@ off, eat with friends and I am a picker of things left on a plate. I am also a secret eater (damn, it is out there) so I need to really get on the mindfulness wagon and think about what I am doing.

    Thanks for this post Melissa. It has really got me thinking.

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 7:24 am

      I’m glad to hear you’re doing all of this Donna, you’re giving yourself the best chance at success and that’s great. Be careful not to move to just Optifast too soon, Optifast fatigue is a thing and you need to be able to do it when you have to. I’m glad to hear it’s got you thinking, just be honest with yourself and take the time to reflect every now and then after surgery and you’ll do fine.

  2. Rachel A at 8:46 pm

    Hi Melissa, this post is so timely for me. I had my initial consultation a week ago and my surgery date is in 6 weeks eeeeeek!
    I take your point about needing time to mentally prepare and, given I don’t have much time, I am relying largely on having worked with a fantastic dietician for the last 9 months who had a very holistic approach. I feel like I am honest with myself now and so aware of my actions.
    I have started replacing the odd meal with Optifast, mainly to try it but also to at least maintain my current weight until I start my pre-op diet. I have also started to drink more water as I’m not naturally a water drinker and I think it will be a hard habit for me to get into.
    The thing I’m probably most worried about is how tired it sounds like I’ll be for a few months. I go back to work 2 weeks after the surgery, I have a 3 year old son and a darling husband I anticipate won’t actually be as helpful as his good intentions would suggest. My Mum will be with me to help out for the first 3 weeks or so but she will have to go home eventually!
    All of your posts, right back to the beginning, have been an invaluable tool for me as I have considered whether to go down this path – thank you so so much for sharing your journey.

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 6:19 am

      Hey Rachel, Those nine months working with a dietician will have been really valuable and that’s really good preparation! You will get lots done in these last six weeks so don’t worry too much about it. The tiredness afterwards gets a bit annoying but if you have a child I don’t think it will affect you as much, mum’s are used to being somewhat sleep deprived and exhausted anyway so it won’t be worse than that! Thank you for your kind words about my posts, I am so pleased to hear they have helped you! Good luck with your upcoming surgery, I can’t wait to hear how you go!

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