Congratulations! Your bariatric surgery was a success! You have kickstarted your new journey to health and have chosen to change your lifestyle for the better. Now that the physical process has begun, it is important to remember that you are more than your body. You also have a mind to care for. Bariatric surgery brings many changes to your life and with information and conscious care you can continue to coach all aspects of your being, including your mind.
There are many patients that struggle with the drastic shift that results from weight loss surgery. According to nbci.com, bariatric surgery patients have higher suicide rates than the general population. By understanding the most common mental struggles of post-weight loss surgery patients, you will full and happy life can be yours.
Re-Filling the Void
The focus of many weight loss surgeries is to move or shrink down the stomach. This enables the patient to consume less, thus creating less caloric intake, resulting in weight loss. But for many patients, the comfort of food is difficult to give up. Because of a smaller digestive system, there is less time taken to eat, and it becomes very easy to feel a sense of loss, when it comes to food. Many patients use food as a means of support and comfort; some even use food for entertainment purposes. To fight off these feelings, consider replacing the need for comfort, entertainment or support with a new habit or passion that reflects the new and exciting change in your life. It is very easy for patients to search for other means of comfort in substances such as drugs and alcohol, even reverting back to food, all of which can be counterproductive. Things like picking up an old book or finding a new workout regimen to do from the comfort of your home, are ways you can fight the desire to see comfort and support in food.
A Heart-2-Heart with your support
“Beware of the company you keep for they are a reflection of who you are, or who you want to be.” – Kenneth G. Ortiz
Having supportive friends is an essential part of maintaining a lifestyle that reflects the commitment of bariatric surgery. At times, the commitment of others can be a threat. Your once strong and loving support system may seem to disappear or turn into negative naysayers once your commitment to your lifestyle change becomes evident. This can also lead to feelings of depression and loneliness. Have a talk with your friends before your surgery. Explain the importance of their support throughout this journey. Allow them to share their fears and concerns with you. With clear communication and sympathetic understanding, you can have consistent support and love through this lifestyle change that can easily become a challenge.
Debunk the weight loss fairy tale.
“But I thought this would fix everything.” Have you had this thought before? It is easy to think that once the surgery is complete that all of the hurt, stress, and disappointment would melt away with all of the unwanted pounds. Unfortunately, it is not that easy. There are times during this lifestyle change, you will plateau, or even gain weight back. Carrying the understanding that this journey is a trail filled with ups and downs can ease mental struggle and combat the desire to give up. Remember the process of getting the surgery and healing from the surgery. With those things in mind, it becomes easy to understand that the journey to your goal weight will be ongoing. Stay positive and always remember that you are well on your way.
So now it’s been 6 months past your surgery and strangely enough, you look the same to yourself in the mirror, but you are noticing that your co-workers and family members are starting to compliment your appearance more often. You feel slightly confused and indifferent because you can’t seem to see what everyone else sees. To you, you feel and look the same, but if you’re honest with yourself, you can see little differences here and there. Like last week, when your pajamas nearly fell to the floor or when you were swimming in your favorite hoodie from college. Then someone finds a photo from last year’s Christmas party, and it hits you. You look completely different. The challenge of embracing your new body can ironically be very difficult. It is common for bariatric patients to mentally separate from their bodies before their procedure and never take the time and work to connect themselves back to their self-image. This makes looking back at old photos that depict the starting point of the weight loss journey difficult. It can be painful to understand and embrace the state that you were once in before bariatric surgery, but getting to know your new body is essential for healing. Find support groups on social media or take the time to meet other weight loss surgery patients in person. This can help you process the changes in your body and mind. Self-love is a key to success on your weight loss journey.
Making the decision to change your life with bariatric surgery is a serious topic and because of the many repercussions that come with this huge change, considering your mental wellness is just as important as making the change for your weight goals.