By Mariam Gayed, MA, Nicholson Clinic Patient Educator
Hello everyone and welcome to my first blog post! Every month I will be discussing a different topic pertaining to weight loss surgery. This first topic is one that is incredibly important but often not discussed enough and that is, the mental aspect of bariatric surgery.
As some of you may know, I was sleeved in January of this year before meeting Dr. Nicholson and his wonderful team. The physical changes to my body were discussed in detail by my surgeon but no mention of the mental side was made so honestly, I didn’t know what to expect and did not prepare myself as much as I should have.
I want to start by saying one thing we all have probably heard as bariatric patients and I’ll go on to explain it. Bariatric surgery is only a tool, not a magic cure. What I mean by that is, if you put it into your mind that this surgery will do all the work for you, put simply, you are setting yourself up for failure. A mistake I made early on.
I thought that no matter what mistake I made whether that be dietary or exercise based, my sleeve would save me so if I made bad food choices it would be fine since I had less than half a stomach. Boy was I wrong! I quickly learned that if I didn’t control what I put in my mouth, I would become a statistic.
I was so serious about making this change early on in my surgery that I put everything in my life on the backburner that could wait and really worked on myself. I want to stress the importance of putting YOU first and doing everything in your power to make this surgery work for you.
During this time, I worked on correcting my mindset and mentality, as well as healing my broken relationship with food. I no longer lived to eat but rather now eat to live. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a huge foodie but now I eat to nourish my body before anything else. This was not an overnight fix and took months of “therapy” with myself and this is something I believe everyone should do because if we all had stellar eating habits, we would not have needed this surgery in the first place but we are all human and make mistakes, mistakes that we can fix with time and effort.
The next aspect I want to discuss is support. Firstly, whether you choose to tell people about your surgery or not is fully your choice. Do not feel as though you have to. I chose only to tell my parents and now all of you.
Secondly, know that if you feel like you’re going through this alone because your family doesn’t support your decision, you’re not. You have me and a whole team at the clinic to be there for you every step of the way. That being said, I know it’s difficult feeling like you have no support from the people you want it from the most but you will become your biggest supporter over time if you haven’t already. I believe in every one of you and genuinely want you all to succeed. It’s your turn to believe in yourself the same way.
Now let’s talk about some unexpected mental effects that occurred to me after surgery. The most obvious being the difficulty adapting to a whole new way of eating that differs so greatly from the way we’ve been eating our whole life. It’s okay to grieve your old lifestyle but it’s not okay to linger there.
Take some time to realize what you’re feeling and then work on healing your relationship with food and building healthy habits to carry you through this journey. And on that note, if you are farther out and feel like you’re slipping into old habits, reach out to a nutritionist. You are not any less of a person by doing this and taking your health back into your own hands.
Then there’s the simpler changes along this journey that you may not have realized would take such a toll like new unexpected attention or people treating you differently at different weights, or body dysmorphia and struggling to see yourself in your new body (something even I struggle with).
I could go on and on about the little things that aren’t discussed but I’ll keep it short and say, you were the same person before weight loss surgery as you are now. Those issues you had before having surgery do not magically disappear afterwards. It takes commitment from you to choose to be successful and put your health number one in your life. This journey is such an empowering one, but it comes with its challenges. Take it one day at a time and remember, tomorrow’s a new day.
Alright, that’s a wrap on blog one. I hope you all enjoyed it and I will be hosting a Facebook Live to further discuss everything I’ve touched on in this blog a week from today. If you have any questions or anything you want me to specifically discuss in the live pertaining to this topic, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck on your journey!