My new life began 10 weeks ago with my gastric sleeve surgery. 40 pounds down! My body is changing as expected, but it is the emotional changes that are the biggest surprise. I thought I was prepared for the emotional changes, but I am embarrassed to admit, I was wrong. I was nowhere near ready to deal with the feelings, stress, highs and lows that my new lifestyle would bring. Time to deal with them now, and I don’t think it is going to be pretty.
Starting a weight loss journey is something I’ve done many times, but this time it is extreme. The surgery permanently changed my body and while I knew I would have to change my mindset about food, I was naïve to think it would be simple. When food is your reward, your comfort, your stress reliever and your go-to friend for boredom for more than 40 years, changing your mindset is harder than you think.
Some lifestyle changes have been easy, like reducing my craving for sweet things. We were on our first vacation last week, and I didn’t find myself looking for the closest ice cream shop or candy store as I did in the past. We didn’t eat out much so I didn’t face temptation or feel deprived constantly. One of the few times we did eat out, I did indulge in a burger and fries. A half a burger and three french fries were all I could eat and it wasn’t that great. I would have enjoyed a salad more I think. I hope I can keep that mind-set.
What helped me keep my mind off of food were all the outside activities we did each day. For a girl who used to say “that roughing it was a hotel without room service”, a vacation in Lake Tahoe was pretty radical. We hiked, we swam, we relaxed without making food a highlight of our trip. I guess this is what most people would consider normal, but for me, an emphasis on eating has always been part of my vacations. Treating myself to fattening food in large quantities was part of the vacation experience. This vacation showed me that having fun, by being physically active, is better than any food experience. I am thrilled I have changed my mindset, but I am more excited that my children will think of vacation as a fun time full of physical activities and not food.
So changing my food mindset on vacation wasn’t so hard, so what’s the problem? Every day life is now my problem. We came home from vacation to a stressful traffic weekend due to a three-day concert in our neighborhood. We came home to bills stacked up, loads of laundry and no food in the house. My commitment to my children’s’ school overwhelmed me even before we made it to our home. Real life slapped me in the face and I melted down quicker than a pint of Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk ice cream.
Every day stress is nothing new, especially when coming home from a vacation, but this time I felt crazy, out of control and angry. Part of it could be the hormone changes from my surgery, but I think most of it is that my old way of comforting myself is gone. Oh, I could eat sugar or fatty food if I want to soothe myself, but only two ounces of it. I can’t gorge on food like I did in the past to numb myself. I have to handle stress in a different, more healthy way. This is the biggest struggle I think I have ever faced.
I haven’t handled it very well, I must admit. I have cried more this weekend than I can remember. Suddenly, every stress, every hurt, every betrayal I’ve felt is heightened. It’s not pretty or fun, but I am coming to terms that this is part of life…my new life, and I can’t ignore it. My numbing agent of food is gone. I come from a family of addicts and I am determined not to exchange my food addiction for another.
So, what am I going to do? Now that the tears are gone, I have decided that the first thing I need to do is acknowledge my stress, anger and pain. It’s here, but I think it’s also important for me to come to terms that having these feelings is normal, but how I handle it is what makes me who I am. I will not eat to deal with these feelings, I have to find ways of handling it like exercising, talking with my ever-supportive husband and friends, and of course, writing about my feelings.
The next part is probably the hardest for me. I’ve always wanted to please my family and friends even to the detriment of my sanity and happiness. I used to feel that if I made someone else happy, I would be happy. While I will always believe in a need for compromise, I am finally realizing my joy, my happiness, my peace are important, too. I need to stand up for myself. The consequences of this are not always good; I have lost family and friends because I am putting myself, my husband and children first. Realizing that I am not in charge of everyone’s happiness is still hard for me to believe, but the times I have stood up for myself, have made me realize this is right for me.
I am going to have to change commitments I made, say no to people and really think about my actions in terms of my physical and mental health. I can only hope I will find understanding and support from the people in my life. Saying no to people isn’t easy, just like saying no to food isn’t easy. This tough new journey Down the Scale is tougher than I imagined, but the thought of being healthy mentally and physically is too important to give up, no matter what struggles I face…