As we head into the, “Ugh, I’m so fat” season (following the holidays), the temptation exists simply to go on a diet — or to give up trying — when we are faced with regain.
Sometimes dieting can be a real joy if you begin to feel control again and see the scale start to go down. But truthfully, many people diet even though we know that for 98% of us, the diet will fail.
Some of us can’t seem to even try a diet. We’re too out of control, hooked on sweets, or overwhelmed to do it.
Diet or not, chances are good that discouragement is either on the way, or it’s already arrived.
So, what is our best chance at overcoming regain, and possibly avoiding it in the future?
Here are the top three things I encourage you to consider when you want to overcome regain:
1. Accept the reality of your situation and rethink your expectations.
Let’s face it, obesity is an incurable disease. Those of us who have had WLS are strong and brave in the face of this disease.
Most of us have bodies that tend to gain weight at the drop of a hat. After WLS, the tendency remains, even if we go into remission for a while.
To treat any chronic disease, one needs to stay on top of it. At the first sign of a flare up, a chronically ill person will have a protocol to follow. The same is true for weight regain. Early detection and action can help to curb a more substantial setback.
When you undergo a treatment like WLS, keep in mind the disease doesn’t go away. A realistic expectation would be to reach a physically healthy weight you can maintain, rather than a number your ego or emotions are calling for.
A realistic expectation is that you are not going to be cured of obesity. The emotional readjustment to realistic expectations can take some work. That’s why support is so critical.
2. Get enough, safe support.
I’ve always found it fascinating how many WLS people do not go to therapy or seek out any support for the kind of deeper changes they need to make to be successful.
Sure, it helps to share your trials and tribulations with your fellow WLS recipients. Those friendships and support people are wonderful, but they usually are not enough.
Seeking help from an impartial, compassionate person is essential if you want long-term satisfaction with your WLS.
Find someone who doesn’t base their self-worth on how well you do. Find someone who can help you develop the skills to handle deeper emotions, set boundaries, and sort out how to support yourself.
A safe person will help you figure out what works for you, rather than telling you what you should do. A safe person doesn’t tell you to do the one thing they believe works for everyone (count calories, be flexible, count carbs, eat low-fat, eat paleo, etc.). A safe person helps you sort out what are your specific needs.
3. Use a plan that is tailored to you.
Some of us like exercising 30 minutes a day, seven days a week. Those of us who don’t, need to develop a realistic plan that will help us achieve realistic WLS goals. If you look at exercise as “all or nothing,” you may be setting yourself up for self-shaming and self-blaming.
In the kitchen, some people do best by weighing and measuring everything they eat, others do not. Some people can have “just a little” and others are completely sabotaged by that. Our triggers are varied.
The only way to find what works for you is through trial and error. Once you’ve spent some time experimenting, you will be able to identify your best plan.
Support is helpful during the process of trial and error because it is not always enjoyable (the “error” part of trial and error). Good, nonjudgmental support can help you let go of what is not working and continue to experiment until you find what will.
And one other thing about your plan: it’s not a diet! Be sure to create plans that actually support your long-term success. This approach creates a much stronger foundation for WLS satisfaction.
Your best chance at overcoming regain (or avoiding it) is discovering what realistic expectations are for you; working with a safe person to develop needed skills; and implementing a plan that suits your way of being in the world.