Have you ever had trouble resisting certain foods like crackers, sodas, french fries, chips, or ice cream? If you have, you’re probably like most bariatric surgery recipients. And like most of us, you probably were hoping that your surgery would help you to control your eating more easily.
While some of us have been able to manage our eating and reduce our cravings significantly, others of us haven’t. And then there are those of us on the middle ground. We have periods during which we resist eating a lot of unhealthy foods and periods when we don’t.
The “unconscious eating” and the cravings for refined carbohydrates (which are bread, cake, crackers, rice, etc., with the fiber removed) are baffling and frustrating. It’s no wonder we sometimes feel like throwing in the towel.
My coaching clients often say things like, “I’m tired of struggling.” Or “I’ll never get a handle on this.” Or “I hate always having to deprive myself!”
While many of us get hooked on refined carbs, and have trouble cutting back on them, the thing that really keeps us from overcoming the challenge is our inability to see ourselves differently, to see that long-term change is possible.
Over the years, I have done plenty of research and have interviewed countless women who have had bariatric surgery.
What I’ve discovered is our mindset matters as much as what we put in our mouths. There are many factors that influence our mindset. Here are three aspects of a healthy mindset for you to consider:
1. Own Your Freedom
I like the example Tara Brach uses in her book, Radical Acceptance. (Join Katie Jay’s Book Club this coming January to read and discuss Radical Acceptance.)
Brach describes a tiger that had been living in a small cage for most of his life. When the zoo created a larger habitat for the tiger, he continued to pace back and forth in the small area where his cage had been. He didn’t explore the larger habitat or embrace the freedom he was offered.
Years of failed diets and uncontrollable food cravings can make a person feel trapped. However, we are capable of much more than we imagine.
In his book about building communities, Peter Block describes how scary it can be for us to be faced with our own freedom. This would include the freedom to choose what we do and what we focus on.
It can be uncomfortable to face and embrace the reality that we can step outside of our comfort zone, instead of favoring the trap in which we find ourselves, restless and unsettled like the tiger. We can learn how to get more comfortable with our freedom.
2. Identify and Explore Your “Why”
“Why?” is a great question. Answering this question for ourselves is a surprisingly powerful discovery we can make if we want to succeed in reaching our bariatric surgery (and life) goals.
The “why” is different for each of us. But, when you get deeper clarity on why you had weight loss surgery and why you want to live a healthier lifestyle, you can muster more motivation to move forward.
My client, Patricia, spent several sessions with me sorting out why she wants to adopt what she calls, “the healthiest lifestyle possible.” After going through several activities and having a few discussions with me, what resonated with her was the idea that she loved to be creative and to connect with other creative people.
The problem was, she was eating herself into a stupor every evening after a long day of work, and she had no energy or time for creativity. Every time she tried to stop doing the evening “stupor eating,” she said she, “failed miserably.” But she continued to experiment with ways to shift her negative patterns.
Now, she wakes up every morning, reads her personal “mission statement,” and paints for about 30 minutes. This is her way of setting her intention for the day. This practice, over time, has shifted her thoughts and behavior.
Most evenings, instead of overeating, she can be found attending a Zoom poetry reading or taking an online art course of one kind or another.
There was one more challenge Patricia tackled, which helped her most of all. She learned how to create and manage the energy she needed to achieve her goals.
3. Create and Manage Your Energy
If you feel as if you are failing miserably, consider taking an honest look at how you create and manage energy in your life. Feeling incredibly energetic, or vibrant, is a tall order for many of us, and it requires time and support to sort out how your energy is getting zapped and how you can protect and increase it.
Several factors contribute to our ability to create and harness our energy. My client, Anna, made the decision to experiment with energy-enhancing tactics.
As I like to say, Anna made experiments! For example, she avoided refined carbs for a month, and noticed her mild depression lift. She discovered her hunger levels were lower on the days following an 8-hour sleep (as opposed to her usual 6 hours).
She began experimenting with relaxation techniques and settled on a CD that had a guided imagery she found especially soothing. She stopped spending so much time with people who zapped her energy and hope. She stopped watching the news.
It’d be great if all our food and life woes were solvable by going on a diet. The real solutions, however, lie in seeing beyond our perceived limitations, knowing at a deeper level why it’s worth the effort to get out of our comfort zones, and learning how to manage our energy so we are able to make real change in our lives.
And, of course, getting heartfelt support helps bring about change, as well.
Never give up!