How to Make Your Self-care Burden Lighter


Imagine that your job in life is to swim across a fast-moving river carrying a bag of rocks. Depending on the size of the rocks, and the number of rocks, your bag can be quite heavy.

Maybe you can handle it just fine when you’re feeling strong and energetic. Maybe the heavy load isn’t so bad when you have time to swim at a manageable pace.

But what do you do when you’re tired, have agreed to help someone else with their rocks (because you’re already going in that direction), or when you have to move at a pace that leaves you breathless?

We live in a busy world. Often success is measured by how much we do, how busy we are, and how heavy the load is that we carry.

Bariatric women are faced with a choice after surgery. How many rocks will they carry? Simply by having bariatric surgery, we have chosen to carry some hefty rocks in our bag. The responsibility of making our rigorous bariatric lifestyle a priority can be as challenging as swimming across a fast-moving river.

By the very nature of our bariatric surgery we carry a lot of rocks in our bags: planning and preparing our food, taking vitamins and supplements, monitoring our labs, exercising, losing and maintaining weight, drinking water, eating enough protein, setting boundaries with our friends and relatives, dealing with food obsession, being prepared for any eating situation, adjusting our self-image, fighting urges to graze or overeat or eat sweets, getting therapy to deal with past trauma that may be tripping us up or to deal with all the changes after surgery.

The list of “rocks” goes on and on!

This bariatric burden makes it imperative that we be deliberate about the number and size of the additional rocks we carry. We must take a realistic look at our lives and adjust our obligations accordingly. Our health and wellbeing depend on making difficult, seemingly impossible, decisions.

If you are carrying other people’s rocks unnecessarily – i.e., doing all the work for the team at your job, volunteering again because no other parent will step up, making cookies for a friend’s party, watching your grandchildren when you’re exhausted – you might want to rethink how many and what size of rocks you can realistically carry.

Carrying too many rocks or carrying rocks that are too heavy for you to handle alone is risky business. And carrying your own rocks and everyone else’s just might sink you.

Keep these five things in mind, and begin to work on not forcing yourself to carry such a huge bag of rocks:

  1. Everyone must carry rocks, but the people whose loads are the lightest tend to set good boundaries, value themselves, and take an honest look at their capabilities.
  2. When you carry someone else’s rocks (especially when they are perfectly capable to carry their own rocks), you don’t do yourself or them a favor. You are depriving them of living to their full potential, and you are sabotaging your success.
  3. Making brave and honest decisions about which rocks you will carry, and which ones you will not carry, will bring you more rewards than you could ever imagine, including more authentic and fulfilling relationships.
  4. Your willingness to ask for help, and to delegate, will bolster your success with self-care.
  5. To fully live the life you only dreamed of before bariatric surgery; you must make self-care a top priority.

Just remember, you don’t have to swim until you sink, carrying too many heavy rocks alone. You don’t have to carry everyone else’s rock or do everything everyone expects of you. You can say no to eating at a restaurant that triggers you to overeat. You can ask your spouse or partner not to bring chips into the house. You can even say no to running an errand for a friend, if running that errand would interfere with you being able to have dinner before you get too hungry.

The river may rage, and your burdens are heavy, but you can lighten your load.

Your assignment:

Make a list of all the rocks in your bag – your various responsibilities. Then, drop at least one rock that doesn’t belong to you.

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From Katie Jay’s Small Bites newsletter. Subscribe and get your complimentary report: The 21 Most Common Mistakes People Make after Bariatric Surgery at © 2022, Katie Jay. All rights reserved.