Back in 2007, I suffered a major bowel obstruction just days after having a lower body lift.
When I had the bowel obstruction, I knew the setback was major enough that there was potential for me to somehow self-destruct.
What I mean by self-destruct is that when I feel emotionally traumatized, I eat in a way that is harmful to me. It’s not the same as “cheating” on a diet. It’s full-blown eating whether I’m hungry or not, whether it’s good for me or not, whether it makes me feel sick or not.
In the face of trauma, I have been known to become depressed and get addicted to something that isn’t good for me. In my teens, after my parents divorced it was mostly alcohol. After the bowel obstruction it was junk food and sugar over protein and veggies.
To this day, any major drama or trauma in my life sends me looking for something to help me numb out. I know and accept this about myself. I’ve forgiven myself for it and I have learned how to show myself compassion. It has taken time and intention.
After my medical trauma in 2007, I slipped into my old pattern of self-destructive eating, but it did not get the better of me in the long run, mainly because I made consistency my main strategy for success.
Not perfection, consistency.
In my experience, perfection has always failed me eventually. I could follow any diet perfectly for a while, but eventually I would slip. Then the food floodgates would open, and I’d feel like a failure.
Consistency, on the other hand, has worked much better. For me it is my ever-evolving practice of adopting what I call “anchor behaviors.” These are behaviors I consistently do to keep me grounded in my WLS program.
Here are some of my anchors:
1. I consistently talk to another human being about my life challenges and my behavior with food.
I have used a coach, a bariatric friend, my husband, and a therapist over the years. All of whom were better for me than my own private counsel!
2. I consistently weigh and measure certain foods when I am eating at home. It is my lifeline. I don’t measure every single thing. But there are certain things I almost always measure, because I really like to discern how much is enough. I measure things I am likely to lose track of (protein) or that I tend to overindulge in (cheese).
3. I consistently walk at least once a day.
After my lower body lift and bowel obstruction, I knew I was physically shot. I had had two major abdominal surgeries within 9 days of each other.
In the aftermath, I lost a lot of muscle mass. And my eating plan changed dramatically, because for a while I couldn’t eat, and then I ate like a sick person (ginger ale and saltines).
The doctor even told me to gain weight. Gain weight! You just don’t tell someone like me to gain weight.
I spent a few months being an obedient patient until I realized I was not very good at gaining weight in a controlled manner :o) No surprise, really.
But there I was feeling fat and out of control with my eating, traumatized from my surgeries, and clinically depressed.
But consistency SAVED me. My anchors SAVED me.
1. Once the doctor released me to go home, I immediately got a therapist and started processing my feelings, and talking openly about my eating behavior.
2. I weighed and measured my food, even when it was a less-than-perfect food choice, but not to limit or punish myself. It was simply what I consistently did, so I decided to continue with that practice, no matter what or how much I was eating.
3. I begged my husband for a dog, so that I would HAVE TO get out and walk. (I’m sure some of you remember Ruby-the-dog.) Being responsible for another living being is very motivating to me.
I can always do for others, even when I have trouble doing for myself.
Eventually, the extreme feeling of trauma subsided. Then the depression subsided. And guess what?
My life and my WLS program slowly came around. My consistency led me back to my healthiest path.
During all of this, I consistently told myself, “You’ll get up again, Katie. You have been knocked down, but you are doing everything you can to get back up.”
It’s scary to feel out of control.
It took me about 9 months to get completely back into the swing of things. I had a lot of stops and starts. A lot of stress. But my consistency kept me on the right path (even if I meandered a bit).
The key predictor of success is not perfection, it is consistency. By consistently doing my anchor behaviors, I eventually rebuilt on their solid foundation. My path finally brought me out of the woods, and into the light again.
So, if you are struggling, don’t give up. Just find a few things to be consistent about, and build on those things as your confidence and motivation build.