One of my all-time favorite movies is Parenthood. Steve Martin stars as a charming and imperfect father, who has a wonderfully dysfunctional family.
Steve’s character, Gil, is stressed out by a chaotic life. He wants very badly for things to settle down, and for his children to be normal.
Gil is not happy with the curve balls life is throwing him. His wife is unexpectedly pregnant, his son is in therapy, and he has just lost a promotion at work.
He only has problems.
He is complaining loudly to his wife when his grandmother enters the room. She says the following about a roller coaster ride she enjoyed as a young woman:
“You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together!”
Bariatric surgery is a roller coaster ride, too.
This is the way it is with weight loss surgery after the “honeymoon” ends. You’re frightened you’re going regain weight, sick of thinking about all the changes you need to make, and excited about your better health and smaller clothing size.
If you are struggling to maintain your weight, or to lose to goal, the excitement may be overshadowed by your worries. Were you hoping your WLS ride would be easier than it’s turned out to be?
The trick is to change your problems into opportunities.
Maybe your life is chaotic. Maybe you are finding it harder to follow your WLS lifestyle than you thought you would. Perhaps you are obsessing about food. Or your work situation has changed, and you are now having trouble finding time to exercise.
No matter. You can be miserable and choose to look at your life the way Gil was doing, like a bunch of problems you expect to defeat you.
Or you can try a different view.
It’s time to choose a new focus.
Here’s what I do. You can try it, too.
1) Make a list of your problems. That’s right just list them all out. Make sure you let yourself experience self-pity, sadness, anger, and all the other emotions that go along with having overwhelming problems.
Leave room after each problem to add a sentence later.
2) Reframe your problems. To reframe is to look at your problems from a new perspective. You’ll write a sentence after each problem that restates it as an opportunity. Don’t overthink this or talk yourself out of it. What’s the harm in trying?
Write your sentences like this:
I used to have trouble with (problem), but now I choose to (opportunity).
Here are three examples:
I can’t drink enough water.
I used to have trouble drinking enough water, but now I choose to drink one 8 oz. glass of water the minute I get out of bed in the morning.
I can’t control my eating.
I used to have trouble controlling my eating, but now I am experimenting with a meal plan, to see if it helps me feel more in control.
I’m too busy to cook.
I used to order out because I was too busy to cook, but now I choose to cook, and double my recipes, on the weekends, and freeze half, so I have easy options in my freezer whenever I need them.
3) Every day, first thing when you wake up, read your list of opportunities.
Choose a couple to work on for that day. Some days you’ll be able to pick a challenging one, other days you’ll gravitate toward an easier one. Either way, though, you’re living in the solution. And living in the solution brings peace into your life.
Choose your opportunities.
I encourage you to spend some time thinking about what opportunities your problems afford you. Maybe you can use a problem to grow emotionally, or to develop a character trait like courage. You’ll need to experiment to see which solutions seem to really help you.
The key is to use your problems.
Be as creative as you want. Spend your time looking for the opportunities in your life.
Gil eventually realized the beauty of the roller coaster ride. He let go of his need for a problem-free life and embraced the chaos.
You know how to maintain your weight from a physical standpoint, and if you don’t you can ask your dietitian or doctor.
The truth is it’s usually the emotional issues that get people off track.
Looking at your problems as opportunities is a way to practice a “can-do” attitude. It’s a concrete way to begin to change the way you think.
The bariatric surgery life will be a roller coaster ride and that’s okay. It sure beats the merry-go-round, on which you go around and around, but never really get anywhere.