Get Back to Eating Well: Self-Care Steps for VSG Patients

Gone off track in your healthy eating plan after having gastric sleeve surgery? You’re in good company. Ask around, and you probably won’t find a single sleever who hasn’t, at some point, indulged in a period of less-than-healthy eating. Because it’s so common, it’s important to understand the steps that lead back to a good quality diet (hint: self-care usually gets you a lot farther than self-flagellation).

Step 1: Let yourself off the hook.
“Everyone makes mistakes” is a cliché for a reason. Most of us are very willing to forgive others, though we struggle to forgive ourselves. But it’s tough to work toward a new goal if you won’t stop beating yourself up for those mistakes. What we focus on so often becomes our reality, so why would you focus on bouts of unhealthy eating? Give yourself a blank slate and mean it. Whether you’ve been off course for a few days or a few months, it’s never too late to shed weight that you’ve regained. Remember that the gastric sleeve isn’t a temporary fix or a diet; consider a lapse in healthful eating to be just a bump in a long, healthy road.

Step 2: Get real.
Forgiving yourself doesn’t mean forgetting what got you—and maybe kept you—off track. It’s crucial to identify the food and/or feelings that make you vulnerable to a stretch of unhealthy eating. Did that one cookie lead to a week-long carb binge? Or maybe stress at work triggers late-night refrigerator raids. Pinpointing the things that tend to prompt splurges is a sure-fire way to prevent them in the future. Here’s where the “getting real” happens: You have to be completely, 100% honest with yourself. You may not want to admit that cookies are your downfall for fear that you’ll never be able to have a cookie again. But take it one step at a time. Find the trigger(s). Then plan how you’ll deal with them. Perhaps the hardest “get real” of all is admitting that you have food issues that go beyond avoiding trigger foods. If that’s your truth, there’s no shame in it. Investing in a therapist who deals with food compulsions can be a life-changer when it comes to reaching your health goals.

Step 3: Find your people.
One of the best ways to succeed at weight loss is to surround yourself with supportive people who know exactly what you’re going through. If you’ve had gastric sleeve surgery, it’ll be most helpful to connect with individuals who’ve had the same experience and who know what it’s like to overcome the same issues. The good news is that Endobariatric patients have access to everything from a dedicated Facebook page to reunions where you can meet people from the same geographic area to create support groups. And don’t forget the Endobariatric staff, who are always available to help, cheerlead, and advise! You’ll know you’ve found “your people” when you get both encouragement and tough love from them. Accountability can be a powerful motivator.

Step 4: Plan, plan, and plan some more.
You’re rarely going to be successful at getting back on track if you don’t plan meals and snacks—in writing—ahead of time. After all, how often have you made good choices when you’re flying by the seat of your pants? Even if it’s just until you get back into the habit of choosing broccoli over potato chips, jot everything down either on paper or via an app like MyFitnessPal. Keep track of what you plan to eat, as well as what you actually ate. It’s not only a great way to ensure that you’re getting the protein, produce, and water you need, but it also puts you back in the driver’s seat after feeling out of control with your eating.

Today is the best day to get back to eating well. You can do it! Be kind to yourself, figure out your triggers, dive into a supportive community, and strategize your food choices. Before long, you’ll be celebrating successes and inspiring others to follow in your recommitted footsteps.

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