Going into VSG, you may have believed the procedure was only about weight loss. Now you know that it affects your entire life. You’re doing things that, perhaps, you never thought you could. My patients change daily, but their heads sometimes struggle to keep up with these new realities. Getting to know—and, yes, love—who you are right now is one big secret to better mental and physical health. Below are some strategies for diving into the new you.
Strategy #1: Trust yourself enough to feel. Sometimes—and maybe more than sometimes—people become overweight and obese as a way to avoid feeling unpleasant things. Abuse victims may turn to food to give them temporary relief from emotions that read their ugly heads, for example. But overeating can also be as “simple” as not wanting to feel hunger or struggle with cravings. It’s a lot easier to eat a food you’ve craving than to fight it, right? Therapy with a counselor who specializes in eating disorders and addictions is a valuable resource for helping bariatric patients deal with the “why” behind their eating.
But there’s a lot you can do on your own, too, starting with believing that you’re strong enough to handle emotions that, in the past, have driven your destructive behavior. Let’s go back to cravings. Prior to vertical sleeve gastrectomy, how often did you resist cravings? My guess is that it didn’t happen often. Now that you have the sleeve as a tool and know much more about your body and good nutrition than you did then, trust yourself to feel that craving without giving into it. When you want cookies or potato chips, let that feeling wash over you. Acknowledge what you want. Live with it. And then know that you will get through that particular craving, even without giving into it. It won’t kill you (I promise!), and it won’t last long.
Strategy #2: Acknowledge how you’ve grown. It can be scary to think of yourself as anything other than you’ve always understood yourself to be. Whether these terms seem positive (“I’m a giver”) or negative (“I’m such a loser”), the process of outgrowing them can be difficult. Painful, even. But in taking control of your health by having gastric sleeve in Mexico, you’ve clearly changed from the person who was content to live in a downward health spiral. So identify all the other ways in which you’ve grown. Maybe instead of being the “giver” you’ve always prided yourself on being—which may not be very healthy, actually—you’re now prioritizing your own wellness instead of running yourself ragged in order to please everyone else. And instead of viewing yourself as a “loser” who deserves every bad thing that happens, you now accept that you deserve more than an abusive relationship, a crummy boss, or cruelty from family members.
Strategy #3: Define what “self-love” means to you. Maybe “self-love” seems a little hippie-dippy to you; if so, replace it with “treating yourself right” or another phrase that resonates with you. The point is that it’s crucial to act in ways that prioritize your wellbeing and make you feel cared for—by you. Does a monthly massage give you something to look forward to during tough times? Is the gym your happy place, where you feel stronger and more powerful coming out than you did going in? Self-love is different for different people, and it can even differ at various times in the same person’s life. Deciding how you’ll love yourself means, first, determining what that means to you.
One note on this concept: Some folks create a mantra that’s designed to promote self-love but can actually backfire. If caring for yourself means replaying a phrase like, “I love myself enough to think about how I feed my body,” then great! But if your mantra is, “I don’t eat donuts anymore,” you might spark a longing for a cruller that wasn’t there before. Much like 12-step programs recommend taking recovery one day at a time to avoid the panic that can arise from unhealthy things being forbidden forever, view self-care as choosing wellness right now. You’re choosing to eat a pear instead of a donut right now. You’re choosing to hit the gym instead of sprawling on the sofa with a bag of Oreos right now. It’s about being an advocate for yourself when faced with things that will either help you or hurt you.
Get excited about connecting with the person you are today. I bet you’ll love who you meet!
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“Changing lives…one sleeve at a time”.