Welcome to Thanksgiving Week – the official opening of weight gain season for the majority of us here in the U.S. Great food, lousy weather, and depressed energy levels are a killer combination when trying to stay true to your weight loss goals. It takes determination, willpower, and great mental fortitude to succeed. And many of us that have gone through bariatric surgery find mental fortitude to be in short supply.
This problem is widely referred to within our circles as “fatbrain” – the phenomenon that leads us to still perceive ourselves as obese even when we have lost tremendous amounts of weight post surgery. We don’t look in the mirror and see steady improvement in our health and appearance. Somehow, what we see reflected is the same person that we were before we started the weight loss journey. We take the evidence provided by our measurements, our scales, and the feedback of friends and loved ones, and discard it. We still feel overweight, therefore we must still be overweight, despite any evidence to the contrary.
This phase of fatbrain is insidious, and very difficult to overcome. Logging is one of our greatest weapons here – if we know that last year we were able to down a super-sized extra-value meal, and that today we can only manage a couple of ounces of cheese and deli meat, eventually the light begins to come on mentally. We need to pick a metric – a measurement unit that we really understand, and base our progress on that. In my case, I picked a size of clothing that was impossible to fit into in (38-inch waistline jeans) and kept checking. Amazingly, this last weekend I was able to get into them. I admittedly had to hold my breath to do it, but, hey, 9 months ago I couldn’t even get them up past my thighs. Tough to ignore that kind of evidence.
However, I personally have now graduated to a new version of fatbrain – call it Fatbrain 2.0. I now look in the mirror and see the ghost of my previously massive self looking over my shoulder. I am somehow convinced that one bad day will rocket me 90 pounds back up the scale overnight. This sense of dread and paranoia never leaves me. When I don’t exercise, I am convinced that I have failed. When I do work out, I am positive I have not done enough. If my weight loss stalls, I am sure that I am done losing weight. If I do lose weight, it must be a coincidence. The wheels inside my head never stop spinning, orbiting forever around the obese identity locked between my ears.
(Sigh.) Ah, well. A little paranoia probably won’t do me any harm over the holidays. Whatever it takes to keep me close to the veggie platter and away from the pumpkin pies and whipped cream, right?
Watching Myself Like A