|Photo Credit: Magda’s Maggots via Compfight cc|
I spend a LOT of time (probably too much) hanging around on message boards and forums relating to obesity surgery. I don’t input very much – after all, I am not a “vet” yet, have not earned my surgical scars and all that. Every once in a while, I will put up a link to here on Misdirected if I feel it is especially relevant, but other than that – I lurk.
There are quite a few encouraging tales to be found out there. Formerly 600-pound men who are now avid wilderness hikers. A previously obese woman fitting into her wedding dress for the first time in 25 years. A grandmother getting into a swimsuit for the very first time in her life. The stories can be really heartwarming and encouraging to those of us just getting ready to take the plunge.
But I have recently been paying a lot more attention to those “other” stories”:
- “I lost 100 pounds but gained it all back…”
- “I am going through a bad time in my life and can’t stop eating…”
- “My husband just left me and all I want to do is cry and eat…”
- “After 5 successful years, I am regaining again and I don’t know why…”
Entry after entry of people whose surgery is not working out for them for one reason or another. Scary stuff.
I have not gone out of my way to look into relapse numbers. Normally this is the type of research I would be all over like stink on expensive cheese, but here I have held myself back. I couldn’t tell you exactly why, only that it didn’t feel right to be investigating failure before I have even started the process. I have been wanting to prepare myself for success, not for failure.
But the truth is out there: relapses happen. And it is scary to think that all this work, (and rearrangement of my innards) could go down the drain if I don’t watch my step. So, I have been carefully reading these relapse stories and looking for common elements. I keep finding 3 common themes coming up time and again:
1. Lack of accountability. Most of the desperate pleas of those I see talking about their failures online are for someone to “straighten them out” or “tell them off.” At home, these individuals are not getting the support they need. Maybe they live alone, maybe their family is disinterested, or maybe (most frightening) their support system is working actively to sabotage them. But they need someone to call them out and tell them to get back on track.
2. Lack of exercise. This seems to be a major issue. I have yet to read anyone’s story about how they are suffering from massive regains while they are still exercising regularly. Just about all the horror stories I have read talk about how the pressures of life, or exhaustion, or just laziness have kept them off the street, away from the gym, and placed them on the couch.
3. Emotional turmoil. The big push that starts the plummet of the cliff of a major regain seems to frequently be an emotional trigger of some kind. A lost job, the death of a loved one, the breakup of a long-term relationship (sadly common for those who have gone through bariatric surgery) all seem to be things that have forced these individuals to seek comfort where they have always gotten it in the past – from food.
Lor and I are lucky. She has me to hold us accountable to our diets, and I have her to push us when it comes to exercise. As far as emotional turmoil – we have each other to rely on if something goes wrong in either of our lives. It isn’t like we’re going to get divorced again. Been there, got the T-Shirt – it didn’t fit.
For anyone else, I would encourage them to find a family member, community, or friend to act as an accountability partner. My other advice would be to do it now – while things are still going well. Looking for help while you are desperate leads to bad, bad choices. Get someone in your corner right away, and keep them there – when the storm clouds roll in, you’ll have someone to run to before things get out of control.
This lifestyle change that we have undertaken is hard enough without handicapping ourselves by trying to go solo. Do it with a friend, find a support group, get plugged into a relationship with a trainer – anything you can do to make sure that one bad day doesn’t turn into one bad week, or one bad month, or a disastrous relapse to obesity. One thing we know about life – bad times will show up. Make sure that you have planned ahead, and have the tools you need to come out the other side with your “new self” intact.
Being Prepared Aint Just For Scouts,