Whenever we undertake a major lifestyle change, such as: quitting cigarette smoking, becoming abstinent from alcohol, exercising more, the chances of succeeding are significantly increased if we have a good support system. This is true for persons before and after their bariatric surgery who must change their eating-behaviors, eliminate many favorite (but probably unhealthy) foods and snacks from their diet, and revise their relationship with food. These challenges are not simple, are best not faced alone, and will go much easier when supportive others are involved.
Having A Good Support System
The first step is to identify, as specifically as possible, the changes you intend to make. Changes in eating-behaviors toward more “mindful eating” will include: eating on smaller plates and from smaller bowls, chewing slowly and thoroughly, eating very slowly, sitting down at a designated spot while eating, not eating while walking around or while driving, not eating in front of the TV, not eating in bed, and not continuously “grazing” throughout the day. Foods best eliminated from your home and workplace environments will include: soda, alcoholic beverages (at least for the first 12 months following surgery), candy, chocolate, other high calorie snacks, and foods high in fat and sugar content.
Revising your relationship with food will involve: learning to slow-down, actually taste, and savor what you put in your mouth. Becoming unafraid of feeling a state of hunger and comfortably letting your stomach be empty/unfilled at times. Identifying your triggers for certain food-cravings, developing strategies to manage stress and boredom without eating, no longer centering social get-togethers around eating. And focusing your free time toward calorie-burning activities (like exercise, getting chores done, activities with the kids, volunteering outside your home, or doing a hobby) rather than purposeless snacking, munching, and eating.
Once you select the changes you intend to make, tell your support persons which actions and goals you will be working-on. Again, be specific with them. Directly ask them for their support and encouragement. Tell them that you want them to frequently ask you how you are doing toward your goals. Further, give them permission to confront you if they observe you not following-through with your efforts. They need to know you want them to give you positive reinforcement and praise, but also not to avoid being firm and tough when you need it.
Who Is In Your Support System
Who do you include in your Support System? Everyone, and as many people as you can! Obviously, your immediate family members should be your strongest supporters. Also tell your extended-family, your in-laws, and your coworkers that you have had a bariatric surgery. As crazy as it may sound, tell your favorite Bank Teller, your usual Grocery Clerk, your neighbors, your Pastor and your Choir Director, the guy who is always at the front desk at your YMCA or fitness club, the person at the counter of the place you drop your dry-cleaning off at, etc.
The more people (even non-family persons) who know what you are trying to achieve, the greater the number of sources of accountability and of encouragement you will have in place for yourself. It can make all the difference in the world, when you’re having a bad day and your motivation is weak, and your spouse hasn’t said a thing, when that Clerk at the store (whom you’ve confided in) tells you how amazing and great you look. You just got that pat-on-the-back you were needing.
Also, continue to take advantage of the knowledge of your MyNewSelf healthcare professionals. Your surgeon, nurses, dietitians, and psychologist bring a wealth of expertise for helping you succeed with your weight-loss and weight-management goals. Be sure to attend all your regularly scheduled follow-up appointments, and don’t hesitate to phone MyNewSelf whenever you need some guidance and advice.
Lastly, participate in the MyNewSelf ongoing Support Groups offered each month. Engaging in discussions with other persons in these groups is often an invaluable source of mutual support through any of the difficult (and great!) times which stretch ahead of you post-surgically.