We, humans, are simply incredible. We walk upright. We have opposable thumbs! We recently landed a robot on an *asteroid* to collect a soil sample, results arriving in 2023. We have figured out how to engineer and produce food to be so addicting, so mouth-watering, so enjoyable that humans carry extra weight equivalent to HALF A BILLION EXTRA PEOPLE. And because we are so unique, our brains have teamed up with our emotions to create a superhighway that uses Cheetos and Breyers Ice Cream as toll payments. INGENIOUS!
It took me ten years to decide to have bariatric surgery. I gained close to 100 pounds in 8 years, some years slowly, and some years it came on all at once. Life was stressful, I was in an abusive relationship, and college is FUN. I turned to food to cope, get through, fit in, tune out, be social, and not miss out. As I became a professional, a homeowner, and a wife, I became a morbidly obese human. I can definitively say that my size did not prevent me from achieving the things I wanted to do. I had some weapons, though- I have a killer personality, a radiant smile, a decent sense of humor, a freakishly high tolerance of alcohol, and (after a nasty breakup and a solid year of therapy) an amazingly accurate bullshit meter. I kicked ass, took names, and then threw those names in the garbage. The idea that fat people live under bridges and sustain themselves off the kindness of strangers who are not offended by their size is total bunk. My size did not hold me back. Until it did. I turned 37 and found myself burnt out, exhausted, and continuously frustrated at everything. When I shot videos on my phone, you could hear my heavy breathing in the background because I was so large my systems could not deliver enough oxygen to power up my respiratory systems. I sweated, getting *out* of the shower. I had been a diligent yoga practitioner for seven years, and STILL could not get into Rabbit Pose because my gut and my boobs made that simple maneuver impossible. I told myself quite a few stories to keep me going.
-- "You have a boyfriend! Men are not attracted to really big girls...ipso facto you are not fat."
-- "You have SO MANY FRIENDS. Like SO MANY. People don't want to be friends with fat people...ipso factor you are not fat."
-- "Out of all of your friends, you are the most active. You practice yoga...you swim...you slogg 5K's, you got to CrossFit, you kayak and paddleboard. Fat people can't do any of those things...ipso facto you are not fat."
-- "You have a KILLER job AND you own a big, beautiful condo! Fat people live under bridges because they are poor and can't get jobs....ipso facto you are not fat."
-- "Your size, your weight, your body does NOT determine your worth! IT does not matter what I weigh because I am happy and I love myself...epso factor there is nothing wrong here.
I should have been a children's book author because I come up with some pretty epic stories. Here is the problem with stories...they include truths. Every one of my stories had elements of truth buried between the lies. I could tell myself these logical and rational stories because they were logical and rational. I was not being crazy or believing false truths...I was speaking *some* truth. I let my food addiction outsmart my already smart brain because my stories were logical and truthful. And that meant that I could continue to tell myself these stories and live my life as my addiction wanted me to. My life WAS great. Nothing in my world was amiss. But something was amiss. Something was wrong. Every time I looked in a mirror at myself I couldn't see me. I looked to the edges of myself. I looked only at the surface. Mirror mirror on the wall, who is this girl staring at me from afar?
I tried *everything* I could access to live my life at a healthy weight. Weight Watchers. Kickboxing. Juicing. Step. Whole 30. Spin. Keto. Hot Yoga. Dr. Fuhrman. Speed Walking. Jenny Craig. Swimming. 30/10 Weight Loss for Life. Crossfit. Fasting. I committed to each for months, sometimes years. Friends and family were jazzed! I was trying something new! I was a "good" fat person! I lost and found the same 60 pounds for ten years. And only AFTER my bariatric procedure did I realize why I always found my weight again- in everything I tried, I never learned how to live my life as an average person, as a lighter person, as a thin person. I had mastered how to live life as a morbidly obese person. I didn't have a fucking clue how to live my life as a healthy person. I would get to a low weight and panic- "How am I going to maintain this weight? I am miserable now! Does this mean I have to be miserable for the rest of my life? Am I going to have to bargain and worry over every bite, lick, and taste forever?" I am a 90/10 person- if I have a 90% chance of success, I will go for it. And if I am not yet at a 90% rate of success, I will work in the shadows until I reach that threshold. If I never can get to that 90% cut off, I bounce. It's not worth my time if I have more than a 10% chance of failure. Fat people can't fail. They won't survive it. IT'S HOW THEY END UP LIVING UNDER BRIDGES- DUH! Each of those programs and systems and routines have proven success- it is evidence my addicted brain cannot deny. So I tried each and every one, with fidelity, because there was a 90% chance of success. If that silly looking man can sweat his way thin, I can too! But my odds always dipped when I realized that NONE of those systems, programs, and routines could override and overpower my need to eat- and by eat, I mean eat the things that helped me forget I had once failed. Failed at what I could not tell you, but I failed once, and that is all my soul needed to know. Trippy, right? This is where addiction gets REAL fucked up. Addiction IS logical. And you can't fight logic. (You can...it's just another story that we tell ourselves to remain safe. More on that later.)
When it came down to it, eating was the only way I could survive the shame of failure. My life was a sham because I was parading around as someone successful woman when I was a failure. And I kept working hard to find that next success to make that one, distant failure go away. But it never went away. No matter how hard I worked or how much I achieved or how much money I made. I got to the top and was still hungry. Always hungry. I was starving, in fact. The woman who saved my life, Mary Blackburn, had a favorite line. In therapy, as you were blubbering and raging about ________, she would look at you with a dead face and say, "And how is that working out for you?". She meant it in the most real and- at the same time- sarcastic way possible. She did NOT play. My life was at a standstill. It was not working out the way I had planned. I mean it was but it wasn't. If I wanted to escape my shame cycle, I needed to do things differently. Drastically different. So I did two things: I started to tell the truth, and I did not clutch my pearls when a friend told me that she had bariatric surgery and that it WAS for people "our size." I did gasp...but I did not clutch my pearls. These two *totally radical* things (insert eyeroll here) changed my life.
It is one thing to have bariatric surgery. It is also the easiest part- the actual procedure. Finding success after bariatric surgery is a total crapshoot. Did you know you have a 50% chance of REGAINING your weight two years after any bariatric procedure? FACT. If you want to find yourself on the successful side of that statistic, you HAVE to keep your "why" front and center at all times. Our why motivates us to fight through the dark times, to say no to things we want to say yes to when we know we need to say no. Our why serves as our gatekeeper, so to speak, because we can use our why as a litmus test when challenging situations arise. For example, my one of my whys is I never want not to recognize myself again. When I am out to dinner, and I *really* want that Mizithra with Brown Butter dish at Spaghetti Factory, I can ask myself, "Will eating this meal help me recognize myself in the future?". The answer is no, no; it will not. It makes saying no to things I want at that moment easier because there is no story to my why- it is my truth.
The key to long term success is choosing what you want most over what you want now.
It is so beautifully simple. As we all know, simple does not mean easy. However, we can use our why as a tool to help us chose most over now. And the real power of our why is that it can change, and you are not limited to just one. Our why can change with us, and we can have multiple, true why's that we keep in our toolbox for different moments and occasions. When I am shopping, my why is being proud of the size 14 pants I now wear. When I am at the gym, my why involves not changing my clothes as soon as I get home because they are *not* sweat-soaked. Our why is a powerful tool that we can always access if we spend the time to hone in on the most singular points of truth.
So how do you come up with your why? It's actually pretty simple. It involves you asking yourself "why" over and over and over again until you get to your foundation, your why basement.
Step 1: Ask yourself why you want to lose weight? Write down the very first thing that comes to mind. Don't overthink it; what is at the top is where you start.
Step 2: Ask yourself what achieving your goal will look like. How do you think you will feel? Write that down.
Step 3: Now, ask yourself why feeling that way is important? Repeat these steps until you reach the point where there are no more reasons, no more why. Stop when you get to the place that feels like your foundation.
Step 4: Personalize your why. I recommend you make it short and simple so you can easily recall it. Mine is "I want to maintain my weight loss because I never want to lose sight of ME again." It doesn't have to make sense to anyone else but you. If you tell someone your why and they ask you to explain, you have a wonderful opportunity to dive deep into your own personal weight loss surgery story, and I think that is always a good thing ;)
If you imagine success after weight loss surgery as a toolbox, knowing your why, keeping it close, and checking in with your why daily is one of the tools you have to have in your toolbox. Your bariatric surgery is your toolbox, but we all know that you ain't fixing a thing if a toolbox is empty. There are universal tools in every toolbox- hammer, nails, adjustable crescent wrench, duck tape. Your why is one of our universal bariatric tools.
Become familiar with it. Use it often. Build your future with your tools.
If you would like to be apart of this conversation, comment your whys below! By sharing your why's you might spark a strangers deep dive into their own why. Thank you for being the best part of this community!