Last week, Dr. Judith Beck and I presented at a Bariatric Surgery conference and we spoke about helping bariatric surgery patients change their thinking to help them better adjust to their new lifestyles and stick with their new way of eating. Here are some sabotaging thoughts and responses that are particularly relevant for people who have had (or are thinking about having) some type of bariatric surgery.
Sabotaging Thought: Now that I’ve had the surgery, it’s not fair that I can’t eat normally.
Response: I need to change my definition of ‘normal’ eating. I actually am eating 100% normally for someone who has had bariatric surgery. The way I used to eat is no longer normal (and remember – it was likely never really “normal” in the first place because it caused me to be overweight). My new normal is following my diet.
Sabotaging Thought: I won’t be able to take part in big celebratory meals anymore
Response: I can still celebrate occasions without overeating or overdrinking. I don’t have to make toasts with alcohol in my glass, I can celebrate a birthday even though I’m only eating a little (or no) cake, and I can still take part in the social aspects of special events regardless of what I eat. What I’m eating or not eating does not have to determine how much enjoyment I get. Besides, once I lose weight, I’ll get to enjoy looking and feeling great – which will be so much more pleasurable.
Sabotaging Thought: I’m afraid I won’t know who I am after losing so much weight.
Response: It’s true, things will look and feel very differently. It may require some renegotiation on my part to figure out where I fit in, and renegotiations with others to figure out our relationships, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It’s better than the alternative of staying overweight, feeling miserable, and continuing to be stuck in an unhappy and unhealthy place.
Sabotaging Thought: I’m sad I won’t be able to binge anymore.
Response: By having this surgery done, I am giving some things up and there are definitely disadvantages. It’s okay to be sad about what I’m losing, but it’s also important to think about how much I’m gaining, and how all-encompassingly great those things are, like better health, self-pride, and confidence. I’ll be giving some things up, but in many ways, I’ll be getting my life back in return.
Sabotaging Thought: I’m afraid that I won’t be able to handle so much change.
Response: Thank goodness things will change! I need change to keep moving forward and to improve my life. Change can initially be scary, but that doesn’t mean I can’t handle it, and that doesn’t mean it won’t be 100% worth it.