For most it is long journey to the point of considering or undertaking bariatric surgery. Many feel like they have failed having exhausted every diet or weight loss measure. Others have given up exhausted by monitoring their weight, intake & exercise, let alone the plethora of confusing information.
If only it were as simple as energy (food & drink= calories) in VS energy (exercise) out. This is what the weight loss/exercise industry would have us believe and how some consider bariatric surgery (less in). With the implication that it’s your fault or lack of will power that limits your success. The truth is that there are missing pieces to this equation.
If you are like most people who make the major decision to undertake bariatric surgery you intend on having a successful outcome and to do what it takes.
It is important to address why losing weight or maintaining weight loss has been difficult- bariatric surgery does not magically make these go away!
You will have heard the catch phrase “ bariatric surgery is a tool”.
Here at Sunshine Coast Medical Weight Loss Centre we believe Bariatric surgery is a tool to mindfulness.
Mindfulness is commonly thrown around but what does it mean? Mindfulness is a Buddhist tradition which has been adopted & adapted over time. Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention non- judgementally. It helps us disengage from habitual behaviours.
Ah , yes…. but what does that mean I hear you say?
In short- “ If you always do what you always did, then you always get what you always got”
Without embracing your tool bariatric surgery can feel like a permanent diet that continues to consume your life. Often resulting in maladaptive eating habits & emotional eating issues such as:
Learning to eat mindfully allows balancing eating for nourishment & enjoyment, freeing up your energy & focus on living life.
Mindful eating is eating with purpose & awareness.
When we were very young we intuitively knew when we were full and learned how to chew our food.
Often as adults we over ride/ stop listening to our intuition as our eating habits are a result of our childhood/ upbringing, lifestyle (work, family, stress etc.), dieting and emotions.
How often have you: Over-eaten or been unable to leave food on your plate? Eaten foods that later give you an energy slump or made you feel unwell? Been “good” all day only to blow out later?
Bariatric surgery is a tool to re-set. In the early post- surgery stages you literally go back to eating like a baby.
This allows healing, minimises symptoms such as vomiting, reduces your risk of leak and allows you to get used to your new stomach size.
By 6 months (this is often when hunger/ appetite return – the honeymoon phase is over) it is important to be able to recognise hunger cues & act appropriately.
You will need to build awareness so your eating choices & amounts will become in tune with your body’s needs.
Your tool will give you feed back about your eating style – your bite size, pace of eating, chewing skills and amount/ volume you eat.
Your attention to food choices, preparation & eating is needed to prevent unwanted symptoms and poor weight loss or weight regain
With your new stomach/ pouch you need to relearn hunger, fullness, nourishing foods & changes in taste.
Slow eating prevents unwanted outcomes ( reflux, vomiting, over-eating/ stretching stomach or undereating/ grazing), allows time to recognise comfortably full (vs full / overfull) & savour food leading to satisfaction.
Eat regularly & small serves :
If you go too long without eating you may feel unwell or too hungry by your next meal often resulting in eating too fast, past the point of comfortably full and/ or poor food choices (usually high in fat/ sugar)
These are dedicated meals & snacks SO whatever is not consumed in 20-30min is put away for the next opportunity or thrown away. If you extend meals/ snacks out, eat every hour or constantly have little amounts, you are grazing. This results in consuming too many calories over the day/ night without feeling full and satisfied.
You can’t eat slowly, pay attention to how full you are, let alone enjoy/ taste your food which results in reduced satisfaction & increased symptoms if you are:
Hunger ( nourishment- physical) vs craving ( enjoyment- head):
Many of our clients at SCMWL describe a changed relationship with food from “Living to Eat” to “ Eat to live”. This highlights a shift from food having power to being empowered around food.
Cravings are more about enjoyment and less about physical hunger
If you are finding this challenging it is important to see your dietitian/ psychologist we are here to help
Non-Hungry eating :
We are human beings and we eat for a range of reasons (celebration, comfort & pleasure, stress, reward, procrastination, distraction etc). It is normal to engage in some non-hungry eating.
To achieve your goals it’s about balancing nutritional knowledge (in particular how it applies to your bariatric surgery) with eating intuition and disengage from habitual, unsatisfying & unskilful habits/ behaviours.
It can be normal to revert to old habits, especially as life gets back to normal. There is no right or wrong about it – it’s part of being human. When you are on autopilot mode it is likely to be old habits. It takes mindfulness/ awareness to recognise the detour and gently return to your healthy path. This is part of learning.
Some may travel along beautifully for years until something happens (called life) that takes your energy & attention so the newer habit falls by the way side (the totem pole of priority changes). It takes mindfulness to determine which part of the equation is missing.
A part of the equation that is important for successful weight loss but more importantly well – being is exercise. Currently there is a strong movement which really is eating/ exercising & body disorder masquerading as health & fitness – BE mindful. Exercise in moderation not to excess.
Just as with food- people’s relationship with exercise can be “all or nothing” especially with new found motivation/ results (losing kg’s) this can be an old habit in disguise and can lead to injury, in turn limiting your success. A mindful approach to exercise would be moving in ways that make you feel strong (build muscle, increase flexibility & fitness), is enjoyable & makes you feel good (releases endorphins – the body’s happy hormone, Vit-D exposure) which is reframing the relationship from the past where exercise has often been a means to an end and uncomfortable/ painful.
A final word on comparing yourself with others on social media/forums- sharing, supporting & being supported/ connected with those on the same journey is important. When it stops being an add on to you/ when it takes away then step away. Remember you are you, they are them & none of you are the same ( genetically, backgrounds, environment, lifestyle …. the list goes on) so even if you had your surgery the same day with a similar start weight comparisons are a non- sense . You are on your journey path & they may be walking beside you BUT nobody walks in your shoes. Equally it is important to not judge others.
It would be fair to say all of us are unique & come with our own baggage – genetics, upbringing, lifestyle, food rules (dieting), emotional all of which influence eating & exercise. It will take customising your mindful eating tool kit to achieve & maintain your healthy weight.
The team at Sunshine Coast Medical Weight Loss Centre are here to guide, coach & support you.
If Not Dieting then What? By Dr Rick Kausman
Non Dieting Approach for Dietitians Handbook by Fiona Willer & Fiona Sutherland
Am I Hungry? By Dr Michelle May