When I was visiting family in October, my brother-in-law, Barrett asked me what I would say to someone considering having Weight Loss Surgery. I gave him a quick easy answer, but it isn’t that simple. So this week, I may be a bit more serious, then again maybe not. I haven’t written the blog yet, so I don’t know.
The first thing I would say is “Why do you want WLS?” What I’m looking for is their motivation. We had a gentleman, who said he was over 500 lbs, come to our support group to find out about WLS. Why, because his doctor is doing a hernia repair and while he’s there, they might as well “do” a WLS. What is that Doctor smoking? WLS is a major bit of surgery, compared to a hernia, and has lifelong repercussions, not something to just “do” while you’re in there. It got worse as the gentleman claimed he could lose a hundred pounds any time, he’s done it before. Good thing I wasn’t at the meeting, but they did warn him about how I would react. When I heard such an absurdity, I laughed. I’ve lost a couple hundred pounds in my pre-surgery life, and found every last pound again and then some. For me, I’m looking for what a person’s motivation is for having the surgery. It has to be personal and not something you’re doing for someone else. For me, I was tired of being tired all the time, of not being able to do things with my grandsons and I was afraid of ending up in a wheelchair on oxygen. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when my 4 year old grandson asked me to lay on the ground, so he could practice climbing a mountain. That’s when I knew it was time, but I was already well into the consideration phase. Another gentleman from our support group told us of watching his father die of diabetes caused by being overweight. He didn’t want to end up dying too early. He’ll make it if anyone does, because he has the right motivation.
Then, once we’ve talked about why, I ask what they expect WLS to do for them. Most people say it’ll make them lose weight, to which I respond, yes it will, at first. The looks I get when I say that are hilarious. From incredulity to “shut up” to “you liar”. The truth is that WLS by itself will help you lose weight, simply because you can’t eat as much and early on it’s even less, but if you continue to put the same garbage in that you were before WLS, then ultimately, you will gain it all back. PEOPLE, WLS is only a tool and will only benefit you if you work at it along with truly and permanently changing your way of eating and how you look at food. Used to be I looked at food as two things, one something to stop the hunger, which happened very rarely. The second was as a friend and comforter. This friend and I were inseparable. Any time something went wrong, I coughed, sneezed or forgot to blink, I would have a bite of something….ok lots of bites of something. Any time something went right, I would have lots of bites of something, anything. When my first marriage fell apart, I would bake a cake and eat it, while baking the next one, which I would eat when it came out of the oven. I have made a real change in the way I look at and use food. It no longer is about comfort, but rather about fuel for my body. I eat the kinds of foods I’m supposed to eat and I do not touch sweets of any kind. I’m a junkie when it comes to sweets and if I start I will not be able to stop, so like an alcoholic, I have to give them up permanently, one day at a time. I’ve gone without sweets since Sept of 2012. It wasn’t easy at first, but now it’s not too bad. I have twinges at times, especially when there is cake and other goodies in the break room at work, but I never give in. So I tell people, you need to understand that this is not easy, it takes work, hard work, dedication and perseverance to be successful. You can do it, but you have to work at it. When you make a mistake, and I’ve made plenty, you have to pick yourself up and start again. Each and every time.
Then we talk about exercise and it always starts with them saying I’ll join a gym. That is great to hear, but me, I hate gyms, so I don’t always go. I tell them find an activity that requires you to move like running, walking, swimming, and biking. It really doesn’t matter as long as you start moving. A gym is great and I know of plenty of WLSers who go to the gym regularly, I’m just not one of them and you don’t have to be. You do have to be more active if you want to lose the weight and keep it off. Find what works best for you and do it. I plan to try kayaking on a lake this year, then maybe do some river and rapids kayaking. We shall see. Point being exercise comes in all forms and does not require a gym to get it in, but it certainly can.
Finally I talk about support groups, both online and in person. If you are not in a local support group, find one close to you and take the time to go, whether you are just starting out or are a year and more out. Why, because we all need support at one time or another, and sometimes we get to be the one who gives the support a fellow traveler needs to keep from falling. I believe that we should all give back to others for the support we got during the early days of our journey. I need support this month when I had my umbilical hernia, and my support group was there. One of our members lost her mother right before Thanksgiving. I called her to offer my condolences and I attended the memorial service. She was touched that I would take my time to attend, when I’d never met her mother. Didn’t matter to me as I told her, I knew enough about her mother from her. She gained some weight during that time and was feeling like a failure and I told her to get rid of the scale until she was done dealing with the issues as executor, focus on taking care of that, eating right and getting as much exercise as she can. I said that worrying about the scale was something she didn’t need to do and that when the worst of the stress was gone, then take the scale out and step on it. I’m willing to bet she loses weight. On line groups are great, because they tend to be a lot larger than the live groups and people are from all over the country. I belong to americanbariatrics.org and there a lot of good people on there, successful people and those just starting the journey. Well worth the time and effort to join the group.
To sum it up, when talking to someone considering WLS, I cover three main areas:
- Why are they having WLS, what is their motivation?
- What do they think WLS will do for them? It’s not easy, but it’s worth every second of it.
- What type of exercise are they planning, being a gym rat, walking, running, biking, etc.
- What kind of support group do they belong to, or are planning to join? We all need support sooner or later and it pays to have a group of people who understand what you’re going through.
Thanks and have a great New Years.