head in the game

8 Years Post-Op: What Keeps My Head in the Game

October 28, 2016

At least once a week I get something – an email, a personal message on Facebook – asking some variation of the same question.

“Nik, how do I stay motivated?”

For different people, this means different things, of course. Some people ask how to stay motivated to exercise on a regular basis. Others ask about staying motivated to eat right or take their vitamins. And when I read these messages I can’t help but think there’s another question that isn't asked that needs to be addressed.

“Do I really have to do this for the rest of my life?

I think when we have weight loss surgery we feel very fired up and motivated to make the changes we need to make. We are sick of obesity. We are sick of the lack of mobility and judgment from others. We are sick of judgment from ourselves. We want change and we want it now!

Then immediately after we have surgery, our lives become structured around that change – and it’s not easy! But we understand the rules. Eat this much. Eat this food. Move this much. Take these vitamins. Drink this much water. And the scale begins its downward trend.

But, in the years following surgery, the weight loss eventually stops (as it is supposed to!) and the compliments don’t roll in quite so frequently. Life begins to take on a new normal and that is when many people find their motivation waning.

How I Stay On Track and Maintain My Weight Loss

If that sounds like you, I’d like to share with you a few things that keep my head in the game at 8.5 years post-op from RNY Gastric Bypass. But I want you to notice that these things have little to do with fear of regain! That may be a big motivator for you to keep your head in the game and that’s fine. But it isn’t for me. Here’s what is.

When I do good, I feel good!

It’s taken me a long time but my brain has finally made the connection that healthy behaviors actually feel better than unhealthy ones!

When I eat well and don’t overeat I feel lighter. I feel like I can move. I’m not sluggish. I don’t feel ashamed of what I ate (even if I eat something less than optimal). Even more amazing, I enjoy food so much more when I eat in reaction to actual, physical hunger! The food simply tastes better. So these days I don’t eat well because I’m trying to stay within certain limits or achieve certain targets. I genuinely have developed a love for food in an array of colors. I’ve learned to appreciate the natural flavors of foods and try to cook them as minimally as possible. I’ve learned to take the time to actually taste and enjoy my food. And when I do that, I feel good!

When I move my body – whether through formal exercise or just being generally active – my body feels good. I feel strong and vibrant. I love to dance and now that I have the mobility to do so, you can’t stop me when I hear a beat I like! I love the feeling when I rush up a flight of steps and I get just a bit winded. I love the flush of my face when I’ve exerted myself. It’s a beautiful feeling to feel my cheeks get rosy and feel that fine sheen of sweat on my forehead. It reminds me that I am alive! And when I exercise, my mood is better. After a good workout, I feel like I can conquer the world. I also sleep better when I work out. All of that feels really good.

And when I practice other realms of self-care, I affirm so many good feelings. It feels so great to me to manage my stress by doing things like making reasonable goals and learning to say "no" (a hard thing to do but once it’s a habit, it’s empowering!). This past year I’ve been on an unplugging kick. It used to be when I’d walk my dog I’d have my phone in hand, responding to Facebook messages. At our family dinner table, we spoke to each other more over social media than face to face (sitting across from one another!). It was crazy. But now I unplug, I walk my dog, smile at my neighbors and take in my surroundings. Now I talk to my family at dinner and hear stories of how their days went. These things all make me feel tremendously good.

I have powerful motivators to keep my head in the game. I feel good and I like feeling good, so I try to live the best, healthy life I can.

I want to be who I say I am.

This one takes some explaining.

I’m a blogger. (You may know that already.) So I’m always online and I’m always talking about my process. There was a time when what I was advising others to do was not what I myself was doing. And it made me feel awful. I felt like a phony. But more than that, I knew what I was saying was what I should be doing.

That was a big motivator for me to get my head back in the game. If I wanted to say I was a fit person, I had to work toward being a fit person. If I said I was a healthy eater, I needed to practice those behaviors. I believe that authenticity is not only important in relationships but to your self-esteem. I wanted to be the things I said I was because those things make me feel proud of who I am and what I’ve accomplished. When I actually do them, I give myself permission to celebrate my success – but I also am very protective of that feeling. I don’t ever want it to go away. The desire to be authentically healthy is another reason I work to keep my head in the game.

Because life is simply too short to not enjoy it!

I’ve learned this in so many different ways.

In 2012, I lost my mother from complications of diabetes. She was just 58 years old when she died. I wasn’t ready for her to die and I felt like we had many conversations we needed to have, memories we needed to make, things we needed to say. I think everyone feels that way about the people they love, but being left without a mother at 35 years old made me acutely aware of my own mortality. For the first time in my life, I was forced to consider that fact that I simply would not live forever.

The second reminder came just this year as I myself was diagnosed with an early stage of breast cancer. Thankfully I always knew it was totally treatable, but it brought to mind the life of my grandmother, who died at age 50 from the same disease.

Thankfully, today I write to you cancer free, but both of these experiences impressed upon me that you truly do only get one life. And you really do have to think of time as a precious commodity that you cannot afford to waste. So how do you want to spend yours? Do you want to spend it with low-self esteem or, worse, self-loathing? Do you want to spend it beating yourself up about your last mistake until you get to your next mistake? Or do you want to spend your life having adventures? Loving people? Making memories? Learning things? Doing things you thought you’d never do?

Those were the questions I asked myself. I don’t know how long I’ll live. My mother lived to be 58. My grandmother lived to be 50. That tells me no matter how you slice it, life is simply too short not to enjoy it!

Keeping my head in the game allows me to live life to the fullest in a few different ways.

First, as I said, I feel better when I do better. My body, my mind, my spirit all flourish when I treat myself well. But then I also truly feel that by living my best, healthy life I’m giving myself more time here on earth to spend with the people I love. And even if I am not, I can at least say I am improving the quality of the time we all have together.

So there you have it. It’s not magic. It’s also not easy! Motivation is different for all of us, but for me, motivation very much comes from the desire to make the most out of every moment I am given in this life.

I hope that you find your powerful source of motivation and begin to use it to live your best, healthy life. If I can ever be of assistance, contact me at the link below in my author bio. 

Photo Credit: Martin cc



Nikki Massie is the author of Bariatric Foodie, a website and online community that encourages weight loss surgery patients to “play with their food.” She is the author of three books: The Bariatric Foodie Guide to Perfect Protein Shakes, The Bariatric Foodie Holiday Survival Guide and The Bariatric Foodie Breakfast Book. Nikki lives Maryland with her boyfriend, 2 daughters, adorable Basset Hound & slightly high-maintenance black cat.

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