It’s Never Too Late To Work Towards a New LifestyleJanuary 8, 2020
As a bariatric surgeon, I often hear how difficult it was for my patients to make their initial appointment with me. So, what got them to finally take that first step? After reading numerous blogs, books, and websites over the years and looking at my own experiences, I have learned a lot about motivation and change.
When I think of making the first step, in any journey in life, it is boiled down to these basic three steps:
- Overcoming Fear
- Making a Plan
- Remaining Accountable
It's Never Too Late for a New You
Step One: Overcome Your Fear
When I think about what holds me back from making a big change in life, I have found that it boils down to one thing – fear.
I have the fear of failing, the fear of the unknown, and the fear of disappointing myself (or worse, the people that I love and respect). It’s the fear of all of the “what ifs,” which by the way, usually NEVER come to fruition. How many times have you wanted to start a project, just to stop short of starting because you are so overwhelmed with what could happen? In a nutshell, this is about getting a better understanding of your own fear. Of course, avoiding past failures in favor of a safer path may seem familiar to some of us.
However, simply choosing the less arduous path certainly doesn’t make it the right path. I find we can be our own worst enemy. Perhaps you look back at some of your past failures and conclude that YOU were solely responsible for the lack of success. Although this is a commonly held belief, it fails to appreciate the nuanced nature of our daily struggles.
Simply chalking it up to “I FAILED” is an oversimplification. More often than not, jumping to this conclusion is more indicative of a style of self-defeating thinking than a process of success or failure.
This leads me to the next point: we need to start believing in ourselves! Positivity, encouragement, optimism, self-acceptance, and confidence empower us and lead the way to our successes in life. Trust me, YOU are capable of much more than you think. Believing in yourself is the first step.
Losing weight is very difficult. I encourage anyone starting this journey to do their research. Go to reputable websites, such as ObesityHelp, and the ASMBS.org. These sites offer a plethora of information about the surgeries and surgeons who perform them. Knowledge is power. Having that knowledge will take away some of the fear and uncertainty about the surgeries.
Additionally, some patients are able to overcome their fear by visiting different blogs. Hearing someone’s first-hand accounts of their journey lets you know that you are not alone. Having a sense of community can certainly help you overcome your fear of failing. What do you do when you fall? You get back up. That’s what we, as a bariatric community, offer you. We’re here to lend a hand to help you get you back on track.
Step Two: Make a Plan
I believe that the process of making a PLAN for your success/project is crucial.
Everyone has a dream or hope for something better for themselves – a better job, a better financial situation, or a better waistline. In fact, if you ask patients, regardless of their current weight, most would say that they “just want to be healthier.” So what makes one person succeed where another person will fail? They have a plan.
For instance, I gained over 35 pounds while undergoing IVF over a two to three year period. I would often tell my husband how I wanted to lose weight. My daughter is now 4, and I am happy to say that I FINALLY lost that weight. It is still a work in progress and has taken now over 18 months. So what made last February different from the three February’s before? I made a plan. I decided to take my own medical advice, and I began the medical weight loss plan I offer my patients.
Because my metabolism is slow (I mean REALLY slow), I knew to get into a better calorie deficit that I would need to do which was low impact aerobics. So, I made a schedule with my husband to walk in the mornings four times a week. It was hard. I hate to wake up early, but over time I saw my progress.
In fact, once I added walking to my weight loss regimen, I saw quicker results. Everyone is going to be different in what their exact goals are. However, to reach those goals, making a roadmap is essential. The other part of that is to learn to rely on Plan B (and sometimes Plan C). If you find that your initial plan has roadblocks, don’t give up. That idea goes back to Step One (overcoming your fear).
I challenge you to push through that roadblock and find an alternate route. For instance, I thought that if I ran harder and faster then I would lose more weight. That was NOT the case. I found that while I was burning a few more calories, it was at the expense of my lean muscle (and I still wasn’t losing much weight). This prompted me to go back to the drawing board. I needed to workout smarter, not harder.
So, I simply slowed down. Now, I walk, not jog/run, a brisk 4 miles and burn over 400 calories in the process. Don’t be afraid to modify your plan. It is also the same when one of my patients is going through the insurance process. Completing a 6-month nutritional assessment can be tedious, but just do it! If you have gone through months of working towards an insurance approval, only to receive a denial, don’t give up! Speak with your surgeon and see if you can have a peer-to-peer or set up an appeal. There are many ups and downs going through the insurance approval process.
Learning to roll with the punches and to buck conventional thought can lead to great successes!
Step Three: Remain Accountable
As a bariatric patient, you will always need to be aware of your food choices and maintain your vitamin/protein regimen. Accountability will help you to stay on track with your food, exercise, and vitamin supplementation.
Numerous articles have been written on accountability and its importance in lasting success. Whether you are undergoing surgery or a medical weight loss program, you need to recognize that this is a lifelong commitment. There is no magic pill or perfect surgery.
But if you think about it, isn't that everything in life? If you work hard on a project at work, you don’t just kick up your heels once you’re “done.” If you have had success, typically you will need to continue to refine and work on that project. It is the same with weight loss.
For instance, I recommend to my patients that they keep a food log. There are many apps available (i.e., My Fitness Pal and others) that enable you to log food, track exercise, monitor weight loss, and even set reminders for vitamin and water intake. I have found that these tools are invaluable for both my patients and myself. Having that little app handy certainly keeps me accountable, especially when the girls in my clinic all know my weight loss goals!
This leads me to my next point: while having something that helps you personally stay accountable is invaluable, but having a friend or a crew to work with can be even better. Now, I say this with all due respect, but when you’re choosing an accountability crew, pick people who want to build you up, not tear you down. I often hear my patients tell me about how a family member or friend isn’t supportive of their plan for surgery. I just tell them that it is that person's issue, not theirs.
You are doing this for no one else but you. If someone is not supportive, turn the tables and view if from their standpoint. What have they experienced or fear that is causing them to act that way?
While a friend or family member’s negativity can be a hard pill to swallow, it can be a bit easier if you try to see it from their perspective. But that is just for YOU to be able to process things. You are only responsible for you, not for anyone else. That is all that you can control anyway.
On the flip side, when you find those people in your life that lift you up, foster that relationship! Become each other’s personal cheerleader. Having those words of hope, at just the right time, can definitely help you in your weight loss journey. Remember, this is not a sprint, it is a marathon, and every mile counts.
In closing, I hope that today is the day you choose a healthier new you. Step out, in spite of any fears, and make a plan to reach your weight loss goals. There is an entire community out there just waiting to cheer you on!
ABOUT THE AUTHORCharlotte Hodges, MD is a bariatric and general surgeon practicing in Irving, TX bringing her experience and expertise at the New You Bariatric Center. She is known by her patients for her surgical expertise, and as a caring, knowledgeable surgeon with a great bedside manner. She is board-certified by the ASMBS and specializes in advanced laparoscopic procedures. Dr. Hodges has performed more than 3,000 weight loss and general surgeries.
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