NEW self sabotage after wls

Self-Sabotage After WLS: How to Recognize & Overcome It

October 22, 2018

Self-sabotage; if you’re like the rest of us, you’ve probably done it. We all have. Self-sabotage after WLS can undermine weight loss. They can show up as those pesky self-inflicted, self-defeating behaviors that come in a variety of forms. The obvious ones are stress and comfort eating. The less obvious, more covert kinds of self-sabotage look like procrastination, internalizing your feelings, negative self-talk, having a fear of failure, and, in some cases, having a fear of success. And, as it pertains to bariatric surgery, being able to recognize self-sabotage after WLS can help you overcome it and maintain your health long-term.

What exactly is self-sabotage? Think of it as any behavior you engage in that prevents you from achieving your goals.

Sometimes you’re aware of these habits; sometimes you’re not. When you’re able to recognize them, understand why you’re doing them, you’re better able to manage them.

Let’s take a look at how self-sabotage can play out after having weight loss surgery.

The first year post-op usually represents the “honeymoon” stage in which you experience weight loss at a rapid pace with marked improvements in the quality of your health and quality of life. Within that time-frame, you changed a lot of your former pre-surgery behaviors.

You were able to stop drinking soda, and you began taking vitamins, you ingested more protein, and engaged in more physical activity. All of these behaviors are important in the long-term, but sometimes you stop doing them. Succeeding beyond the first year is greatly dependent on having a healthy mindset. Without it, the opportunity for self-sabotage increases greatly. After all, the honeymoon shouldn’t be thought of as a vacation from your former life, but as the beginning of a new life with new behaviors that serve as a foundation to build upon.

Getting In Your Own Way

One of the most gratifying things I get to do is to help people overcome barriers to their success. Frequently, people readily recognize they have a role in the struggle, and they’re just not sure why they do it. A common complaint I hear from my clientele is, “I know what to do, I just can’t seem to do it. I think I get in my own way.”

Self-defeating, negative self-talk are all forms of self-sabotage that hinder you from taking care of yourself. If you are your own worst critic, then this is precisely what you’re setting yourself up for. Every time you say negative words or entertain negative thoughts, you reinforce negativity until it becomes part of your core belief system.

The fear of failure tends to be part of this belief system. Statements like, “You’re just a failure;” “There’s no way you can do that,” or “Why even try, it’s not going to work?” In many cases, you end up proving yourself correct, “See! I knew this wouldn’t work either.” The consequence of this mindset will prohibit any progress, and you will end up with something very familiar; your old life.

It is possible to fear being successful because with success comes change.

For instance, successfully losing weight can bring about unwanted attention that may make you feel vulnerable. Changing may mean closing doors on relationships that have been part of your life for a long time. Deviating from what is familiar to you can be scary. Remember, we all tend to gravitate towards what is familiar, even if it’s unhealthy or dysfunctional.

To experience the benefits of change, you will have to become open to believing in it. That may mean getting uncomfortable for a while. With your old means of using food to cope with distress behind you, you’ll have to deal with uncomfortable feelings such as fear, disappointment, or loneliness. Food used to help distract you from these emotions and help you escape them. Now, you may have to experience these emotions for the first time or for the first time in a long time. However, you don’t have to go about this alone. Your local bariatric office or weight loss surgery support group can help you find a professional to assist you in this change.

Food and Sabotage – Watch Your Language

I believe one of the most under-addressed factors in self-sabotage is the way we speak about food. We give it a lot of power over our lives. Look at the world of advertising, television, and social media. The messages of soothing, reward, and comfort are reinforced to us time and again. It is such a stealthy, common everyday thing that tends to hide in plain sight. We never really think about it. Its power lies in shaping how we think about food.

Your own words have an influence too. If you’re making statements similar to, “I worked out this morning, so I can have anything I want!” “My work has been so stressful that I deserve to have chocolate.” “I ate pretty well this week, so this weekend, I’ve earned the right to splurge,” then your vernacular is indicative of the power and value you give to food. Self-reinforcing the reward mentality with food will perpetually cause you to set yourself up for self-defeating behavior. Pay attention to your language. Ask yourself, “Are my words reinforcing the way I’ve always thought about food, or are they reinforcing the right attitude?”

Give Thought To Your Ways

So, how do you know if your behaviors are self-sabotaging? The reality is, you don’t always know. A lot of what you practiced before surgery that seemed normal were behaviors that worked against you. Maybe you’ve never thought of skipping breakfast as being a self-defeating behavior? But once you’ve learned how your body’s metabolism is negatively affected and how this practice can set you up to “make up” calories later in the day, you realize the value of eating in the morning.

It’s true that a lot of what you practice is mindless, especially your former eating habits, so there are benefits to paying more attention to the things you do. Everyone has their own rituals and routines that they practice. Remember, no good habit develops by accident. It must be intentional and deliberate.

So, are behaviors such as procrastination, excessive worrying, internalizing, or boredom eating forms of self-sabotage? If any of your repeated behaviors undermine your efforts and result in self-defeating consequences, you can be assured they are.

Self-Sabotage After WLS

Recognizing self-sabotage requires honesty and awareness of all of your behaviors and habits. Overcoming self-sabotage and having success is a matter of a healthy mindset, consistent approach, and good habits. Are you a self-saboteur? Consider the following:

  • Body respect begins with self-compassion.
  • Establish accountability with a peer and/or a professional.
  • Develop awareness of why you do what you do.
  • Do you fear being successful? Fear of failure?
  • Do you have underlying issues that have never been addressed?
  • Do you constantly compare yourself to others?
  • Do you practice being self-critical?
  • Implement structure and consistency.
  • Focusing on what is working rather than what is not.
  • One mistake does not a failure make – you’re human, develop the ability to move on.
  • How are my words reinforcing my thinking?
  • Am I being deliberate and intentional about how I’m living?

When it comes to self-sabotage after bariatric surgery, you can overcome it!

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Steven Reyes


Dr. Steven Reyes offers expertise on the psychological adjustments associated with weight loss surgery. Dr. Reyes is best known for his compassionate coaching and therapeutic approach in helping others with their psychological and physical well-being. Dr. Reyes' research includes a phenomenological study of the post-surgical adjustment issues with weight loss surgery patients between 1 and 2 years post-op. Read more articles from Steven Reyes!