weight loss

Three Keys To Sustained Weight Loss

July 3, 2013

Losing weight is one thing; keeping it off quite another. Most of the people I talk to during their pre-surgical psychological evaluations have lost weight at different times in their lives. If there were such a thing as a Lifetime Yo-Yo Diet Club, lots of people would be honorary members. One of the most important things for a surgical weight loss patient to do is change their goal from “losing the weight” to “keeping the weight off.”

There is a different mindset when one thinks in terms of keeping weight off for a lifetime than when talking about losing weight. Think of it like taking a trip by car. If you lived in New York and were driving to visit relatives in California and were then driving back home, you would mentally gear up for a long, long car ride across the country and back. Once you got there and back home again, however, you would have reached your goal and would quit thinking about it. If, however, you were told that you would repeatedly drive back and forth between New York and California for the next 30, 40, or 50 years, you would think of that car ride quite differently. The idea of making one round trip from New York to California by car doesn’t sound fun, but you know there is a definite start and finish. You know there are things you can do to pass the time in the car, and although the journey would be long, there would be a clear-cut beginning and ending point. That’s how it usually is with a “diet.” You start a diet and you end a diet. And you know what happens once you end the diet.

Having weight loss surgery is like the latter example... driving back and forth between New York and California for many years. The thought of that sounds overwhelming, as does living a healthy lifestyle (eating healthy foods in small quantities and exercising regularly) for the rest of your life. That, however, is the reality of maintaining weight loss after surgery. Which is why you live it one day at a time rather than thinking about “having to do this forever.”

Three Keys

There are three things the majority of surgical weight loss patients must do in order to maintain their weight loss: 1) adopt a healthy lifestyle, 2) change their self-talk, and 3) address unresolved personal issues.

Adopt A Healthy Lifestyle

You already know what “adopt a healthy lifestyle” means. It means you eat healthy foods (protein, vegetables, fruit, and avoid sugar and simple carbs) and you exercise — most days of the week. If a person did these things following a “successful diet” or after bariatric surgery, they would keep the excess weight off. Why, then, don’t people just adopt the healthy lifestyle and stay at a healthy weight? For two main reasons: 1) negative self-talk and 2) unresolved personal issues.

Change Negative Self-Talk

Negative self-talk is exactly that: saying negative things to yourself about yourself. “I’ll never get/keep this weight off.” “I don’t know why I bother trying.” “I’m such a loser.” The list goes on and on and on and on... Much of the time people aren’t even aware that they are battering themselves with this “stinkin’ thinkin’,” yet for many, it is an almost non-stop internal dialogue. If the negative self-talk doesn’t change, there is only a very slight chance of maintaining weight loss. Why? Because you don’t believe you can do it or that you deserve it. How do you stop automatic negative thoughts? You must first become aware of them and then you must make a conscious decision to talk to yourself more positively. It takes a lot of work. Then again, it takes a lot of gasoline to drive back and forth from New York to California time after time!

Address Unresolved Personal Issues.

Most obese people have “unresolved personal issues” (as do most non-obese people). Common issues among the overweight and obese relate to having been teased about weight during childhood and being left out of social activities because of weight, thereby feeling shame and self-doubt. Low self-esteem also comes from the negative self-talk an obese person tortures themselves with. Problems associated with growing up in dysfunctional families also falls into the category of “unresolved personal issues,” as do histories of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. These problems all require counseling with a trained professional or clergy person. If a person does not address their past, the past will unconsciously push them toward the comfort foods they have so long depended on to ease emotional pain.

The equivalent of a continual cross-country drive isn’t what most people have in mind when they decide to have weight loss surgery. For such a long journey, a person would need a lot of support to remain motivated. The same is true for daily living after weight loss surgery. It’s a lifelong journey, and along the way you need the support of true friends and family members who genuinely want the best for you. You must also help yourself by using the three keys necessary for sustained weight loss — which, after all, is the real goal!

Editor's Note: This article by Connie Stapleton, PhD was previously featured in OH (ObesityHelp) Magazine.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Connie Stapleton, PhD is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and owner of Mind Body Health Services. She is the author of Eat It Up - The Complete Mind/Body/Spirit Guide to a Full Life After Weight Loss Surgery.

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