Your Mindset After WLS is a Tool for SuccessJune 9, 2017
What is Mindset?
Mindset is a core set of beliefs and pattern of thinking that drives behavior and behavioral change.
After weight loss surgery, your doctors and support team typically give bariatric patients approximately four main recommendations: Get your protein in first, drink your water, move your body, and eat only at meal times. This is a great insight and when you leave out of the office following surgery, you have the best of intention of doing this all the time.
Then life happens.
Even if you know that the old behaviors won't cut it after surgery, the emotional overwhelm can still be there triggering the old eating patterns. This is why your mindset after WLS is one of the best tools you'll have following surgery.
There will be tough times especially when emotions and tension are high, and you'll need to know how to overcome the pitfalls. The post-bariatric patient needs a mindset toolbox in addition to the practical recommendations as these are usually more difficult to change and discussed far less than the basic "what you need to know" type information.
Your mindset will keep you going strong long after the initial years of surgery if you use it. It’s important you have a strong mindset that keeps you focused on your goals and aimed for success.
The Old Patterns & Pitfalls
Here's an example: You have your eye on the prize, you see your weight loss goals in sight, the meal plan is together, things are going good and you are doing what has been recommended and then...
BOOM! Out of nowhere,
You get into a confrontation with your boss. (or)
You and your spouse get into an argument (or)
You "believe" you way too tired to go to the gym (or)
You lost the promotion to the other guy (or)
Your colleagues are celebrating the admin's birthday for the THIRD time with week with yet another cake!
This is when you need a mindset toolbox to keep you focused on yourself, your goals, and not on the short-term struggles.
No matter what it is, there are things that can be so overwhelming that they can seem insurmountable. Many individuals get caught up in their emotions and when issues pop-up they go back to the old behavioral patterns because they are uncomfortable. No one consciously says, "Hey, let me sabotage myself", sadly, it just happens.
There are life stressors, family/work drama, or relationship issues. You feel the pain and after surgery, the food isn't there like it used to be. For the post-bariatric patient, navigating the waters of emotional issues can be tough if they haven't worked on their mindset and found alternatives for coping during difficult times.
This is why it is so imperative that the post-bariatric patient recognizes the emotional triggers that can pop up. When the mindset issues aren't addressed, it can seem easy to go back to using food to feel better instead of focusing on the surgeons post-wls recommendations. Following surgery, it's essential to utilize new strategies to respond to stressors in order to change behavioral patterns and it all begins with one's mindset.
Tips for Building Your Mindset After WLS Toolbox
Here are three practical steps to strengthening your mindset after WLS surgery to help lead you to long term success.
Self-awareness is helpful for recognizing two things, when you are triggered by old patterns and when to implement the new behavior.
Most people may not even realize when they are triggered and find themselves elbow deep in a bag of potato chips. Eating was once a huge comfort to many WLS patients and due to surgery, that's been brought to a halt. However, some people still eat and graze when uncomfortable or anxious. Therefore, it's important to start building self-awareness to reverse any self-sabotaging behaviors and to recognize when the emotional trigger is flipped in an attempt to use food as comfort. This step comes with practice and a suggestion is that a photo is put on the refrigerator that states "is it mealtime?" or "do something for you", or "time for a fun run" in helping one change the behavior to exclude food. Another suggestion is to build self-awareness through tracking how often someone thinks about food or visits the fridge. Keep a food journal or spreadsheet to help track the number of times food pops up or if there is an urge to eat. This begins the shift in mindset around food and the emotions that may impact one's eating behavior.
Also, it is important to note that recognizing you're in a stressful situation and dealing with it alone can be uncomfortable. The long-term progress gained from shifting one's mindset is amazing yet, it can be too much for some people to deal with alone. If it is too much, reach out to a counselor, therapist or trained professional to work on this further.
Plan for Success
Next, have a list of activities, tasks or projects that you can turn to when you feel triggered. This will help you remove the focus away from the food yet keep your mind busy on something else. The more you're focused or daydreaming about food, the more difficult it will be. Therefore, taking action in a different direction will keep you moving towards your goals and long-term successes all while building new behavioral patterns and strengthening your mindset around food. Doing things that take your mind away from food allow you to focus on the new possibilities and the new life that is opening up to you following surgery. This is also shifting your mindset as you put yourself back in control of your life instead of the food controlling you.
- Go for a Walk
- Take a Bubblebath
- Call a friend
- Play a game of cards
Practice Practice Practice
Do what you say you are going to do and follow through with the plan. Don't just think about it, actually do it. Also, celebrate when you've caught yourself and transitioned yourself to the new behaviors automatically. This is how you can see that your mindset around food is changing.
This post-bariatric surgery lifestyle requires a new set of habits. Therefore, it's important that your thoughts and feelings around food are part of these habits.
Over time, your mindset after WLS is huge because the food will always be there, what you think and how you feel about food is what changes.
When you begin, these mindset shifts and behavioral changes early, you begin to put the wheels in motion so that the new pattern becomes conditioned in your mind. Then when the stressors pop up, you are ready for them because you've practiced these tools over and over again.
The new practices set you up for long-term success because the longer you use them, the better you'll be when the unexpected pops up. Working your mindset is so critical for long-term success because life is ever-changing and stress is inevitable. When you replace the old pattern with the new one, you'll be less likely to slip backward and instead use your mindset to keep you moving toward your goals, no matter what.
ABOUT THE AUTHORKristin Lloyd-Moussa, MS, LPC/LMHC, PhD-Candidate is a licensed psychotherapist and certified transformational mindset mentor guiding individuals to embrace healthy habits and fuller lives after WLS. A WLS patient herself, Kristin understands the challenges of WLS patients. She is the founder of Bariatric Mindset and author of the "Bariatric Mindset Success: Live Your Best Life and Keep The Weight Off After Weight Loss Surgery" book.
Read more articles from Kristin!