Sep 14, 2013
If you're considering this surgery, how do you know you will be successful in the long run? Are you worried about being successful for the long term? Do you worry that you might not have what it takes to be successful?
We've all been there.
My approach has been to surround myself with a team to support me as I make the transition from obese woman to normal sized woman. I urge each of you to consciously choose a team to support you on your journey and RELY on them. Some of my team members are with me by choice, others are with me because I pay them to be here. They may not be around me forever, but they are critical to my success this first year. All are important to me. Here is my team listed in order of amount of contact I have with them:
1. My family: my husband is my biggest source of support because he was on a weight loss journey of his own this year. Doing this with him has made this much easier because we didn't have competing opinions of what to eat. We share stories and work out together. In my case, it has made my marriage stronger. My kids are right behind him on the list. At 18 and 15, they are a source of support for me. They encourage me and provide counterbalance/conscience when I am about to do something stupid ("mom, you aren't going to eat THAT, are you?"). Most of all, they are all proud of me and that really keeps me going. My husband tells our story to anyone who will listen. So does my 18 year old son ("Mom, can I get a copy of your before/after photo?"). I shop with my 15 year old daughter, and she gives me encouragement and says delightful things like "I can wrap my arms around you again!"
2. My trainer: I signed up for a 12 month contract 2x week with my trainer, so we spend a LOT of time together. We have worked together since May, a month preop, and have established a close relationship. He "gets" me, and understands what I am afraid of/intimidates me and won't let me hurt myself. I trust him implicitly. He also pushes me and calls me out when needed. Our styles are compatible. As I look at the other trainers interacting with their clients, I feel so fortunate to have mine. A couple of weeks ago he told me, "my job is to make you feel sexy." I agree - to an extent. His job, as I see it, is to help me to begin to feel confident in my body and help me take steps physically to get there. The work of getting to feeling sexy starts in the gym, but it is so much more...
3. My online friends: Yes, each of you. I read your stories and many of them make me think about how I have handled things or will need to handle things in my own life. I don't generally attend in person support groups for a number of reasons including work and gym commitments, and the sheer hassle of getting around in Atlanta in the afternoon rush hour, but this more than makes up for it. I have established relationships with some friends outside of these and other forums and we communicate via phone and facebook. I know I can call them when I'm challenged and they can do the same.
4. My chiropractor: She is one of my biggest cheerleaders, a fellow health nut, and has also helped me keep my body in synch. Not only does she do adjustments, but she also does massages and gives dietary recommendations. As I have lost weight, the forces on my body have changed and things have gotten out of whack. Or, I have overdone things at the gym, and need to get the kinks worked out. She's been there for all of it.
5. My image consultant: She has helped me to discover my sense of personal style and find options that work for me, where I am at that point in time. She also pushes me to explore my boundaries, and has really helped me to redefine my professional image which has been a big deal this year due to a couple of promotions that recently occurred. I always felt frumpy and invisible when I was big. Now I feel confident and attractive and even sexy because the work that I started in the gym now can be clothed in beautiful, well-styled clothing that works for me and makes the right statement. It is rare anymore that I run around town in yoga pants and a baggy sweatshirt because she has taught me to respect and care for myself more than that.
6. My therapist: She is my miracle worker. I can name probably a dozen times that she has managed to get me unstuck. A number of them were big deals, big enough that in the past I would have lapsed into self-sabotage and/or given up. I chose someone with specific experience in eating disorders because I knew going into this that this whole dysmorphic thing was a big deal for me, and she's been able to help me through. Other friends have found good relationships with therapists who focus on eating disorders or addiction recovery. Pick the one that is right for you.
7. My executive coach: I had a couple of big recent promotions in my job. My coach is my newest addition to my team but she's helping me figure out my approaches and communication styles that will work for me going forward. Her work overlaps with my therapist and image consultant but is specific to work. I started with her at the first of the year and already have gained insights. I could have used her services when I was still heavy, but I do find that since I am thinking about myself differently now, I respond to the world differently. One colleague summarized it as my "energy" has completely changed. My coach is helping me to examine specific work-related topics and how I respond to them.
8. My hair stylist: she regularly talks me off the ledge regarding my hair loss and, like the others, has a vision of what I could be.
9. My physicians: This includes my surgeon and my PCP. My relationship with all of them has changed. It used to be that I would go to them for support or to be guided. Now I find that I go to them with requests for assistance or information. I feel as if I have gained more control over my health and therefore, instead of them telling me what to do, I am more in the position to call the shots. Conversations focus not on what is wrong but how to keep things going right. The game has totally changed.
It seems that two notable absences on my team are a nutritionist and IRL friends. I have been comfortable with the nutritional support I have received from my surgeon, chiropractor, and trainer, and my loss patterns have been working for me. I suppose if I got stuck, I would add a nutritionist to my team, but I haven't felt that need yet. Others have close relationships with theirs. My IRL friends haven't been as supportive as I would have hoped. Not many know about my surgery, and they encourage me when they see me, ("wow, you look great, how do you feel?") but there hasn't been the level of deep soul sharing that I have with other members of my team and that is ok.
If I had to summarize, I'd say that it's important to take the time to really focus on yourself the first year. Yes, it might cost money. Yes, it will definitely take time and attention but it is worth every moment. I envision my team in a circle around me. If I get out of bounds, they push me back in. In each case, it has taken me REACHING OUT to them and opening myself up to their support, and that has taken a tremendous amount of bravery that really pushed me beyond my comfort zone. I think my lack of doing this with my circle of IRL friends is the reason they are not as influential.
Keep an open mind to what is possible in this process, and you will see benefits far greater than you ever imagined possible.