Fear of the Unknown… My guest post on Bandwagon on the Road

I wrote the featured article in this week’s issue of Bandwagon on the Road, a weekly e-newsletter for adjustable gastric banding WLS patients. One thing I have noticed throughout my weight loss journey is how much fear has played into my story. Fear is an interesting animal. There were times when fear held me back and times when fear pushed me on. As I point out in this post, the key to making fear work for you is to conquer that animal and turn what is unknown into what is known. I hope that you follow this link over to Jean’s newsletter and read more about fear. While you are there, I suggest that you subscribe to this resource. Jean always shares handy tips and lessons with a very down to earth and practical approach.

12/29/2011 Update – This article is no longer available on Jean’s Bandwagon on the Road. I am including it below.

Conquering fear of the unknown on your weight loss surgery journey

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Recently I came across this Mark Twain quote. I suspect it is used often at graduation speeches this time of year. Personally, it calls me to overcome fear so that I can explore, dream and discover life. What drew my attention to it was the fact that I have been contemplating how fear of the unknown has factored into my weight loss journey.

Fear kept me from beginning my journey sooner. When I attended my surgeon’s weight loss surgery seminar, I feared attending because I saw it as an admission that I was a fat man who failed being a healthy person. I feared the naked truth in the surgeon’s PowerPoint slides that mirrored the reality of my life and struggles with weight. As I progressed to surgery, I feared my time in the operating room and of being a weight loss surgery failure.

Three years later I find myself looking back and being thankful that I overcame these fears to take a positive step forward in my life. I see fear as being a safety valve in my body. It is there to keep me out of harm’s way. Without fear, I undoubtedly would find my life in disarray and in danger. I realize that this fear needs to be overcome. I saw those pre-op fears as keeping me from reclaiming a healthy and happy life.

In the summer of 2008 I thought that my fear of the unknown would disappear after surgery. My prior experiences with starting a new job or joining a new social group taught me that fear of not fitting in disappeared as familiarity grew. I thought this would be true in my weight loss. I reasoned that after I grew to understand my Lapband fear would disappear.

I found that overcoming one weight loss surgery fear moved me forward to a new point in life where a new fear would be waiting. I’ve been reflecting on whether this cycle of fear and conquering fear is unique to me and my personality. I now understand that overcoming fear of the unexpected does move me onward to exploring, dreaming and discovering something new. I could have chosen to remain where I was, but I opted to move that bar even farther and challenge my fears.

Making the unknown into the known

It’s not easy to toss aside the fear of the unknown. It is just as true with weight loss as it is with other facets of our lives. Fear holds us back and keeps us from being the person we want to be. It makes us make a “safe” decision that we would rather be a “risky” decision that moves us forward. The easiest way to overcome fear of the unknown is to make what is unknown into what is known.

I am not a person who jumps into anything spontaneously. As an analytical person, I tend to perform a risk/benefit analysis in my head before I proceed. For me, overcoming the fear of the unknown requires imagining where I could be if I took that little bit of risk and made the jump. It’s an exercise that I play out in my head many times with many scenarios. It’s easy to do and with this repetition the fear subsides and the picture of where I will be becomes clear.

The advice I have for those on weight loss surgery journeys is to become a risk taker and challenge fear of the unknown. By stepping out of your comfort zone and taking a chance, you diminish your fear of the unknown with each chance you take. Use my repetition technique and run scenarios of differing outcomes through your head. The right decision and course becomes more evident with every scenario, Once you tame that fear monster, you discover how freeing yourself from fear gives you a rush and confidence to take on the next challenge on your road of life.

Tom @ Beariatric.com

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