“Be part of the change you want to see” nicely sums how I look at a person’s responsibility in changing the course of their life. That change begins and ends within each of us. Many external challenges and factors also come into play along that path, but we control the direction and the final outcome of change.
The success or failure of bariatric surgery is very dependent on how well the patient changes their life. Each person is unique but there is a pattern I have seen in most individuals. A life of sedentary behavior, poor food choices and unhappiness led the person to the surgeon’s door. These happen to be things that we have some control in overcoming. Here is my list of five ways a weight loss surgery patient can improve the success of their post-surgery life.
- Plan for change and follow the plan. The bariatric patient expects BIG changes after surgery. The most anticipated changes are considerable weight loss and improved health. If you continue to live life as you always have, there is a good chance bad habits will defeat your surgery.
The bariatric patient needs to build a plan for their new life from the day they commit to the surgery. List the bad things that need changed. List the things that can change those bad things. Set realistic and attainable goals. Constantly evaluate progress and adjust to keep on track.
- Strive for a goal that is out of character. One of the best ways to change one’s life is to challenge the comfort zone. Living life on the edge moves you forward rather than stuck in neutral. Embracing change is finding that one thing that you have dreamed of doing but never thought was possible.
For me, it is running. I admired people who run. I never saw myself running. I have worked the past three years on becoming a better runner. This fall I hope to finish my first half marathon. I found myself at this place by setting smaller goals and achieving them. Taking baby steps is the best way to achieve a seemingly unachievable goal.
- Don’t let the past drive the future. It is hard to ignore our past. For many, the memories are painful. There is a good side of looking back. It is seeing where you have come from and knowing that you never want to go back. Learn to use the past to drive you to a better future.
Look at bariatric surgery as the eraser that wiped the “I can’t do that” slate clean. Approaching each day with a can-do attitude does indeed pay off. Often feelings of inadequacy and rejection are internally manifested. These are things that limit a new life. Cast them aside and look positively forward.
- Be uniquely yourself. Weight loss surgery patients tend to compare themselves to fellow bariatric patients. I have seen that consistently over the past six years. I fell into that trap for many years until I realized it was counterproductive and inconsequential.
You get to define your success after bariatric surgery. It may not be reaching the goal BMI. It may not be losing those last problematic 20 pounds. Success is living a new life free of the constraints in your pre-surgery life. For me, success is being a happy, active person who puts himself out there whenever possible.
- Surround yourself with success. Positive thinking drives success. Positive words of encouragement make each of us more successful. Freeing yourself from the influences of negativity and negative people is a necessity when moving forward in a new direction.
A good bariatric support group is the best place to start. I have been active in mine for my entire journey. My group expanded to include a social bariatric group. My cycling club started with members from my support group. I also found running friends in the bariatric community. In each of these instances, I sought out and developed stronger relationships with positive forward thinking people.