For Success: Support Pre and Post Bariatric Surgery
At Green Mountain at Fox Run we often work with women who are either preparing for bariatric surgery or are looking for support post surgery. I interviewed Liliana, one of our participants who had a sleeve gastrectomy, to learn about her experience with the surgery and how what she learned at Green Mountain made a difference to her success.
Why Choose Bariatric Surgery?
Liliana’s decision to have bariatric surgery was prompted by her physician’s advice to lose weight to help with knee problems. After being told to “just lose weight” without any accompanying instruction on how to do that, she began skipping meals. Not surprisingly, skipping meals just led to significant weight gain, which then led her to investigate other options. She considered a variety of bariatric surgery options and made her choice based on the procedure that appeared to best offer lasting results.
The Surgery Experience
Surgery addresses physical aspects of eating by limiting the amount of food a person can eat as well as reducing feelings of hunger through its impact on hormones. But I know from my work over the last 10 years at Green Mountain that most people eat or overeat for MANY other reasons than hunger. If the other reasons we eat are still issues, simply reducing appetite probably won’t result in lasting weight loss through bariatric surgery.
Stress, Emotional Eating and Weight Gain
Sure enough, Liliana encountered this problem six months after the procedure, when stress derailed her.
It triggered a decrease in physical activity and an increase in emotional eating resulting in weight gain again. Unfortunately at this point, Liliana again ran into the old advice that brought her to the decision to have bariatric surgery in the first place.
“Her surgeon expressed his disappointment with her, saying that “she was a smart woman and she should be able to manage this problem by going to the gym and consulting a nutritionist.”
Clearly, the physician did not understand the emotional issues that surround eating for many people. When Liliana asked if there was a support group available to help her with this, the surgeon was baffled. Not only did he not know of any such group, he also felt it was unnecessary.
4 Keys To A Successful Bariatric Surgery
Liliana struck out on her own at that point. She began a search for an approach that considered the many factors involved in eating and overeating and health. And after a stay at Green Mountain, Liliana felt empowered to take charge of her health and indeed has been able to avoid weight regain as well as the decline in health that is sometimes seen with bariatric surgery.
The Missing Pieces
Liliana found the missing pieces that were necessary for her to be successful with her surgery. She sums them up like this. To be successful:
Change your priorities/focus.
Rather than just focusing on “I must lose weight, I must lose weight,” she began to focus on different goals: eating healthy sleeping enough, learning how to manage negative stress, focusing on being active. Making these things her goals has caused weight loss to be an outcome. When weight loss was the goal, she was less successful.
Understand that restriction doesn’t work.
Previously she had been told to only eat one starchy food per day and to avoid desserts. This triggered cravings and night time hunger. Green Mountain taught her how to eat balanced meals and allow for desserts that decreased cravings and improved her overall intake.
Liliana learned how to advocate for herself and not be pressured to follow through with cultural norms of eating/overeating in social situations. She also found that her new healthy habits around food began to rub off on family members, coworkers, and friends.
Reach out to others.
Support is essential in tackling issues around health, weight, eating, and behavior change. Attending the Green Mountain program and getting the support she needed from the staff and the other women participating in the program helped her get past that difficult point when old habits and pounds were returning. She also remains to use Green Mountain staff as part of her support team when she is back at home via remote coaching with Life Coach, Lynn Ann Covell.
Life Doesn’t Start at Your Goal Weight
My favorite thing I heard Liliana say during our interview was how — in hindsight — one outcome she had expected from surgery was that the weight loss would allow her to start enjoying life. Concerns about weight in the past caused her to avoid certain social situations, family photos, home videos, and more.
But Liliana realized she was much happier living her life NOW. She found she didn’t need to reach a specific number on the scale before she could start enjoying life. But her improved health as a result of the Green Mountain program is definitely a bonus. Her weight has continued to move to the healthy range for her, and her skin — which became extremely dry and pale after surgery — now feels “healthy, hydrated and smooth.”
Oh, and that knee surgery? Liliana has made walking a key part of her day. And her physician says knee surgery is no longer necessary!