A growingly obese population has lead to a greater need for weight-loss options and the decision to undergo bariatric surgery has become the best option for many. However, bariatric surgery, whether it is in the form of Gastric Banding, Sleeve Gastrectomy, or Gastric Bypass can be mistakenly seen as a fast one-way ticket to rapid and sustained weight-loss. A lack of patient education or perhaps a negligence to accept the challenges to follow can have alternative effects on patient’s results post-operatively. This realization can be shocking as well as disappointing considering the time and effort that went into undergoing the surgery in the first place. While the initial response to the restrictions placed on the body by weight loss surgery do lead to remarkable weight loss, sustained weight loss requires much more long term. For this reason good habits are of utmost importance. Healthy psychological tools are essential to maintaining weight loss post operatively.
So where are patients failing their post-operative duties?
n Lack of motivation: Motivation doesn’t grow on trees; therefore, we must have a goal in mind and some kind of reward to envision to get us there. If you tell yourself that if you do 30 minutes of a moderate intensity workout today, you can do something you enjoy afterwards, like enjoying down time with friends or treating yourself to a soothing bath. This motivation carries you through the task at hand. Create motivation using the thing you like to do. Try to avoid rewarding yourself with buying things or eating (our favorite things to do) and think outside the box to reward yourself.
n Negativity: Often we dwell on the glass being half empty. Slim figure or not, there is always room for improvement in our lives. By embracing the things that are right in our lives, even if they are small, we will be able to allow ourselves to more easily accept the flaws and work towards shaping them into positives.
n Stigma towards “healthy” foods: You have to be willing to step out of the comfort of salty, sugary, and greasy snacks. The more you are willing to try, the more you will realize that richness in taste of healthier options. Stay away from self-defeating language – positive self talk is imperative to good mental health.
n Stigma towards exercise: Burning calories can and should be fun. Try different activities and get a workout buddy. Listening to your music and even watching TV while you’re working out makes the process more enjoyable. Move away from competition and pressure in this arena as many times that is not a helpful way to enjoy exercise.
n Self-defeat: It’s so easy to say things like “I can’t.” Try to reframe negative thoughts and move away from perfectionism. It is all possible with the right attitude.
Many of these problems are psychological, but manageable and the best way to get on track is to recognize and address them. There is no magic button to losing weight and getting healthy. It’s a lifestyle that requires combining good habits of daily activity and sensible eating with a positive and nurturing attitude. It’s not always deep-seated problems that stand in the way of success, but simple things like black and white thinking, excessive pressure and poor self esteem/self image that are roadblocks. Feel empowered by using creative mental tools to conquer these psychological challenges.
Dr. Priti Kothari is a Boca Raton, Fla. psychiatrist in private practice. She is also the medical director for Dr Kahlil Shillingford’s Bariatric Surgery Program. She assists in psychological evaluations pre bariatric and offers support groups with psychological tools to aid patients.