Originally published July 9, 2005, in Our Town for the Tracy Press.
It’s been about 4½ months since I had gastric-bypass surgery, and I have a confession to make: I’m not perfect.Sure, you might say that nobody is perfect and that it’s no big deal. But when it comes to weight loss, I think a lot of us obsess with being perfect. And I also think that’s why most diets fail.
When dieting, many of us classify our behavior as “good” or “bad.” If we order the grilled-chicken salad with fat-free dressing (on the side, of course), we’re good. But if we instead choose the fried-chicken salad with ranch, or — heaven forbid — order dessert, we label ourselves as being bad.Often, one “bad” meal is blamed for throwing us off the wagon, and we end up on a bender of sorts. We stop watching our portions, we skip the gym, we stop asking for nonfat milk in our morning lattes. After all, if we were bad at lunch on Monday, how could we ever make up for it?With weight-loss surgery, perfectionism is moot. Everyone has a different experience with gastric bypass. And depending on where surgery is performed, rules for each patient may vary as well. But that doesn’t mean that the perfectionist attitude is miraculously removed during surgery. If anything, I think it can be made worse.
Within the WLS community, perfectionism is pervasive.On online message boards, I’ve seen people be chastised for eating a slice of pizza or carbohydrates or desserts. It’s not because people who’ve had surgery are mean. If anything, the WLS community is filled with people who take it upon themselves to help others on the same journey. But that also means that they can take it a little personally when they hear of someone eating things they think should be off-limits.
For example, before I had surgery, doctors drilled into my head that I should stay away from rice and pasta forever. But I know other patients who had doctors tell them pasta would be fine after three months, and rice would be allowed after six.I hear some of these patients telling me about trying rice and getting sick, and I cringe inside. After sitting through numerous nutrition classes, I can’t imagine why on earth any bypass patient would even try rice. But I don’t say anything, because I know there are others out there who have no trouble tolerating it.
And whenever I catch myself feeling superior to other bypass patients, which isn’t often, I remind myself that I do things that others wouldn’t approve of as well.
So, here are my confessions:
I don’t exercise enoughI’m really good about exercising twice a week, whether it’s at home or at the gym. And I make sure I keep active on the weekend, even if it’s just walking quickly around the mall. But my doctors want me exercising at least an hour a day, six days a week. Since surgery, I’ve met that goal for a total of three weeks.
I’m terrible about taking my vitaminsI don’t know when it happened, but I’ve fallen off the wagon with my vitamins. I think I might have taken an iron pill last week, but I don’t really remember. This came to mind over this weekend because I discovered a batch of nasty bruises appearing all over.
I eat too fastEating too fast leads to eating too much, and that could stretch out my pouch. Eating slowly is the hardest thing for me to do. But I work very hard to pay attention when eating. I also pay attention to how I feel after eating. If I feel particularly good after a meal, I’ll make note of what I ate, how long I spent eating and approximately how much I ate. And I’ll try to mimic that experience again. If I feel bad after eating, I’ll take the same notes.
I have tested my boundariesI have tried — and liked — Domino’s crispy thin-crust pizza. I have enjoyed a glass of white wine a few times since surgery. I have tried a bite of cookie and tiramisu. And I’m not sorry about it one bit. I’ve been very careful not to overindulge in sweets — my Achilles’ heel before surgery — and I realize that every time I try something with sugar in it, I could have a bad reaction. But I fear discovering that sugar doesn’t bother me at all and feeling able to eat as much as I want.
I don’t confess these things to garner sympathy or support. I do so because I think it’s important to point out that we are all human. Having gastric-bypass surgery did not give me superhuman willpower. All it has done is provide me with a little more strength. As I’ve said many times, it’s only a tool, not a cure.