Thursday, November 3, 2011

How anxiety and stress effect the bariatric patient

Our bodies bare the impact of the stress in our lives.  How'd you get fat?  You used food to comfort you, most likely, when life seemed to get our of hand.  It's not uncommon for stress to originate in our core, and your stomach/pouch is affected just as it was before you had surgery.  Every felt sick to your stomach in a situation that induced stress and anxiety?  Uncontrollable elements of our lives often present themselves, and our ability to cope with these stressful situations in a constructively focused and positive way can help us to maintain weight loss.

Stress effects our whole self, body, mood and behavior.  Recognize the symptoms on the body: headaches, memory problems, constant worry, muscle tension, pain, diarrhea or constipation, tightness in the chest, rapid heart beat, upset stomach, sleep issues, and change in sex drive are common. Your mood can be effected by experiencing anxiety, sense of being overwhelmed, lack of focus and motivation, irritability, anger, depression, sadness, and restlessness.  Changes in behavior are commonly seen in angry outbursts, eating patterns, drug and alcohol use, tobacco use, marijuana use or abuse of prescription drugs, and social withdrawal.

Each person has unique internal and external stress triggers.  External factors are generally life events out of our control, involve other people or elements of uncertainty, can be related to work, home, relationships, financial factors, children, family, overextending yourself, or caring for ailing loved ones.  Internal factors are how we cope with the external situations, negative self talk, unrealistic expectations (of self or others), inability to accept uncertainty, perfectionism, and lack of assertiveness.  Building your positive internal dialogue, having self confidence, and a sense of well-being can help you to achieve a better outlook.

Learning steps to manage your stress symptoms and having a reliable support structure in your life can help you understand and recognize these symptoms.  Your ability to tolerate stress symptoms can be maximized when you have a solid support structure to turn to in times of need.  If you isolate yourself from others, you become more vulnerable to the negative impacts of stress.  Regain control of your environment.  Have you forgotten the rules your surgeon gave you in the educational seminars you went to?  Take another educational class, such at the Bariatric Guru's Breakthrough Challenge, find a qualified mental health professional for therapy, find a friend who can meet with you regularly to check in and participate in a healthy activity with you.

Address your emotions in a positive way through intensive therapy, working through your anger about how others now see the "new you" is part of the overall process.  You've probably gained a lot of confidence in how you look, but have you address how you feel about society's views of obese persons?  Some people internalize this anger, ignore it, and then implode with negative feelings and emotions toward their friends and loved ones for recognizing their success.  The internal backlash of positive attention are sometimes reflected in self-defeating behaviors, such as eating foods that are not the most healthy choices or drinking alcohol just because you can.  You know it's not good for you, but you do it anyway even though your surgeon told you not to (for the first year, but realize, you've changed your insides - you must take control of your actions and not stress your system by using alcohol in excess = alcohol in excess = lowered inhibitions = ability to eat more = negative thoughts and feelings about yourself, and possibly, engaging in activities you wouldn't normally engage in with possible regrets.)

Examine your outlook on life.  Congratulate yourself on the success you have had in the past, and prepare yourself for success in the future.  Having an optimistic attitude will improve your overall sense of self so that you can embrace the challenges ahead and take the bull by the horns.  You ultimately have control of your life and you CAN make the changes necessary to be successful again.  Deal with the negativity by facing it, participate in activities such as yoga, pilates, or tai chi that can help you to refocus your energy in your core. Find activities that soothe you that do not involve food.  Read or listen to books on tape, education and entertain yourself so that you are not thinking about the addictive substance: food.

Plan your mealtimes and feel confident about being prepared for social situations.  If you know a certain group of friends will want to dine out, plan ahead!  Check out the restaurant, or carefully peruse the menu when you arrive to find smaller plates of healthy options.  Eating out can sometimes invoke anxiety in post-operative bariatric patients.  Get into the healthy habit of sharing.  Don't be shy about ordering an appetizer or soup for an entree.  Ignore the funny looks or odd questions you might get from wait staff when you ask for a glass of ice and soup as an entree, or politely tell them, "Yes, that is ALL I'll be having this evening, thank you."

Analyze the situation, assess the positive, find hope and handle the stressful situation with grace, kindness and compassion.  Recovery from addiction, and yes, this is a life-long journey in the recovery from food addiction, will always be a part of who you are.  You will have times where you want to eat the whole bowl of potato salad this is seven year old me, stating to my mom if I didn't have a granny or a momma, that's what I'd do... Now, I don't eat it because I love myself and I want to be happy, healthy, and confident I can be mentally strong each day in my recovery.  We all have our story, we all should be heard, and we should all love ourselves enough to recognize when our stress and anxiety levels have gotten out of control.  Reach out to those who are there to hold you up, and keep moving forward with a healthy, happy heart.

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