Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Preparing for life after bariatric surgery

Life before bariatric surgery was very different. The opportunity to eat whatever, whenever didn't have the tag attached to it of "how's that going to go down." Each of us has to find the right time to begin and not look back from the past poor decisions.  Establishing good habits in the here and now will lead you to a successful journey, no matter where you are in that journey. The decision to make good food choices needs to be motivated by a desire to be <healthier, thinner, more energetic.> This is an exercise in <insert your reasons here> defining your goals as realistic. It's important to start simply with a few good habits than trying to take on a list of new tasks all at once.  Our a level of commitment to a new program can be determined by so many factors, and  our collateral influences (support systems) and environment play a role in our ability to succeed. Set yourself up for success by recognizing your personal readiness to commit to well defined, specific goals.

Goal setting has to be realistic, meaning it has to work for you. It's not practical to make a goal that you will "give up <ice cream, soda, potato chips, etc.> right now" without considering your readiness to commit to that goal.  Practical goal setting makes goals attainable. I will use sodas as an example because it's an easy target. The "liquid candy" of sodas is most often a complex habit developed over time; it's a psychological dependency established on sugar and/caffeine that is often easier to move away from if you allow yourself to minimize usage over time. Cold turkey doesn't always cut it. A realistic goal would be to state, "I will reduce my soda intake from 5-6 cans per day to 2-3 cans per day."  Once you've reached the reduction rate established, you can revise the goal to something more like this, "I will reduce my soda consumption from 1-2 cans per day, to 1 can 2-3 days per week." This sets up a measure of success that is clear, quantitative, and realistic.

There are several key tenets of post-bariatric life that will ensure your success rate. Our busy lives often have us being pulled in multiple directions at one time. Grasping the healthy habit of slow eating is so important. A bite is about the size of a dime. <I heard you gasp...> Yes, a bite should be about the size of a dime, ok maybe at most a quarter.  How about chewing?  My general rule has been to chew, chew, chew, until you've chewed about 25-30 times before you swallow.  Then wait until you feel the food hit your stomach. After 15-20 minutes of practicing these small bites, ask yourself, "Do I feel full? Am I still hungry?" Then take another bite.

Next up, let's talk about drinking.  We also must be mindful of taking it slow when it comes to liquids.  Learning to slip, not chug our liquids is very important to keeping the body hydrated at a constant rate while not stretching your pouch by filling it up like a water balloon. If you hear yourself gulp, you've probably taken in too much.  About 1/2 ounce to one ounce of liquid is gentle enough for the pouch to process at a time.  I'm sure you've heard by now, soda is a "no-no."  I hate to wag a finger, because I've pushed the limits on this one too, but it's really a habit that needs to be broken before you undergo surgery. The success in achieveing these small goals will help you moving forward with your weight loss journey and pre-surgical weight loss requirements.

There are several other important post-bariatric living principles that patients should work on becoming acclimated to for life long success. In my efforts to manage this blog more consistently, I will address awareness of emotional triggers and alternative, healthy behaviors to engage in when you feel <insert emotion here> due to <specific life stressors.> If you're sick of me putting things in <less than/greater than> signs, you might be concentrating on the wrong issues. That's a topic for another blog, because if you're overwhelmed by small issues like that, we might have bigger problems to discuss.

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