Thursday, June 21, 2012

Invincible Thinking

I'm sure we all wished we had super powers at some point in our lives where we felt out of control or we wanted to know what was going to happen. While the daydream of not being susceptible to ordinary recourse, reality is that we must be accountable in our daily lives, be it to our bodies in the form of calories, fat, sugar, carbohydrates, alcohol ingested, to our families, to our job and careers, but most of all, to ourselves.

Sometimes, the hardest person to tell the truth to is you.  The blinders go up, the problem is ignored and those few pounds, as some point, become 20, 30, 50, 100 or more.  How is it we came to this point where we lost accountability, lost sight, ignored a problem for so long that it became an epidemic?  There are many reasons I could postulate on how the media and government have encouraged an obesity epidemic, but truth be told, the responsibility lies within each of us. At some point, the choice was ours to continue to do things we new were not helping. 

Invincible thinking is often associated with severe psychiatric disorders, but anyone who has played video games has engaged in the idea that it would be pretty cool to have the ability to fly, x-ray vision, 9 lives... Do we engage in invincible thinking to perpetuate our obesity? Are we expecting that 5,000 calorie meal to not become fat on our bodies? Do we selectively ignore the calorie latent meal or do we eat in ignorance to the content of our meals?  Or is it a combination of both? 

And then there's alcohol.  Let me draw the picture for you.  I'll speak to the post ops of Gastric By-Pass and Vertical Sleeve surgeries first, these are the most commonly done that change the integral functionality of your organs. (While this information does apply to LapBand as well, the process of absorption of alcohol is not compromised, essentially your body stays the same, you don't get drunk as fast as someone with the former procedures because the stomach changed, just the amount the stomach can hold at one time. However, the same applies here...) As obese and formerly obese people, we are more susceptible to cirrhosis of the liver due to fatty liver disease or over-working of the liver from having processed large amounts of fatty foods over years of fat accumulation. When you add alcohol into the mix, time speeds up, processing of the alcohol must occur more quickly, and BOOM, there's a blackout. 

Kidney functioning becomes more impaired more quickly because the body is absorbing the alcohol at a faster rate. It's like your body on speed, moving quickly through those liquid libations and aging your liver and kidney much more quickly than the ordinary person.

Now, the real question is why is it that someone rarely or never drank before weight loss surgery would suddenly become a drinker?  Consider the changes occurring in self concept.  A formerly obese, shy person suddenly is receiving attention, positive praise and attraction from their preferred or the opposite sex.  The need to communicate but the anxiety of communication is easier with a few drinks. It's simple, alcohol makes coping with reality easier.  It makes you feel good.  It's a drug that aids in one's ability to deal with inhibition.

The trouble with that is if you aren't in control and the alcohol is, who knows what could happen.  The invincible thinking may start with the first sip, and the last sip may not be remembered until you wake up in the ditch. And by ditch, I mean an actual ditch, a hideous hangover, or worse, in the hospital waking up days later, not know what exactly happened. (This is not a person account but rather, a worse case scenario.)

Scary stuff. Again, I can't speak from personal experience.  Alcohol is not something I have struggled with pre or post op.  The moment I realized if I drank alcohol I could eat whatever I wanted as a post-op, I got scared. When I spoke to my surgeon about this, I got an answer that I refused, his mistake to tell a mental health counselor that it's okay to have a few drinks.... tsk. tsk.  There has to be an explanation as to why he would tell me it's okay to drink, because it my mind it's not okay to drink excessively or to the point where I am not in control.

I won't say I never, ever drink.  I never, ever drink more than one drink, and I drink less than once a month.  I can not drink red wine, the acid reflux is awful enough, and the rare occasion I drink white wine it is only one glass.  Recently, while celebrating my friend's birthday we met a very generous friend visiting from California who made it his job to buy a round of shots about every half hour.  It took a heck of a lot of convincing for me to continually refuse shots.  I would excuse myself from the pool when I saw him coming just so I didn't have to have the discussion again.  Drinkers can be pushy.

You have to develop a strong sense of self and purpose to continually refuse alcohol when you see others having a good time and enjoying themselves.  It's hard, but I continually told myself it was worth it.  We must learn to do this with food as well.  There is always something else you could be doing than grazing mindlessly on food. The empowerment comes from knowing that I was doing something good for myself.  The encouragement that you're making the right decision has to come from within.  The support won't always be there, standing up for ourselves or learning to take ourselves out of the situation of temptation is essential.  If you know you can't refuse, then make the right choice for you. Living in The Big Easy, I realized very early on that temptation would always be there, so I had to be the one in control.

So, next time you feel invincible... realize you're only invincible if you can remember what you're doing, when you're doing it. *Avoid Food Amnesia* The moment you choose to eat, drink (or smoke, or engage in casual sex or whatever your vice is), engage the stop button.  Ask yourself what's the worst think that could happen?  Are you willing to take that risk? Are you in a safe environment?

What's the benefit of this action? What's the worst thing that could happen? 

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