I’m not sure how you stumbled upon this article but I am going to reveal some truths to you regarding the internal journey after weight loss surgery (WLS).
WLS is not a “cure”; it’s a tool in our health toolbox. After we have surgery we see our body shrink and often times issues such as diabetes, sleep apnea, and high blood pressure go away. Our confidence can increase; we wear more flattering things and maybe even feel more “heard” at home or at work. I have found that the first year post-op is filled with NSVs (non-scale victories) celebrating smaller sizes, fitting in airplane seats, comfort in tying shoes, more active with family… the list goes on. However, year 2 or 3 can prove to be quite challenging and some of that has to do with the internal transformation that we discover. I’m going to talk a little about that.
Many of us wore our weight like a mask. There may have been a “safety” behind the fat, where we avoided certain things (by always focusing on our weight and body) or we hid from things (maybe intimacy or success). The mask trapped us.
Once we started losing weight- it was freeing! Liberating! The surgery didn’t free us from everything though.. some things still can keep us trapped.
I have been a counselor for many moons now; specializing in trauma. Something that I see is that when trauma occurs- there is a loss of “control”. The person who experiences trauma puts things in place to seek safety. They may avoid certain places, intimacy, avoid situations, and add protective measures to their routine. I also have seen where a person may overeat as a form of being in control, or even sabotage themselves with weight gain because they can hide and seek safety behind their body. Regardless, unhealed trauma traps us. Losing weight can be scary because then thoughts and feelings are more difficult to avoid with the loss of weight.
It makes me so sad that many of my friends look in the mirror and hate what they see. They work so hard to lose weight only to still see a reflection that truly isn’t there anymore. With the hope that the surgery would help them love themselves, they are mentally trapped because they can’t see the beautiful, sexy person they are. Surgery doesn’t take away the self-hate.
Eating our emotions
I’m guilty of this one. So many of us have struggled with eating our feelings. Feelings are scary. I’ll be honest- instead of dealing with feeling disappointed, lonely, or scared I would much rather eat cake. One thing I have found post-op is that I can’t (or shouldn’t) eat my feelings. Now what I do is identify the emotion I am feeling (it won’t last forever so I don’t need to avoid it) and find a healthy way to process it. Journal. Pray. Sing. Talk to a friend. What happens is the emotion goes away faster and then I don’t beat myself up for eating that entire cake.
Negative tape in our head
Surgery will not take away all the mean things we say to ourselves in our head. We really can be our worst “hater”. This can come from toxic people and/or trauma. Start building your positive tape. Even if it means pasting note cards all over your house telling you that you are beautiful, intelligent, a good parent, etc. That negative tape will go away once you start singing the positive.
Mental health is real. Surgery isn’t going to take away underlying depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. Many people need to engage with a professional and THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. If you were willing to add surgery to your health tool box, there should be no reason why you wouldn’t add a therapist to it as well.
Some people struggle with food addiction and surgery doesn’t take this away. Often, the addiction can “transfer” and become shopping, alcohol, drugs, sex, and still food. Weight loss may reveal that you really do have an addiction. There are so many resources out there. The freedom from the body is one thing- but freedom from addiction is life saving both physically and emotionally.
I think it’s important to talk about our internal journey. This journey is beautiful and can be even more challenging than the physical one. Surgery may reveal to us what our internal journey needs to focus on. WLS can give us a opportunity to no longer focus on our exterior and now we can make our whole selves a priority. You deserve to transform.
If you are looking for an amazing support system during your journey- check out one of the top WLS groups on FB: Bariatric Exercise & Health
If you know of someone who has had WLS or is thinking about it- I would encourage you to share this article with them ❤️