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The Key to Weight Loss Success - Part 2

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In Part 1 of this article, I introduced the idea that positive self-esteem is the key to weight loss success. In Part 2, I’ll talk about why so many obese people have a negative self-esteem

Now let’s have a quick look at how we came to be such sorry specimens. Any psychologist or sociologist will tell you that some of the most troubling factors contributing to low or negative self-esteem (on the levels of individual people as well as the aggregate of citizens called American society) are a person’s physical appearance, weight, intelligence and peer pressure. Very often all four of those factors are tightly intertwined. In an elementary school cafeteria, Jane, an obese girl with a tray piled high with food winces at her classmates’ teasing. Unable to find a friendly place to eat her lunch, she sits down alone and cries at the sound of other kids’ voices: “Fatso!” One of the school bullies shoves Jane’s lunch onto the floor and laughs, “You didn’t need that food, Fatty!” Jane heads to the lavatory to cry in private. She hides in a stall and hears the popular girls chanting, “Fatty Fatty, two by four, can’t fit through the bathroom door!” I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that Jane’s name is actually spelled Jean, and that the school cafeteria scene above lives in my distant memory. Even when I don’t consciously think about that unhappy incident, it and many others like it formed my beliefs and feelings about myself a long, long time ago. Sometimes I feel that I’ll never get them all weeded out of me. In my case, that ancient stew of negative self-esteem flavored my life with some miserable symptoms: hypersensitivity to criticism, perfectionism, guilt, shame, irritability, a defensive attitude, a sense of defeat and insignificance, and a persistent, low-grade “fever” of dissatisfaction with myself, my life, and everybody else.

And yet, despite all that, at age 62 I can call myself a success, not just at weight management but at a host of other things. No, car repair is not one of those things, but on the whole I’m doing pretty well. I have my husband, my friends, and my own determination to thank for that. If I can turn myself around, you can do the same for you.

Low self-esteem is not something that gets fixed overnight, and having bariatric surgery is not the cure. Choosing surgery is a wonderful first step, but it’s not the end of the journey. So please, be kind to yourself! I’m not talking kind in the sense of indulgence but in the sense of a loving caretaker who understands that you’re weak and believes that one day you’ll be strong.


Psychologists say that self-esteem is linked to a sense of competence – the awareness that you have the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to accomplish a task. It’s unlikely that you’re going to start your weight loss journey with a strong sense of competence regarding weight loss. In fact, it’s quite likely that your self-esteem in that area is torn down and tattered from all the diet and weight battles you’ve fought and lost in the past. No matter how much information you’ve gained from your pre-op education, you don’t yet have a history of weight loss success to buoy you along.

So how do you even begin to feel good about your ability to make the lifestyle changes required for weight loss - make good food choices, control portions, take tiny bites, avoid grazing and so on? I’ll adapt the take tiny bites strategy to this effort. You tackle the weight loss project one tiny bite at a time. You repeat the effective actions of making good food choices, controlling portions, taking tiny bites and avoiding grazing over and over again until you’ve learned how to do it with less effort and more enjoyment. You seek and acquire the knowledge, skills and resources to help you succeed. You seek assistance from your surgeon, your support group, your family and friends. All this work may never become fun for you, but in my case, weight loss made it all worthwhile.


Does the importance of positive self-esteem mean that you’re doomed to failure if your self-esteem isn’t already strong on the day of your bariatric surgery? Certainly not. If you take on the challenge of a weight loss winner’s lifestyle one tiny bite at a time, your WLS journey can actually help you increase your overall self-esteem while decreasing your weight. Each step you take, each new behavior, each pound you lose, will prove to you how capable and worthy you truly are.

From time to time, you may have to ignore or silence the voice of self-doubt. I like the way my friend Lisa counsels self-doubters. She says, simply and firmly, “You can do this.” So when your inner Doubting Thomas (or Thomasina) whispers (or shouts), “Forget it! No way! Lost cause!” take a deep breath and tell her “I can do this. I will do this.” Eventually you’ll turn your eating behavior around, reach your weight loss goal, and finally feel proud of what you’ve accomplished.

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