Well, how did you do? One of the biggest "foodie" holidays of the year just passed us by, which can be a MAJOR trigger for those who struggle with food addiction. If you're one of the lucky few, who is able to look back over the holiday proudly, and say "there is nothing I would have changed," then congratulations! I am genuinely interested in reading your comments below about what worked for you; did you remove yourself from the triggering environments, distract yourself by playing a card game or talking with another family member trying to do the same, did you re-read your bariatric surgery "why's," to reinforce your motivation that day, or was there something else that worked to keep you on track?
"It's not how we fall. It's how we get back up again." - Patrick Ness
For those of you who are shaking your head in regret this morning, you are not alone. There are thousands of other WLS patients who struggled to stay on track over the holidays. The biggest struggle I've hear throughout the years is that the motivation is dented, diluted, or zapped when one first gets off track from their plan.
There is a lot of psychology behind this. Part of the magic in resolutions is their novelty: an implicit contract within the self that says "this will be unlike anything I've ever done before." When we relapse (or "slip" as I prefer to call it), the self goes "oh wait a minute, I know how this goes, maybe this is no different than before, who am I to think I could do this, I have no willpower, etc., etc., etc."
So the idea is to find a new plan. It can be bits and bobs of the one you had before, but it needs to have that new car smell again to have longevity. I am including an excerpt of an earlier article I wrote about how to do just that:
What do we do when we fall from grace? The research on relapse (with any addiction; food, drugs, alcohol) is that recidivism is the rule not the exception. So why do we get so down on ourselves when we fall short of our goals? Why is it so hard to get back on the horse with the same vigor we had when we started? And how do we give ourselves a renewed sense of hope and motivation for change once we've fallen?
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
Everyone does well out of the gates. We all impress ourselves when we start, what we believe to be, a new lifestyle change. However, "out of the gates," can mean different things for different people; for some it is two months, for others (usually depending on how strong the addiction or habit is) it can be two minutes.
But what do we do when we fall from grace? The research on relapse (with any addiction; food, drugs, alcohol) is that recidivism is the rule not the exception. So why do we get so down on ourselves when we fall short of our goals? Why is it so hard to get back on the horse with the same vigor we had when we started? And how do we give ourselves a renewed sense of hope and motivation for change once we've fallen?
One magical ingredient in the secret sauce (and one of many concepts I talk about in my book and my wls courses) that is lifestyle change is the novelty effect. The new plan to quit something or change a bad habit is something unlike we have ever done before, so we hope that we can achieve something we have never done before. The problem is that the moment we slip, that novelty loses its magic - and each time we start over, it loses its power to give us hope.
So the solution is to cultivate more novelty. Our ability to continually grow and change is largely limited by our creativity. The more creative we become, the easier it is to take a different approach to change. To open a window when life seems to shut the door.
In other words- what I am telling you, is that the only secret to long term weight loss maintenance is the knowledge that there isn't only one secret. There is no ONE diet that will forever change someone. Eventually people get tired of eating bacon and eggs every meal on Atkins, or grapefruit, or cabbage soup- but the thread they all share is their novelty. This is why all of them can work initially.
Even as powerful as weight loss surgery is- people still find that they start to plateau or even gain the weight back if they aren't simultaneously addressing the behavioral and psychological factors that got them there in the first place. They too, must also continuously be creative about renewing one self throughout their lifetime.
So the following is for all of you who are struggling today. Those that feel they have lost their way and perhaps feel disenchanted or disappointed. Below is a recovery "map" I created a long time ago for my clients, some struggling with substance abuse, others with food. It all works the same. Print it out, or copy and paste it in the notes section of your phone and take 20 minutes to fill it out with the things that are personally meaningful for you. This is not THE answer to long term recovery from addiction, but it is a fresh approach for many who feel stale at the moment:
- Some ceremony to signal a renewed sense of hope and a fresh start. One client trying to recover from substance abuse, buried all of his wine and liquor bottles in his yard. Another client had a "garbage party" with her kiddos, and they loved smashing all the processed foods they had in their pantry and throwing them in the trash.
list all of the things that get you into trouble (being at a bbq, wanting to Celebrate something, holidays, 7-10pm at night, date night, etc)
Coping Skills (what gets you through the crave waves)
These are the behaviors that you do INSTEAD of the addictive behavior. Extra credit if you are able to make a coping skill for each trigger listed above.
Higher Desires/Vision of Self
when you let go of your attachment to food and all the self loathing, mental, and physical heaviness it brings- what are you freeing your life up for? will you write a book? will you do more outdoor activities with your kids? do you want to resume an activity you once loved as a child? Is there a role model that inspires you that has done what you want to do?
Why are you doing this in the first place? These are the things that are hard to keep in mind when our reptilian mid brain (see last article) is at the wheel. What is personally meaningful? Does it age you? Does it make you feel out of control? Do you dread going on airplanes because you know you'll need an extender? does it prevent you from going to amusement parks with your kiddos?
Spirituality (religion gets us into heaven, spirituality gets us out of hell)
All addiction is what disconnects us from our deeper self and edges us further and further away from God (or whatever you like to call it) and our deeper spirituality. Spirituality is what allows us to move into the unknown, be comfortable with discomfort, and have faith that everything will be ok. It can include a gratitude practice, volunteering, play, aligning one self with nature, connecting with a spiritual e newsletter (mind body green, daily om, etc), generosity, etc.
Daily Recovery Ritual (symbolic gesture to self every day that we are consciously devoting time to our recovery)
What are the things you can do daily to symbolize to yourself that today is a new day? Keep it realistic or you won't do it. Vitamins, meditation, lemon Water, supplements, self care, reaching out to a loved one, exercise, etc.
What will you do for yourself if there is a certain period of time reached where you meet your goals? Will you get a massage at the end of every month? Will you plan a vacation after three months of solid goal hitting? Will you reward yourself with one day per week of going to the movies in the middle of the day and playing hooky if you're on the straight and narrow for five days?
This is your "what." What are you doing daily to ensure that you are in alignment with your goals? Are you reading something fresh all the time? Do you make a timeline of your addiction and how it has affected your life? Do you go to local support meetings each week? Do you keep in touch with an online community? Do you make sure to give yourself small breaks while with the kids every day? Do you have a self care space set up in your house? Do you talk to a partner about how to change behaviors of theirs that might be hindering your efforts? can they get a mini fridge? Do you do acupuncture to balance your chi? Do you do yoga to manage your depression? Do you find a therapist?
Recovery Resources (try to hit one each morning)
what resources are in your pocket when you are feeling weak? bariatricpal.com? WLS journeys on Instagram? The Fix, Reddit, unique blogs documenting their weight loss journey, wls and vsg searches on Pinterest, etc.
Good luck on your fresh start!
Need extra motivation? Use code "CYBERSALE" to get my course: Full From Within Ultimate Psychological Tools for WLS patients half off today only, or try my FFW mini for free.