It’s a mind-fuck: Body image after WLS.

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You know how Facebook will occasionally show you memories of this day from years past? I’m always a little shocked when I see old photos of myself now. I almost don’t recognize myself sometimes. (above picture 2015 vs 2018. I wasn’t even at my heaviest there)

When I was big I never felt that big, not really. I knew I was in reality, but I just didn’t feel that way. I don’t know if you can chalk it up to denial or that I just didn’t have any health issues yet aside from the general lack of fitness, but the fact remains that I never felt as big as I look/looked in photos.

Fast forward to now and I have fallen into a funk. I have long stretches of time where I actively feel fat. I know I’ve lost 100 lbs and am significantly smaller than I once was. I’m stronger, fitter, and more athletic than I’ve ever been. I’m enjoying what my body can do now. I’m told by multiple people/coworkers/family/friends time and time again how good I look, how thin I look, how proud they are of me, etc. But it’s still there in the back of my brain. It’s a mind-fuck. It might be related to the loose skin, or that I thought that my rolls would disappear vs just shrink and stay roll-like. I don’t know. I fantasize about plastic surgery while playing with my rolls of loose skin in the mirror, shaping them to how I think I’d like to look.

Body image issues are very common in the weight loss surgery community. Distorted body image involves a preoccupation with overall body mass. Body dysmorphic disorder involves obsession focusing on a specific part or feature of ones body. Both are common. In the WLS community distorted body image happens more often than BDD however. It can stem from being “invisible” before and then suddenly thrust into the limelight, so to speak, after the weight loss. Feelings of not being happy with our bodies before just continue and just evolve after.

Weight loss is not a magic pill that fixes everything. It definitely helps the overall physical health, but mental health is important too. The mindset that “everything was easier when I was fat” is a common thread and is a precursor for self-sabotage. Recognizing that one is experiencing these kinds of thoughts and feelings is an important first step. I will admit here that I’ve found myself letting old bad eating habits sneak back in. I don’t want to gain weight. I don’t feel that “everything was easier when I was fat”, but I’m still self-sabotaging, either consciously or unconsciously, and it needs to stop.

There can be a disconnect between the brain and body when it comes to self-perception. Seeing and believing aren’t always automatic. It takes time. Here are some recommendations I found from an expert on the psychological adjustments associated with weight loss surgery:

  • It is important for anyone struggling with body image issues to seek help as soon as they can. Whether it’s BDD, body image distortion, or body image adjustment, getting help will allow the sufferer to not feel alone in their struggle.
  • See a professional to assess where you are on the body image spectrum. Don’t self-diagnose.
  • Seeking professional help to minimize self-sabotage behavior is a must. A clinician with experience in bariatrics and cognitive-behavioral therapy can be a tremendous ally.
  • Be aware of conditional value; “As long as I look a certain way, I am worthy of other people’s love and acceptance.”
  • In therapy, work on learning to accept compliments and handling comments from others.
  • Anyone who has a history of weight-related mistreatment and abuse are more likely to have body image concerns.
  • Monitor your own tendency to obsess or be preoccupied with anything related to your body image. You need to be kind to your body.
  • Monitor any self-critical behavior. The best anti-bully campaign you can be a part of is giving yourself positive words that are like nutrition for your soul.
  • Attaining and maintaining self-acceptance at all stages of the weight loss journey is key. Without self-acceptance, sabotage will result.
  • If you don’t reinforce you’re worth it, you’re not going to sustain it (your health).

I’m slowly working on my brain, now that my body is pretty much at status quo. It needs to play catch-up. I’m not beating myself up too badly but at the same time I think I need to be snapped back to reality a bit. A bit of tough love maybe? I don’t know. But then I get defensive and shut down typically. Just ask the husband. Oh well. Work in progess…

“Knowing there’s a trap is the first step in evading it” -Frank Herbert

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Let’s play catch-up!

So the other day I realized that it’s been almost 2 months since I posted. I thought I should remedy this and do a catch-up post. Life has been a bit crazy as of late.

The girls graduated Kindergarten in May. There was a ceremony, group singing, tiny processional with Pomp and Circumstance playing in the background. It was adorable. As part of the ceremony each kid got up and said what they wanted to be when they grow up. Apparently I have a future teacher and gymnastics instructor on my hands. Also Zoe has turned into a tiny Goth. Black is now her favorite color and she’ll wear it at any opportunity. The skeleton dress featured above is her current go-to. I’m not upset by this in the least as a reformed wanna-be Goth. Phoebe is still, however, all about the pink.

One of my friends and I will be celebrating 25 years of friendship this fall. She’ll be in Paris (oo-la-la!) doing a master’s program for the next year so we decided to commemorate this not so milestone early and get tattoos! She was also the one I got my very first tattoo with 6 years ago. This was her second and third, my fifth. They’re addicting. I’ve warned you. I’m already planning my next one.

We got nearly matching tattoos of books with the neverland stars (because we never want to grow up!) in a bit of galaxy dust. We’re both huge book nerds. She also got a white tattoo on her wrist of the Leo constellation and the words “I am”. I love how they turned out. As a side note, Jessie is the only person I’ve ever heard of that fell asleep during a tattoo! Quiet snoring and all. I shouldn’t really be surprised though. Her sleep/work schedule is the stuff of nightmares (if one could find time to actually sleep).

Dad joined me and the girls for the Fourth of July. We went to Stricker’s Grove. It’s a locally owned tiny amusement park of sorts. You drive out to the middle of nowhere: farm, farm, farm, and then suddenly tiny roller coasters! They have festival style rides, food stuffs, a mini arcade, and then fireworks later on. It’s a great time.

This year the girls were big enough to get on a good amount of the rides by themselves, but not all of them. We were both very pleasantly surprised how well we fit into the tiny rides with them. Sometimes we forget that we’re no longer in our “fluffy” bodies, constantly worried we’re not going to fit in something or will get stuck if we try. Though I will admit that it was very comical watching Dad get in and out of that Dumbo ride with Zoe. If you’re local to Cincinnati I highly recommend going to Stricker’s Grove for the Fourth, or any time really. Their fireworks display is one of the best I’ve seen, and you’re less than a football field length away from where they set them off so you’re up close and personal. It’s awesome.

Over the course of the 2 months I’ve apparently been MIA Dad has sold his condo, bought and moved into a townhouse less than 10 minutes from us, and has had my childhood home on the market for nearly a month now. He retired and started a new part-time job somewhere else, starting up an entirely new wholesale parts program. And as if that isn’t enough he’s now picking the girls up from summer camp Friday afternoons and keeping them till we get off work. He’ll continue this once school starts up again.

My hair is ever evolving, as you probably can tell by now. I think my hair is a different color/shade in nearly every picture above. I’ve dyed it at least twice in the last 2 months, I think. Directly above is my latest. Dark pink and purple roots, with lighter pink on the rest. I love fun hair. It makes me happy. Life is too short not to have fun hair. And if you don’t like whatever you do, you can always bleach and start again. After all, it’s only hair!

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I’ve noticed as of late that I’m letting myself get too dehydrated. For those of us in the post-op weight loss surgery world that is a very easy thing to do unfortunately. We can only drink so much at a time, and we’re not allowed to drink 30 minutes before or after a meal. Plus to get the correct protein intake you really have to eat 5-6 times a day. This doesn’t leave much time leftover for drinking of the water.

I’ve talked before about my migraines. One of my triggers is being dehydrated. I’ve always been chronically dehydrated, but as of late it’s gotten worse and hence my migraines have gotten worse in frequency and strength. Being chronically dehydrated kinda goes hand in hand with working in the OR too. You can’t really have a drink readily available during a surgery. Plus the whole not being able to pee at a moment’s notice thing really discourages drinking a whole lot during the day. So, I’ve made it my current personal goal to be better about reaching my fluid goals. I bought this huge-ass water bottle to that end. According to the label it holds 80 ounces. Eventually I might actually measure it. I feel like it probably holds more. My goal is to drink one of these a day. I’ve been doing it for 4 days and have yet to get there, but I’m doing a lot better than I was at least.

I’ve officially signed up for the Morgan’s Mud Gauntlet for Labor Day. It’s a mini tough mudder. 5K through wooded trails and creeks, with 35 obstacles and mud pits and such. Plus camping the night before! I’m just a tad excited. It’s going to be so much fun! My future sister-in-law is going to sign up to do it with me. I’ve also compiled a list of races for the next year for Dad and I to do. We have yet to whittle it down and decide which ones we’re actually going to do though.

So that’s the last 2 months in a very abbreviated nutshell. I’ll try not to let it go so long next time.