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Did You Go Through Surgery Seeking 'Normal'

By Heidi R. Cherwony, PsyD


At least 60% of my patients tell me at one time or another that they just want to be “normal,” just like everyone else. So let’s talk about “normal.” On a biological level, our bodies are built for survival. When we diet and starve ourselves, our bodies learn to hold on to the fat to prepare for being deprived once again. In other words, your body has worked well to store food to protect you from starvation. Psychologically, you are a survivor. You have used your body to either protect your mind or as a defense to the stress or trauma of life. Have you ever thought that perhaps your bodies have just acted in the most normal of ways to protect you?
Being skinny does not make you ‘normal’. Nor does it make you happy, rich or satisfied. What makes you feel normal is within you. Our self-esteem is a measure of how we feel about ourselves. However, every time we compare ourselves to the person next to us, we are really criticizing ourselves and hurting our esteem. The irony is that person may in fact be worse off than we are.
The majority of people who are at a healthy weight range are not that way because they eat poorly. They are constantly working at their weight in the foods that they choose and in their activity. As a comparison, let’s look at a person who is successful at his job. This person worked hard his whole life to be where he is at now. He went to school, graduated and then worked hard for someone else and finally was able to open up his own company. Even then, this individual continues to work hard in order to continue being successful. It is no different with weight. In time your weight and eating habits will start to feel more normal but you cannot erase years of unhealthy habits with one day in surgery. In fact, it would be abnormal to wake up one day and all of a sudden your habits from the day before are no longer a part of you. Success in any area requires hard work, good choices, mistakes and practice. Although the success of others may appear to come naturally, whether in business, relationships or in health, everyone has to work to be successful.
Life is complex with its ups and downs. We all face challenges, experience loss as well as opportunity for victories. No one lives a “perfect” life. Look back at your life before surgery and now compare that to where you are now and just how much you have accomplished. Abnormal is to breeze through the lifestyle changes after surgery. Think of all your emotions that you are getting in touch with. Think about what makes you excited, scared, angry and alone. Those feelings are normal.