Start Spreading the News
By Heidi R. Cherwony, PsyD
People aretalking…the word has spread that weightloss surgery is the solution that many people have been searching for. Although bariatric surgery is a life-changing event, the surgery is viewed by healthcare professionals as a medical tool to weightloss rather than a long-term solution. So what happens once the euphoria of the weight loss and the surgery wears off and the stress and the fast pace of our daily lives sets back in?
Through my experience working with patients recovering from eating disorders and other addictions, I quickly became aware of the patterns many patients seemed to incur. When patients are doing “well” and progressing in their recovery, they are very eager to be at their follow-up appointments, share their good news and receive a pat on the back. Sound familiar? But what about the times when recovery is not as smooth as we would like? Have there been those instances where you have felt ashamed or embarrassed to see your healthcare team? Have you intentionally forgotten to show up for or schedule your follow-up appointments? Are you embarrassed to reach out for help?
You are not alone! Shame is a common experience reported by many patients during support groups. These feelings, however, may often result in a patient’s noncompliance with his or her aftercare program. Approximately two years post-op, many patients seem to return to unhealthy eating patterns, other addictive behaviors, depression and low self-esteem. If you are looking for long term success, it is imperative that you engage in a supportive and long-term aftercare plan that incorporates nutrition, exercise and psychological balance. So if you have taken a step off your aftercare plan, consider this and start spreadingthe news:
It is not too late! Taking two steps forward and one step back is a natural part of the process. As psychologists, we understand that there is no such thing as a “perfect” recovery. The shame and embarrassment that you may have experienced is normal. We expect that when you go through this dramatic life altering event, you will struggle. You must realize that you are human. Accordingly, we have set up a comprehensive aftercare support plan for you in anticipation of the highs and lows you will encounter for years down the line.
Understanding that we want to help you maintain long-term success, what can you do? First,talk to your doctors and team about your struggles and allow them to use their knowledge and expertise to help you.
Second, it is never too late to rejoin support groups and schedule time to meet with your bariatric psychologist. And last but not least, there is more news to spread: Get in the practice of exercising integrity with your families and friends.
I consider honesty to be the most integral component of any recovery program. My concern with your feelings of shame is that these feelings could possibly translate into secrecy and deceptive behaviors that may keep people at a distance and undermine your recovery. Therefore, reaching out to others is not only a means of breaking the cycle of shame, but those people who care about you will also gain more respect for you. You may just be surprised to find your greatest support has been right in front of you all along.