The holidays are a time for fun, family, friends, fellowship and frowns. Yes, the winter blues are real. It’s no surprise that depression increases over the winter holidays. With less sunlight providing happiness-boosting serotonin and more pressure to spend money on gifts for people you may not even like, it can be hard to remain positive. Bariatric patients have a unique challenge, as they can no longer partake in food rituals as they used to do. However, bariatric surgery gives you a second chance at life, not a life sentence. When you change your mindset and actively practice gratitude, you can learn to be grateful for your new life and not resent it.
It’s Easy to Feel Left Out
I know what it’s like to feel left out, like you somehow don’t belong and don’t measure up to everyone around you. When you grow up fat as I did, you didn’t have dates to school dances, or dates, period. You couldn’t swap clothes with your best friends because they didn’t fit you. As a bariatric patient, I often feel left out of celebrations too. I skip birthday cake and ice cream, as well as other sugary desserts. I know if I have these foods that it will make me sick, so I choose to avoid those food items. And since most holidays, events and celebrations center around food, it’s hard to avoid the feeling of being left out.
And it’s common to feel depressed after bariatric surgery. Your hormones go a little crazy as you lose weight and can increase feelings of depression. In a 2008 article on Bariatric Times, Cynthia Anderson states that the suicide rate after weight loss surgery is five times the general population. Because food is present in every social situation, many patients feel left out because they can’t participate in some way. She does recommend any depressed patients seek therapy, possibly take anti-depressants, attend support groups and get emergency assistance by calling 911 if they are having thoughts of suicide.
And people who you may not have seen in some time are there to remind you how much you can’t participate in these food events. While their intentions are good and innocent, it can sometimes be a bummer to have to explain the same thing 20 times to 20 different people, as far as what you can and can’t eat and how much better you feel. It’s nice to get compliments as we lose weight and feel and look better, but sometimes it can be overwhelming and a reminder of what all you can’t have as a bariatric patient. It can be so easy, especially around the holidays, to feel left out and even depressed over what you can’t have as a bariatric patient.
A Second Chance at Life
As a bariatric patient, being grateful for your new life can sometimes be difficult. There are restrictions, and you may have experienced side effects from surgery. Some people develop hypoglycemia or lactose intolerance after surgery. While these conditions can affect your quality of life, surgery really does give you a second chance at life. Because of your lower weight and lessened health conditions, your life expectancy is so much greater. Yes, you may have certain restrictions, but these restrictions are the reasons surgery worked for you. It’s what’s enabled you to lose weight. Your quality of life is so much better. You no longer have to be a person watching your life pass by. You can actively participate in life now.
Think of how many things you have been able to do since losing weight. Even basic things like fitting in movie theater seats and not being embarrassed to go to the doctor are things we shouldn’t take for granted. We have spent so many years of our lives sitting on the sidelines and watching life pass us by. Now that we’ve lost weight and can do more things, we get to actually live our lives. While I acknowledge that surgery may have unpleasant side effects that make certain activities harder, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
Ways to Feel Grateful for Your New Life
Feeling grateful for your new life is actually simpler than you think. You can actively practice gratitude by doing a few things. First, make a list of all of your non-scale victories. List all the things you can do now that you’ve lost weight. Include things like fitting in a bath, not having to ask for a seat belt extender, feeling beautiful for the first time in your life, buying clothes in a smaller size and anything else that you’ve been able to do since losing weight.
Second, do some comparison photos. These photos always remind me how far I’ve come and make me so proud of my progress. You can easily do them with apps on your phone. Feel free to share with the Stop Weighting, Start Doing Facebook page, and we will celebrate your progress with you!
Third, help others in need. There are always going to be people worse off than you are, and if you can reach out and help them, you’ll sprinkle feel-good vibes on yourself too. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, or donate your too-big clothes to a local women’s shelter. You’ll appreciate what you have and how far you’ve come when helping others.
Fourth, write in a gratitude journal. Being grateful for your new life means acknowledging all of the good things that happen. I have a spot in my Living Well Planner where I write down something good that happened each day. I love to review the list at the end of the month and remember all the good things that happened.
Fifth, slow down and savor your food. Yes, you may not be able to eat everything that your family is eating or as much. However, by slowing down and savoring your food, enjoying the taste and texture of the foods, you can start to appreciate all that you can have.
Sixth, start a new tradition. If you’re sad that you can’t participate in a holiday tradition because of your diet restrictions, start a new tradition that you can participate in. Maybe you run or walk a Turkey Trot 5k on Thanksgiving morning or have a back-yard football game before lunch. Maybe you can do a Thanksgiving craft with the kiddos or go on a scavenger hunt with them. Try to think of something new and fun you can do as a family that doesn’t involve food.
Seventh, don’t be bogged down in what you can’t have. Instead, make a bariatric-friendly version of your favorite desserts. They make sugar-free cake mixes and icing that you can buy at the store. Find a new bariatric-recipe that you love and try it for Thanksgiving this year. It will help you feel grateful for your new life by being able to participate in the same food traditions you are used to.
Give yourself a mental reset this Thanksgiving. Being grateful for your new life all depends on your perspective. You can dwell on the fact that you can’t have certain foods or can’t participate in certain traditions, or you can look at all the things you can have and all the activities you can do. Go back to your list of non-scale victories and be grateful for the new life that allows you to experience these things. Look at the world full of new possibilities and goals. See how far you’ve come, not how far you have left to go.
Reset your mind and be grateful for your new life. So many people aren’t given this second opportunity at life. You literally get to reinvent who you are as you lose weight. You can become any person you want to be. All you need is the right mental shift and the right attitude. You no longer have to be controlled by food and can start doing all the things you’ve always dreamed of doing. What’s on your bucket list that you weren’t able to do before? It’s time to start doing those things. You have worked so hard to get where you are. It’s time to celebrate your hard work and do all the things you’ve only dreamed of doing before.
Freedom From Food
The greatest freedom we can achieve is freedom from food. For many of us, food is our drug of choice. Yet, we need food to survive. I honestly believe that food addiction is one of the hardest to overcome. Unlike a drug addiction to heroin or cocaine or alcohol addiction, where you don’t need heroin, cocaine or alcohol to survive, you do need food. You just need the right foods. I’m not saying that drug or alcohol addiction is easy to overcome, far from it. I’m saying that food addiction presents an additional challenge since you can’t survive without food.
Bariatric surgery gives us freedom from food. We no longer have to be chained to the emotional eating that once controlled our lives. Sure, it may still sneak up on us from time-to-time, but we have developed tools to deal with our emotional eating. Things like exercising, meditating, coloring or talking to a friend. Being grateful for your new life helps you overcome this food addiction. You don’t need food to be happy. You can do other things and find your happiness within yourself.
Being Grateful for Your New Life
While there are a few things you’ll have to miss this holiday season, there are even more that you’ll get to experience. Remember how far you’ve come by listing your non-scale victories and doing comparison photos. Write in a gratitude journal daily and help the less fortunate. Bariatric surgery gives you a second chance at life, not a life sentence. Food no longer controls your life, and you have a much longer life expectancy. Don’t dwell on what you can’t have, fixate on all you can have. You are worth it. Be grateful for your new life and celebrate it today and every day.
If this article gave you some great ideas to incorporate into your life, just imagine what other amazing strategies I have for you! Share this post on social media by clicking one of the sharing buttons, and don’t forget to join my email list! You’ll be the first to get updates, access to my new products and lots of tips, inspiration and motivation to help in your bariatric surgery journey. Just for joining, I’ll send you a free eBook with the 10 Habits to Change Before Bariatric Surgery, as well as some other pretty awesome goodies to keep you motivated. Join today!
1. Make a list of all the non-scale victories you have achieved. Keep adding to it as you come across more.
2. Do comparison photos to remind yourself of how far you’ve come.
3. Write in a gratitude journal daily.
4. Slow down and savor your food.
5. Start a new tradition.
6. Try a bariatric-friendly version of your favorite food.
7. Look at it as freedom from food.
8. Buy yourself a new outfit to rock on Thanksgiving.