While bariatric surgery may be controversial, even bariatric surgeons agree that bariatric surgery is a tool, not a quick fix. This is a critical point because a tool can do nothing on its own; it requires skillful management by a knowledgeable user to work effectively. Therefore results following bariatric surgery depend on learning to use that tool effectively and consistently to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
BARIATRIC SURGERY: NO QUICK FIX
When people ask my opinion about bariatric surgery, I have to admit that it's a tough question because many of those who decide to try surgery believe that they've tried everything else. Most have never even heard of intuitive or mindful eating.
Some believe or hope that having bariatric surgery will solve all of their problems—but nothing could be further from the truth. For example, if you’re an “emotional eater,” the situations and emotions that triggered eating in the past are unlikely to disappear simply because you’ve chosen to have bariatric surgery. As one patient said, “They didn’t operate on my brain!”
Some discover that they “miss” their friend—food—leaving them with a feeling of loss. As one person told me, "I've cut out my coping skill!"
Others believe that after surgery they won’t need to think about their eating anymore. In fact, it is just the opposite. You need to become very thoughtful about eating in order to use this tool optimally. If you’re not mindful about your eating, this “tool” can cause you to experience uncomfortable, even serious consequences—and you’ll be far less likely to get the results you hoped for.
Bottom line: It breaks my heart to see people invest so much yet continue to struggle in their relationship with food.
ADJUSTING TO A NEW NORMAL
Since 1999, tens of thousands of people have used the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Program (http://amihungry.com/) and/or read Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat (http://amihungry.com/eat-what-you-love-book.shtml), to resolve their difficult eating issues. There are often people in our workshops who have had also bariatric surgery. They explain that surgery did not fix their real problem and/or that they need additional skills to cope with their "new normal."
BARIATRIC SURGERY AND MINDFUL EATING
Mindfulness is beneficial because it teaches us to focus our attention and awareness on what is happening right now, which in turn, helps us disengage from habitual, unsatisfying, and unskillful habits and behaviors.
Specifically, mindful eating skills help resolve the mindless habits and emotional eating issues that lead to problems after bariatric surgery:
- Eating too quickly
- Taking large bites
- Not chewing thoroughly
- Eating while distracted leading to overconsumption
- Not savoring food and therefore having difficulty feeling satisfied with small volumes of food
- Eating too much leading to vomiting and/or distention of the pouch
- Grazing throughout the day
- Eating "slider" foods and high-calorie soft foods and liquids, often in response to emotional triggers
- Not consuming enough protein or nutrient-rich foods
- Feeling deprived or left-out in social situations
- Struggling to establish consistent physical activity
- Transfer addictions
- And many other issues...
Further, most people who make the difficult decision to have bariatric surgery want to improve their health and energy so they can live the vibrant life they crave. Yet without the additional tool of mindful eating, bariatric surgery can feel like a permanent diet that continues to consume your life.
One of the most meaningful changes that happens when you learn to eat mindfully (whether you've had surgery or not!) is that it allows you to think about eating when you need to and free up your energy and attention to focus on living in between.
AM I HUNGRY? MINDFUL EATING PROGRAM FOR BARIATRIC SURGERY
For all these reasons we felt that it was time to create a mindful eating program especially for people who have had (or who are considering) bariatric surgery. We have a brand new Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Program for Bariatric Surgery Workbook and Awareness Journal (http://www.amihungry.com/Mindful-Eating-Program-for-Bariatric-Surgery.shtml) and supplemental Faciltiator Training.
I am very excited about adding the life-changing concepts of intuitive and mindful eating to the toolbox for the many people who, despite having surgery, still find themselves stuck in an eat-repent-repeat cycle. After all, even after bariatric surgery, it still isn't really about the food.
Eat Mindfully, Live Vibrantly!
Michelle May, M.D.
P.S. Learn more about the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Program
for Bariatric Surgery at http://www.amihungry.com/Mindful-Eating-Program-for-Bariatric-Surgery.shtml