It’s been about 2.5 years since I had weight loss surgery which is somewhat hard for me to believe
Sometimes it feels like yesterday
Over the last 2.5 years, I’ve embarked on a journey to not only lose weight but to gain CONTROL over my life in the area of food so that I could HAVE a life.
The life I had previously was full of much pain and misery.
It was difficult for me to walk.
Diffucult for me to breathe.
It was a life that included daily health issues that had to be monitored.
Constant pain in my back and feet….to rashes from excess skin hanging here or there.
Heat rashes from sweating because as we all know–being obese is living in a constant state of fire.
I had to be propped up in the bed every night so that I would not suffocate under my own weight.
That is when I could actually still sleep in the bed of course as soon that would be taken from me too.
Every night of my life, l I woke up suffocating under my own weight.
A complication that many people suffering from obesity deal with every day of their lives.
I broke every single chair in my dining room and had to replace them with benches.
Eventually I could not fit on them either and so I was no longer able to join my family at the dinner table.
I could not fit in a fold up chair so I was no longer able to watch my daughter play soccer.
I outgrew EVEN being on the sidelines.
More than this though was the misery that came from ALWAYS BEING HUNGRY.
I woke up HUNGRY and unless I fell asleep in mid-chew….I went to bed hungry as well.
Almost every hour of the day included relentless cravings that never left.
The only peace I had from these cravings was when I gave into them.
But almost as soon as I could stuff my body with the food that I craved… I was met once again with a barrage of new cravings.
And they were always stronger than the last.
As if they evolved and got smarter.
As if me giving into them was the very fuel they needed to grow more diabolical and dangerous.
I tried every diet.
I read every book.
And nothing worked.
I could not make the cravings go away.
Pills did not do the trick.
Weight loss surgery did not make them leave.
The cravings were still there– plaguing my every thought.
Even after I had 80% of my stomach removed from my body.
I look back now on some of the entries I posted in the very beginning and I am reminded once again of the depression that I went into when I first had weight loss surgery. A depression that hovered over me because the cravings and urges were still there.
Only now the cruel twist—I could not physically get the food down due to the surgery.
So the little bit of peace I might have in life when giving into the cravings was taken away.
All I was left with now was the insanity—and no reprieve.
I craved 3 bags of Reeses peanut butter cups and a gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Yet when I had the surgery, my body could barely get 3 sips of water down at one time.
So there I was.
Left in a state of misery without any means of satisfying these powerful urges that I feared would drive me crazy if I didn’t answer the call.
As someone who has read countless books on dieting, I can tell you that 90% of them all say virtually the same thing.
Oh their titles may promise you that THIS is going to be the book that has some secret the others did not.
This is going to be the diet, book, pill or fill-in-the-blank that will FINALLY give some advice, method or strategy that the others were missing.
And yet time and time again, I found the same advice over and over just repackaged with a different title, different author or different way of saying virtually the same thing.
I knew that the dieting industry’s advice worked for a great number of people.
I saw it work for them. I personally knew people for whom it worked!
You know them…the people who could follow the basic advice of a dieting book or plan and come out victorious.
I just wasn’t one of them.
Here are the basic things you are told by almost every diet you go on
1. Eat less/Move more
2. Count something! Let it be calories, points, carbs…whatever “thing” we are counting on this or that diet. Don’t go over the magic number and VOILA!! The weight comes off
4. Eat in moderation
5. Distract yourself if you have a craving. Go brush your teeth! Chew gum! Go for a walk! Call a friend! Surely one of these will do the trick, right??
Every diet that I ever tried said some version of this.
And none of them ever worked for me long term.
But not because their methods do not work.
Their methods DO work!!
They are common sense.
Eat less, move more.
Eat in moderation.
They all are methods that WILL work….IF you can actually stick to the plan.
If you can actually NOT eat outside your points.
If you can actually avoid cravings.
If you can actually manage to find some method to distract yourself from violent cravings that hound you day and night
But I never could.
And that is when the cold hard reality would set in for me.
The reality that I was and always would be a dieting failure.
A slave to food.
Someone with no hope.
What a pretty miserable reality to wake up to every day.
It’s much like being diagnosed by a doctor with a disease that has a cure.
Only you’re immune to it
The cure that is….
Because it works for most everyone else—JUST NOT YOU
This led me to have weight loss surgery.
A surgery called vertical sleeve gastrectomy also known as the Gastric Sleeve.
It’s not the gastric bypass or the lapband or any of the other surgeries you may have heard of that do things TO your stomach while still leaving it in your body.
No my surgery was hand picked by me because it REMOVED 80% or more of my stomach from my body
And threw it away!
When I heard this surgery existed, I knew it was the one for me.
My stomach ruled me and I wanted it gone.
My surgeon asked me the day before surgery what my biggest fear was….so I told him this—
My only fear is that you won’t take out ENOUGH…
I didn’t care about anything else but removing this monster from my body
This evil master that kicked me around day and night
That dragged me around on a leash with no mercy
The surgery made it virtually impossible (in the beginning) for me to get solid food down.
I had to start early sipping water so as to avoid getting dehydrated
That’s because it took THAT LONG to get anything down
There were moments of freedom from my appetite but it did not take long for the bully to return
For the relentless cravings to rear their ugly head once more
Cravings that I always tried in the past to resist with all my strength….
Only to give in eventually in an effort to avoid utter insanity
Because that was what it felt like
What it still feels like at times
When a craving or urge comes over me
It feels like the beginnings of insanity
The more I resist it, avoid it or fight it….the more it intensifies
And then the panic sets in
The concern that I might literally go insane
So that is why I would always give in
Because I can’t really afford to go insane, ya know??
I’ve got work to do and kids to raise
Going crazy isn’t something I have the luxury of doing
Trying to fight a craving left me feeling completely off the hinges
And was it really right for me to subject others to that….I would say to myself
To be so completely irritable and irrational that everyone around me is subjected to this difficult demeanor?
If you think a woman PMS’ing can be scary…try being around someone fighting off the cravings of addiction.
I hated that my kids had to tolerate someone that is crabby and frustrated when she could become a much sweeter Mom if she would only just eat the flipping cupcake!!!
It was to the benefit of the world around me and everyone in it if I just gave in and ate what I was craving!
That’s how I often rationalized it.
The alternative was after all to either become an intolerable person for others to be around OR…
To potentially go completely insane
And who has time for that?
But with the surgery, I had no choice.
I could not get the cupcake down
And so there I was left with no alternative but one.
But this is what I learned….
I never actually went crazy.
I felt like I was going to
I felt depressed and panicked and full of anxiety
I felt trapped and scared and like pulling all my hair out
I was irritable and crabby and completely intolerable to be around
All the things I feared
And I went into a total state of depression for awhile
But regardless of all these things….I somehow lived
And the cravings and urges began to ease off
As if by not feeding them….they lost their power
Hmmm—there’s a thought!
They were replaced by this very peaceful feeling of CONTROL
And how did all this happen?
It happened because (as I would learn over time)…I was no longer feeding my sugar addiction
I was no longer eating the substance that was MAKING me crazy
After surgery as more months and then a year went by… I was able to eat more.
The day came when I COULD get a cupcake down if I wanted to
And this is the thing about weight loss surgery….
Even one that involves removing a large portion of your stomach
Over time you can eat more.
You can get certain addictive substances in there once again.
And if you do….the cravings WILL return.
Now I still after 2.5 years can NOT eat anywhere close to the volume that I once could
IN ONE SITTING
But this only means that it has slowed me down
If I still eat destructively, the weight WILL return
Just not as quick.
I thank God every day that I now understand how dangerous sugar addiction can be
And how as a result of the severe cravings sugar produces—the average diet book just won’t cut it.
It isn’t about everyone else having a cure I don’t have access to though
It’s not about me being some failure with food.
It’s simply that 90% of the advice in diets is simply not the proper prescription for sugar addicts
You can’t ingest a substance you are addicted to and expect yourself to no longer crave it.
And many diets allows you to eat sugar
Oh you have to count it, log it, or attach points to it under the belief that if you eat it in moderation…
You will be satisfied.
That to deny yourself is only to create a bigger desire for it.
But no one tells that to a serious alcoholic.
They don’t suggest they find a way to moderate their drinking.
And any tried and true alcoholic knows that when they attempt to moderate their drinking….it doesnt’ work!
In my personal research, I have discovered something quite fascinating.
Sugar addicts and alcoholics have the most in common amongst those who struggle with addiction.
People who quit alcohol often end up getting hooked on sugar.
People who quit sugar often end up getting hooked on alcohol
That is why studies show that sugar addicts and alcoholics are two sides to the same coin.
And maybe it’s because you find sugar in alcohol. Well how about that?!
Hooked on the same thing only finding it in different sources.
Both alcohol and sugar affect the brain’s “reward” system in a similar manner.
It gives people a similar feeling or “high”.
And if you discontinue the use of either one– you experience similar cravings and similar withdrawal symptoms.
This is why we are often like mice in a maze.
We find our way out of one stronghold, bad habit or addiction only to be led down into another one.
We think we have worked our way out of one long corridor of the maze only to find ourselves going in circles with some brand new vice!
It was only when I became totally aware of the fact that I was addicted to sugar that I gave up eating it.
It was when I opened my eyes to the dangers of sugar addiction that I realized it wasn’t food in general that I had a problem with…but what they PUT in certain foods that I was eating.
When I got serious about giving it up and experienced freedom and success in this area….
That was when the thought popped into my mind to enjoy a glass of wine in the evening!
A random and totally unrelated thought….right?
Or was it really just sugar slinking back into my life disguised as a cocktail
As if sugar having been kicked out of my life decided to regroup and come back with a new strategy
Zapping itself from solid to liquid to entrap me yet again
I never really thought too much about alcohol prior to that.
All my life, I had gone through phases of drinking wine in the evening only to forget about it totally.
It didn’t really interest me that much.
It was only when I rid myself of sugar in food that I then began craving it in liquid form through alcohol.
Only I didn’t really know that is what was happening.
Sugar is a sneaky thing ain’t it?!
Now I am more aware than ever of how clearly obvious one addiction can and will flow to another if we are not careful.
I can go months without even the thought of a glass of wine entering my mind.
But that is only because I am busy feeding my sugar addiction with food.
But whenever I kick sugar out of my food…that is when I suddenly find myself being inundated with the thoughts of wanting alcohol!
It’s very much like a see-saw.
I view it as though I have an enemy with two battle plans.
Plan A has and always will be FOOD.
My enemy knows me well having studied me for 41 years.
It knows that sugar in FOOD is my primary form of addiction.
My first love….
It is the easiest and most effective means of defeating me.
Yet when I experience victory in this area, my enemy will always use the back up plan of alcohol.
Now that I know this and recognize it, I find it almost funny with the total lack of subtlety my enemy has used when putting these thoughts in my head.
I always thought he was so sly but that is not the case once you’ve seen his strategy mapped out again and again.
He never seems to stray from that strategy of Plan A or Plan B.
He alternates between the two and why shouldn’t he? Hasn’t it always worked?
Haven’t I ended up falling prey to one of these at varying times?
But now I see it clearly for what it is.
It is simply nothing more than sugar in one form or another calling for me.
And it all boils down to the same cravings and urges.
Why do so many people who have weight loss surgery turn to alcohol?
Why has it been reported that a person’s risk for alcoholism DOUBLES after weight loss surgery?!
Does this mean that the surgery itself is somehow causing this?
By no means!!
The surgery is simply making it really hard for someone…oh a sugar addict let’s say….to ingest that substance they are wildly addicted to!!
Try having 80% of your stomach removed in a gastric sleeve procedure and see how many donuts you can binge eat afterwards?
What’s a sugar addict to do?
How about this?
Because after surgery, you can get liquid down much easier than food.
Your stomach is reduced but what we call “slider foods” will go down easy.
Turn to liquid…a cocktail, a milkshake, a soda…pick your poison.
But it’s just sugar making a comeback
Revamping its strategy like the astute enemy it is
I think it is very important for people who suffer with addictions to understand what is driving them to it.
Of course our feelings, our backgrounds, our emotions, our circumstances all lead us many times to look for a source of pleasure to ease the pain.
But many people out there are not overfeeding themselves because of any trauma.
They are just literally hooked on a substance.
They are addicted to it.
And it’s a physical problem that requires a physical answer.
The answer is simple.
DON’T CONSUME WHAT YOU ARE ADDICTED TO
Don’t eat or drink what enslaves you
And be consciously aware of what is IN the food or drinks that you ingest.
Because sugar lurks and hides for you in places you may not think.
Even though I have educated myself in this, I have found it far too easy to fall for it once again.
I can still easily fall into temptation to cravings
Cravings that can make me believe I have no choice but to give into them
Cravings that say they will never end unless I surrender
Cravings that promise to never let me go unless I feed them
An utter feeling of powerlessness to the master who can bring me to my knees
At the end of the day, it all comes down to one question:
How much power do these cravings really have over us?
Once addicted—how can we ever overcome?
And this is what I know to be true….
Cravings and urges are difficult, uncomfortable, and seemingly relentless.
And yet the reality is this….
Their power lies more in the “act”
Their ability to trick us into believing we cannot resist them
Because once we believe THAT
We will surrender
They are bullies who are more talk than anything else
Oh I’m not saying it doesn’t hurt when the bully punches you in the face
Or taunts you, threatens you and has his heel on the back of your neck
But the bully is a liar
You see….cravings will tell you that they cannot be defeated.
That they will never go away.
That they have some kind of supernatural permission to drive you totally insane.
Cravings will insist that they are so intolerable–you will literally lose your mind
Lose all control over your senses if you don’t feed them
Can’t you feel the panic descending??
But none of that is true
It feels true.
But feelings are not always reality.
Cravings and urges are real.
They produce a lot of misery.
But they DO end.
They do have a shelf life.
They WILL expire.
They can’t make you go insane.
You may be grouchy and irritable and virtually intolerable to everyone around you for awhile
But they are temporary. They will go away.
And you have and ALWAYS HAVE HAD…far more power over THEM than they ever will have over you.
I find it really odd that I can know all this and yet still fall prey to it.
I have found myself even dwelling in guilt over the fact that I could fall so easily into the same bad habits that I fought so hard to overcome.
Then it dawned on me after my pity party had gone on far too long that I really need to do a reality check.
That if I think I am immune to falling back into a bad habit then I must be pretty arrogant about myself!!
What makes me think that an addiction which once almost claimed my life would simply walk away and never try to entrap me again?
What makes me think my “enemy” won’t return with a more sly battle plan than the one before?
Do I think that because I have experienced victory that I won’t ever again taste defeat??
I am so busy lamenting over my weight regain.
So busy in self pity over having used alcohol as a substitute crutch for sugar.
Crying puddles over having once again fallen back into cupcakes. And why??
Because it means I got off track
And here we go….
THE TRACK again….
There it is….
That infamous track we are always falling on and off of when it comes to weight loss
That track we have to get back on…
And that’s what I spend too much time boo-hoo’ing over
This ridiculous “track” that I think I’m falling off of…
Until I took my children to Six Flags amusement park the other day
Something I could NOT have done at 417 pounds
And it was there I was met with a roller coaster
I hate roller coasters. I always have.
Even when I could FIT in them–I didn’t willingly go on them.
My 11 year old daughter decides to sit with me on the bench while we wait for the others
Not wanting to leave me alone I suppose…:)
So we are sitting on the bench when she says to me….
“Mama–I know why you don’t like roller coasters.”
Why is that…I ask….
And she replies THIS…
“Because you always talk about wanting to be on track. How you don’t like falling off track.”
(This is what happens when a child lives with a mother who is a life long “dieter”….she picks up the phrases we use…”
This made me laugh a bit because I know she’s referring to the figurative track I often speak of in weight loss
But she didn’t take it so figuratively.
She saw it in a much more literal sense like the track of the roller coaster.
She says to me…
“Rollercoaster tracks don’t go straight. They go upside down and sideways. But I guess you like a straight track. I don’t even think you’d like the roller coasters they have for babies and toddlers. Even those have a little twist. I guess you just like your tracks straight. So you don’t have to worry about anything.”
I wouldn’t even be able to handle a TODDLER roller coaster??
Because this little spoiled brat (the brat being ME) likes her tracks STRAIGHT
I’m not interested in any track that goes upside down or sideways.
I don’t want any surprises or shocks or unexpected twists
I want my track EASYGOING with NO loops
According to Yoda…I mean….Charlotte
I started thinking about this after she said it and made me realize something
This track I keep thinking I’ve fallen off of when I fall back into bad habits
It was never a straight track to begin with.
Just because it went upside down and sideways doesn’t mean I fell off.
It just means the ride has twists and turns and loops.
I’m still on it
SO ARE YOU
Weight regain and relapses and transfer addictions and crutches and screw ups and mistakes
They aren’t what happens when you fall OFF the track
They’re what happens when you’re on it
Because the track was never straight to begin with
You’re experiencing all those things BECAUSE you’re on the track!!!!
If you choose to hang out on the bench and watch everyone else ride the roller coaster
Then you won’t have to worry about all the twists and turns
You won’t have to worry about that upside down loop where you relapse back into a box of twinkies
Because you never tried giving them up in the first place!!
You can’t relapse into a bad habit you never even tried to give up
Because you’re on the bench watching everyone else ride the roller coaster
No I’ve decided this…the track was never straight to begin with
Maybe I just thought it should be
Screwing up doesn’t mean you’ve fallen off track
It simply means the track had a loop
One that you may ride through 6 or 7 times before it spits you back out and cuts you a break
But this I know
All those loops and sideway turns don’t last forever
Even roller coasters come to an end
People get off dizzy and sometimes throwing up in the bushes but guess what….THEY SURVIVED
And cravings are like this
They may make you throw your hands up in then air and scream—but they will come to an end
IF you ride it out
I’ve learned a few things over the last 2.5 years
I’m a sugar addict in ALL forms whether it’s a cupcake or a cocktail.
I have an enemy and he uses cravings as bullets
The bullets are blanks and if I stand firm….they disappear like nothing more than air.
BUT THEY LOOK AND FEEL REAL IN THE MEANTIME
But here’s the secret
Cravings WILL subside if you wait them out
And the more time that passes, the stronger you become
And then its up to us to not go back
To not let that addictive substance back in the door to enslave us once more
But even if we do
We all fall prey to relapse because the track we are on has loops
It goes upside down and sideways
But it does come to an end
In the meantime, its up to us to buckle up and take the ride
You may not feel up to the challenge
But I was reminded yesterday of a Martin Luther King, Jr quote
That sums up what we have to do
Now let’s move forward
And never give up the fight!!