Leslie is a mother of two boys 6 and 8 years of age. She came to my office to learn more about the sleeve gastrectomy. Not long into the conversation she began crying and saying that she was sorry that she did not have the will power to do it on her own and had to do something. She said she had tried very hard with every diet imaginable, but she just could not do it. She did not have the energy to be a good mother and was worried about her health and possibly not surviving to see her boys grow up.
I watched as she blamed herself over and over. It was like she was defeated and in defeat would have to have an operation. I began talking to her about blame and how it works against her. I emphasized that nearly zero people walking in her shoes can accomplish her goal without help. We talked about how this is not a character weakness but something much more complex.
The simple observation of people she knows or those she has heard about who have struggled with losing weight, should tell her it is nearly impossible to do on her own, otherwise more people would be successful. It is intuitively obvious. This feeling of blame and the belief that they should be able to do it on their own is the essence of why we only perform weight loss surgery on one percent of those that would benefit, despite the overwhelming evidence that it works.
Most people trying to lose weight spend their energy chasing new magic methods of weight loss and blaming themselves for not having the character or will power to do it. And neither practice gives us anything of value. This is the essence of why most people cannot lose weight. They are spending their energy on something that does not work.
I want to talk about tools. Tools have great value when trying to accomplish a task. Just sit back and close your eyes for a moment and walk through your day thinking of all the tools you use and how difficult it would be without them. Don’t forget about that early morning cup of coffee and that early morning trip to the toilet. Every aspect of our lives uses tools to get the job done.
I like the metaphor that weight loss surgery is a tool. Tools are impersonal. Hopefully your surgeon is personable, but the actual technique of surgery is impersonal, much like working on a machine. And the biochemical pathways are impersonal much like baking bread where the right ingredients and right temperature at the right time is needed for the bread to rise.
Weight loss surgery and the successful habits involved in the eating rules are tools to help you lose your excess weight. We are all the same and all different. We are the same that we all need tools to accomplish a complex task like losing excess weight. However we are all different enough that we need to tailor which surgery is best for you and tweak the eating rules and health habits so they fit your life.
The failures following weight loss surgery are small in number – but real. We need a shovel to dig a hole, and most can do it, but some people can’t dig a hole even in sand with a tool like a shovel.
The secret to long term weight loss surgery success begins with tapping into the strong emotions and feelings of what life is like after losing weight. Using those emotions as a key to open the door to basic changes in our day to day eating is instrumental for our success. The result is getting rid of that nasty thing called resistance, allowing us to accomplish something that is simple – that we know is right for us – and very do-able.
Disclaimer: Please note that there's no guarantee of getting the same results as each of these patients. Specific results vary by individual patient.