Pitfalls to Success

Gary Chapman’s book The Five Languages of Love points out that we express our emotional love through five languages – words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. This is a very powerful and important relationship concept. It is important to know your personal love language and the language of those you love. We are all the same in that we want to show and receive love. We are different by which language is our own language.

A universal way to show emotional love is through food. Unfortunately, this is a pitfall to long term weight loss success.
Showing love through food
I have been divorced for eight years now and have a very good relationship with my ex. My kids are getting older now, and good eating habits are fairly well established. Since my divorce I have had the opportunity to have my kids all to myself. It was all me, and I would find myself trying to show love through food despite teaching otherwise to my patients.

You see for me, and almost all divorced people there is guilt. So when we are with our kids we want to drown them in love. So I would use this desire to buy ice cream, pizza, and all kinds of unhealthy food in preparation for my time with them. Common sense aside, I still felt that strong drive to show love through food, bad food. I would laugh at myself and think, are you kidding? What are you doing? It made me realize how strong the drive is to show love through food. It was not how I would eat otherwise, so the difference was obvious.Showing love through food is a negative way to show love. Why? It leads to gaining excess weight, which we know is harmful. There are many dysfunctional relationships and we are all probably guilty of showing love in some way that is sometimes harmful. It is important for us to recognize when it happens.

Even without guilt, we live in an age where we try to shower our kids or loved ones with love at every turn. At least on a mild level, most people have trouble maintaining a normal weight because we live in a calorie rich environment. So everybody needs to learn to show love through food in a way that is not harmful.

Mary Ann is your typical busy mother. She is busy working, as well as trying to be a good mother and spouse. She does the grocery shopping. She buys soft drinks, chips, and ice cream. She says they are not for her but the kids. If she does not buy them, then the kids say things like, “There is never any food here.”

One of the best tools to prevent snacking is to have shelves and refrigerators empty of bad, unhealthy food. But in doing so, you will face the firing squad. So Mary Ann tells me that she feels like a bad mom when this happens. It is tough love. And in the beginning it hurts. But it is the right thing to do – for them and yourself.

Emotional eating
Betty is a good mom. Her daughter is struggling with life. She is in trouble with the law and quite possibly going to jail. Betty is nine years out from a gastric bypass and has been very successful for nine years.

She has started regaining weight. She remembered me telling her that if she ever started regaining weight, one of the best things she can do is start making monthly office visits. On her first monthly visit she went through the details of her  daughter’s tragedy, and began crying. She was starting to snack – what she called emotional eating. It was her way to show love to herself.

Our brains do not like to be told it cannot have something. In the chapter on inner secrets I discuss the importance of re-framing the language we use to ourselves and others. We need to re-frame our words to our brain so that it is not being told it cannot have something. So tell yourself you can have it, but with rules.

Often the person with the snacking problem is the person who does the grocery shopping. The best way to stop snacking is to stop buying snack food. So while shopping and feeling the urge to buy snack food pause for a moment and remember what it is like to fit into those skinny jeans. Once it is at home, relying on will power to not snack will not work. If snack food makes it home, consider it eaten – unless you can follow the get comfortable wasting food rule.

If you make a bad decision at the grocery store and snack food makes it home then what you need to do is eat one helping and enjoy it without blame. Truly enjoy it. Then throw the rest in the trash can. Do it every time. Over time your subconscious will not want to waste anymore food and that difficult decision to not buy snack food at the grocery store will no longer occur. Its magic and it works.

So how do you show love to yourself? Think of the five languages of love. Whether your language is touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, giving a gift, or quality time, then give it to yourself in some way that is healthy and not harmful.

Journaling is a good overall success habit for lots of endeavors. Grazing on food is a common pitfall for success. Often it is a bite here and a bite there, all day long. This is a recipe for failure with any weight loss surgery we do. Journaling is one method to help you realize this is happening and awareness is the first step to all change.

Once aware, go to work trying to fix the problem, which in general is either not buying it or eat one helping and waste the rest.

You will not be graded on your journaling. It is for you alone. The hardest person to be honest with is you. So make a rule to write down everything that goes into your mouth and be truthful. Every bite counts. Use it as a tool. Once you have achieved awareness, then maybe you can forgo journaling.

For many the work place has some common area always full of food laid out ready for the passing-by nibbler. It is impossible to change others who do not want to change. So this is difficult. Mentoring works by showing others what success looks like. As they see your healthiness, vitality, and all those things that are the essence of fitting into those skinny jeans, they just might be willing to change. Instead of telling the snack bringers they are doing something bad, talk about how it feels to fit into those skinny jeans and why success requires no snacking.

We sometimes get a strong craving for certain food, say chocolate. But it could be bread, chips, ice cream, or almost anything. Never keep the food that you sometimes crave at home. If you crave it, get dressed and get into your car and go someplace and get one helping and eat it there. Enjoy it, embrace the moment, but do not bring it home. Over time that craving will disappear.

In general, we are subconsciously too lazy to do it often enough for it to matter in terms of long term weight loss success. Think of the process as a tool.

Drinking with your meals
It has become customary to drink while eating. We digest food better if we do not drink while eating. If we drink while eating, it washes the food rapidly out of our stomach before adequate digestion and before adequate fullness occurs. It is a difficult custom to break. So here is a tool. Do not keep something to drink next to your plate.

If you have a strong desire that you need a drink while eating, get up from the table and go to the kitchen. Take one drink, then go and sit back down to your meal. Keep doing this every time you feel the need to have a drink.

Over time that need will disappear like magic. It is difficult not having a glass of something next to your plate at a restaurant. The waiters will keep asking if they can get you something and it gets annoying. Hopefully you spend most of your eating time not in restaurants and can establish the habit.

Skipping meals
Believe it or not skipping meals is a pitfall. It seems to our brains to make sense that if we eat we get fat, and if we do not eat we lose weight. Years and years of the starvation diets all have the same result. We lose weight and as soon as we stop starving we regain weight rapidly and with a vengeance, usually everything we lost plus a ten percent gain. We have all tried it and we all know it to be true.

It seems intuitively backwards that we need to eat to maintain a healthy weight, but it is true. I think we need a small volume of food and the sensation of satisfied fullness to send messages to the brain to burn – not conserve calories.

I personally prefer to not eat breakfast. I am usually ready to start my day and do not want to take time. But I remind myself almost every day it is important that I eat a small breakfast. Many weight loss surgery patients get very full, very easily in the morning and it is very easy for them to skip breakfast.

They need to at least eat something to get their metabolism headed in the right direction. That is burning calories versus storing calories. It is something we learned in medicine many years ago. That’s when the sugar dextrose was added to basic intravenous solutions. Think of it as a scale much like the scale of justice.

On one side on the scale our metabolism burns calories on the other side of the scale it conserves calories. The biochemical pathways that burn calories require calories to prime the process. So eat breakfast and do not skip meals.

These are the most common pitfalls that I hear from patients that are struggling with success. I have tried to keep them few and straight forward. There are other pitfalls. Try to learn the process of identifying your personal pitfalls and then coming up with a tool or method to give your brain what it wants without it being harmful to long term success.

For more helpful advice on maintaining your weight loss goals, you can get the kindle version of my book Skinny Jeans…at Last! on Amazon.

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Disclaimer: Please note that there's no guarantee of getting the same results as each of these patients. Specific results vary by individual patient.