Wearing Someone Else's Shoes...

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I’m big about practising what I preach. I may not have had bariatric surgery, but I’m forever looking for experiences that give me insight into life after bariatric surgery. I may have large feet compared to some of you, but that doesn’t stop me trying to squeeze into your shoes so to speak.

To this day, I go on about the retreat I went to in August last year. I was determined to eat portions like everyone else, not to mention put myself out there with each activity. This really helped me fine-tune my values as a person, needless to say feel the effect of protein as the hero of my breakfast, lunch and dinner to manage my appetite and avoid hunger in between. I know that’s a dietary behaviour change that can be tough to sustain at times, and I realise old habits die hard – but I’m hoping you’d like to jump into my shoes of making that change happen today rather than hoping it will tomorrow. Get ready, we’re going for a wee run…

Running marathons is my passion outside of work. Don’t ask me why, maybe call me crazy, I love getting out in the fresh air for training runs to prepare myself for a marathon. I could never just leap straight into doing one, and that’s why I have a build-up period to train my legs as well as my mind for surviving the big day. The marathon itself is a chance to reap the rewards of that training and basically avoid hitting the wall or my body breaking down. That makes we wonder if you are starting to see the likeness between marathon running and eating after weight loss surgery? My point is all about planning and preparing for success. 

Drews Hotseat –the two voices within…

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I haven’t run a marathon since 2011. I got slightly preoccupied with trying to make the Paralympics in Brazil 2016. I look back and wonder why on earth I decided that 1500m would be my event of glory, and then changing to triathlon when I was never a great swimmer even with two good arms. Hindsight is great, and I suppose you could say I could’ve and should’ve stuck with marathons for my best chance in qualifying. That’s in the past and I choose to look forward rather than back, although in the time between then and now, I’ve got used to a different training load of shorter distances. That means the demon in my mind (affectionally now known as ‘The Assassin”) is trying to tell me a marathon is too great a distance to train for these days and I should leave it alone. I can let The Assassin try to convince me, but I prefer listening to the other voice in my mind I call ‘the Donkey’ as I believe donkeys are wise and of course a bit stubborn. Needless to say, stubbornness in the latter stages of a marathon is much appreciated in my thinking process.

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Please believe me when I say I’m not mad. Here I am talking about voices in my head, but I do have a message. I’m thinking we all have those two voices in our minds, and while The Assassin is out to sabotage me and my love of marathon training, the Donkey is on my side and helping me counter each argument. For example, the facts I like running after work for ‘Drew Time’ to unwind, or that I love long slow runs on Sunday for the smell of the country and seeing all the cows and other farm animals along my way. In other words, the Donkey reminds me what’s important to me, I could have a sleep in each Sunday if I listen to the Assassin, but I choose to get up early and eat breakfast to let it settle before I head off for a run.  

So, how does this relate to planning and preparing for life after weight loss surgery? If you’ve seen me in clinic lately, you’ll know I keep going on about three meals each day without snacking in between. I also talk a lot about your supplements for making sure your nutritional status is looked after for health and wellbeing. But how are these healthy habits possible in a busy working world – do you simply hope they will happen or can you plan to make them happen?

The key to appetite management is a focus on protein. It means no real hunger between the three main meals each day. But who has a demon trying to tell them there’s no time in the morning for preparing a protein breakfast and something like toast with avocado will be fine, or even skipping it altogether? Can you hear another voice now asking if getting up 10-15 minutes earlier is an option, or maybe getting everything ready the night before instead? 

Mindful eating is also important to plan for. Thorough chewing and time between mouthfuls will avoid awful and embarrassing consequences like pain or bringing food back up. Meal time being capped at 20 minutes will avoid over-eating and prevent the habit of grazing. But who has a demon trying to say mindful eating is too difficult at home or work? Are you eating at your desk at work, or eating at the couch with the TV going at home? Can you start to hear your other voice asking if you could find some protected time for mindful eating like eating away from your computer at work or eating at the table at home? Can you find a meal each week where you physically count your chews, watch your clock with the fork down for 20 seconds, and set your alarm at 20-minutes? I do this each week as it helps me to practice what I preach which you all know is important to me.

Taking supplements is another classic for the demon to be quite convincing and loud. Who hears arguments like ‘it’s too difficult to find time to separate iron and calcium so forget about the calcium today’? What about, ‘hey, you forgot half of your supplements today and you still feel good - you don’t need to take them all tomorrow or the next day now either’? Can you hear the quiet voice saying this is the start of an unhealthy habit and not taking your supplements will leave your body without important nutrients for energy, bone health, and immune function as well as quality hair, skin and nails? That voice might ask if you can set an alarm for remembering to take your supplements at certain times of the day, or it might ask if leaving your iron by your toothbrush will help you remembering to take it before bed each night. 

The Take Home

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At the end of the day – planning and preparation is the key to success in life. I’d never dream of doing a marathon without a build-up, and I hope after being in my shoes today you can feel that planning and preparing for your marathon of establishing and keeping healthy habits after weight loss surgery is quite do-able with some thinking of how it will happen.

All the best until next month.