If you have 10 pounds or 210 pounds to lose and looking for an easy way to lose it, I’ll let you in on a little secret, there is no short-cut to losing the weight. It takes hard work, discipline, sticking to a plan whatever that may be. In reality it involves catching a glimpse of the divine, knowing that the God of the universe wants you to be healthy.
I knew all of this but I thought I had discovered a short-cut anyway. I had gastric bypass surgery seven years ago. I weighed 430 lbs. The cardiac doctor told me if I didn’t lose weight, I’d be dead in five years. So I had the operation. It was a success. I actually lost 230 lbs, then gained about 50 back and have since lost 20 of those. I have much more I want to lose. The difference today is that I know that I will be successful with losing down to a healthy weight.
For those of you who believe gastric bypass surgery will solve all your problems, I want to let you in on a secret. It won’t. It will buy you some more time here on the planet. But if you do not learn how to control food rather than letting food control you, you will be back in the same shape (literally) or worse than you were before.
After seven years I have learned at least seven key things.
I have to do the hard work of exercising. I lost weight but it was mostly muscle. Now I’m not only exercising by walking in the water about an hour a day but I also go to a fitness trainer to strengthen my muscles. Exercise is so very important. I finally realized in April of this year that it was time to start exercising and do it every day. When should you start? Now. Don’t wait for a perfect time. Make a plan and follow it. I lost weight but there came a point where I was taking in more in terms of good old-fashioned calories than I was expending in energy or exercise. Because of difficulty with my knees I walk in the water. Anyone can do that. There are ladies who walk in the morning who come into the pool using a walker. One lady walks four hours a day twice a week. She has lost 75 lbs in a year doing that and eating more mindfully.
2. Deal with emotions.
I had to be honest with myself and realize I ate out of an emotional need: loneliness, boredom, frustration, anger, joy. It didn’t matter what the emotion, I took care of it with food. Probably because I learned early on, it was available when people might not be. And it always took care of whatever emotion I was feeling. Prior to gastric bypass, I would say I was not an emotional eater.
In the first year after surgery, I learned that is not true. There were many things I not only was advised not to eat but I couldn’t eat. They would make me sick or they wouldn’t go down right or I didn’t chew them enough. The smell of certain foods would gag me and I couldn’t eat them. And, of course, I couldn’t overeat. I realized that stuffing myself was one way I filled my emotional even spiritual lack. Even now sometimes I get frustrated that I can’t just go to food and get my need met. I have to actually work through whatever I’m feeling and I turn to God for the comfort I need instead of gorging myself with whatever quick easy food is available.
3. Eat healthy.
To be healthy I need to put healthy foods in my body. That means my diet needs to be high in protein and low in carbohydrates. It needs to include lots of fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits. At about five years out I begin to find I could eat some concentrated sweets like candy. That plus not paying attention to what I was eating was responsible for putting weight back on when I still needed to lose more. I am planning my food better such as making sure I have snacks that are good for me like almonds or string cheese or protein bars. I even like carrot sticks! Go figure.
4. Change your lifestyle.
I finally realized there were some lifestyle changes that would need to be for the rest of my life. A recovering alcoholic makes a decision to not drink alcohol for the rest of his or her life. So, I made a decision not to eat candy for the rest of my life. In other words when I reach my goal weight, I will still not eat candy. With past “diets” I have always said I will do this until I lose weight and then I will eat like I want. I am also cutting down on carbs although I am not cutting those out completely, I know for now I need to decrease those and once I get closer to goal I can increase accordingly. Each person needs to choose their own healthy eating plan. Make an agreement with yourself and keep it.
5. Food journal.
I keep a food journal. I resisted this until about three months ago. It is too easy for me to guess at what I have eaten and what my calorie intake has been. I found a wonderful free ap called myfitnesspal. It is also available online at myfitnesspal.com. The ap on my iphone updates to the desktop application. And both are free. I put in the amount of weight I want to lose each week and it tells me many calories I need to eat. I put in my food, exercise, water. It subtracts the exercise from the food I eat and tells me how many more calories I have for the day. It is amazingly simple and has many foods from restaurants, as well as name brand foods listed. It not only will put the calories but protein, carbs, fat, etc. when you put in your food. It has been very helpful to keep me on track and since it is on both my phone and my home computer I am able to update it as I go about my day.
6. Take vitamins and supplements.
Gastric bypass patients need to be sure to take B12, omega 3, calcium and ferrous fumerate (chewable if possible). Recently my iron went extemely low. I was told by other gastric bypass patients that it is not unusual for this to happen to us post-post op patients. Because of my family’s propensity toward colon cancer I take a colon cleanse product daily. Protein shakes and protein bars are still good for post-op patients or anyone wanting to lose weight. I have my favorites. My friends will tell you I’m more than willing to share. If you want that info, just ask.
7. Recognize your Master.
I realized food had become my master instead of God. As a Christian for 50 years, that is hard to face. Paul says in Philippians that “their god is their stomach.” He was talking about people who live their lives against God. My god was my stomach. I want my god to be God Almighty, my Maker, Creator and Redeemer. That only comes by surrendering to His will for my life. He wants my best and that is for me to be healthy and fit for the kingdom.
By the way, that means that I do have to say no to lots of things. I have set my sights on the greater goal of knowing my Creator. When flatbread calls my name, I remember that God has a greater purpose for me than being subject to a morsel of bread.
I think many of us are like Esau in the Old Testament. We have sold our birthright, our inheritance as children of God, for a bowl of chili (insert your food of choice–mine would be Cinnamon Crunch bagels). At one time I would never say no to what my body was screaming that it wanted. I would give in to the food. I would literally roll over and die for it. I almost did.
God used my dependence on food and having gastric bypass surgery to teach me some tough lessons. I wish I could have learned them without having surgery but through the surgery I have had more time here on this earth to learn the lessons I believe God has been tugging at my heart to learn for years.