In part 1 of her story, Finding Love after Obesity: One Patient's Story, Jen candidly shares the steps she took to self awareness and self love after massive weight loss following her gastric sleeve surgery. In part 2, Jen now shares how her newly gained self awareness and self love led her to happy dating relationships with men and eventually marriage. Jen also offers her best personal advice for those of us entering into the dating game after massive weight loss.
my bariatric life
Jen and John met through an online dating site.
My Bariatric Life: What were some of your concerns about attention from men and dating?
Jen: My #1 concern was that I would resent men who suddenly paid attention to me because I was thin.
I was afraid I wouldn't be able to take compliments or believe what they said.
Deep down inside I wondered if those men were the same men who had passed me on the street or sat next me to in an airplane who overlooked me because I was obese.
I had become very negative.
MBL: How did you work through those concerns?
Jen: I had to learn to take things at face value.
It sounds easy to do but it's not easy when you are insecure. I found myself looking for the hidden meaning behind words or questioning a man's motives.
I quickly discovered that was not productive behavior and I had to stop doing it.
It was too much mental gymnastics!
MBL: How did you know when you were ready to date?
Jen: Honestly, I signed up for an online dating profile even when I wasn't sure I was ready to date.
I remember thinking, "Well, I guess if I don't receive any emails then I'm too overweight for anyone to be interested."
At the time I was only 65 lbs. into my weight loss journey and still weighed 210 lbs" not exactly an ideal weight by any means.
In hindsight, I made the mistake of giving too much power to men to judge me based on a profile and pictures when in fact I had just as much to evaluate about them as they did me.
MBL: What was that first online dating experience like?
Jen: Nerve wracking!
I was nervous that I would be rejected even though I had posted recent pictures of myself in my profile.
The first man I went out with was actually a nice guy and complimentary of me.
But deep down inside I just wanted to fast-forward time and be at my goal weight and then do the online dating thing.
But I couldn't.
So I soldiered on and decided to get some dating experience under my belt.
I met some nice men along the way and I certainly brushed up on my conversation skills.
It wasn't too long into dating (maybe 5 dates) that I found a guy who accepted me for me and I started dating him.
MBL: If yoad skipped the mental work of discovering yourself first, would your relationships with men have been successful?
Jen: If I had skipped the mental work of anything about this process, not just dating, I wouldn't be where I am today.
Getting to know yourself on a deeper level can be scary.
I think people shy away from it because they are afraid of what they might confront and need to deal with.
But without an willingness to get uncomfortable, I don't think change is possible.
MBL: What else did you learn and how did it change your life?
Each time I was in a dating relationship I learned a lot about myself and the mistakes I made as well as what was important to me in a partner.
I kept diligent notes from each relationship so I had something to look back on and tweak my criteria for finding my Mr. Perfect.
I guess you would say I was pretty methodical about it but that's because I wanted to grow from the experience personally.
MBL: What dating advice do you have for post-massive weight loss women?
Oh my gosh, I could give advice for days on this!
Find a partner who supports your efforts to achieve a healthy lifestyle.
That can mean finding another post-op partner to get healthy with or a partner who's already healthy.
Challenge and support each other.
Be each other's biggest cheerleader.
Stay true to yourself.
You have probably changed a lot in your weight loss journey.
Figure out what is important to you in a partner and stay true to this.
This will be your guidepost for helping you find the right person.
I've seen too many people not know themselves well enough to know what is important to them -or- they compromise their core values just to be in a relationship with someone.
And they end up unhappy.
Keep the faith.
I mean this in a literal and a figurative sense.
Know that your spirituality can always guide you if you want it to whether that means sitting quietly in your house, doing yoga, or going to Church.
And always have faith that the right person WILL come along and accept you for who you are inside and out.
The Bottom Line
According to Nancy Valazquez, MSW, LCSW, a bariatric program social worker, "Dating is about self; it's about how you value yourself and what you believe you are entitled to. A person who does not think she is good enough to be loved, very often has a low sense of self-worth. This lack of self-worth comes from a lack of self-love. If you cannot accept yourself and your worthiness, how can someone else see that in you? We learn to love by first loving ourselves" Expect to be treated well."
Nancy offers steps to take to have a relationship with self in her free paper, "Dating After Weight Loss Surgery." In essence the practice of dating self is about taking the time to do for yourself what you want your partner to offer you.