My experience with my bariatric surgeon's support group is that it was useful in preparing me pre-surgery and for a short-term post-op in managing my new anatomy. However, it did little to educate me on how to maintain lifetime obesity disease management. My surgeon told me, "I do the surgery. The rest is up to you." So, in this series of posts, I will discuss the tools that I use to sustain long-term weight loss following bariatric surgery.
The Tools I Use: Overeaters Anonymous
Overeaters Anonymous (OA) offers a program of recovery from compulsive overeating using the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of OA, based on AA -- Alcoholics Anonymous. Support group meetings and other tools provide a fellowship of experience, strength, and hope where members respect one another's anonymity. OA charges no dues or fees; it is self-supporting through member contributions on a completely voluntary basis (pay as you go and what you can afford -- $1, $2, or nothing at all).
Unlike other organizations, OA is not just about weight loss, obesity or diets; it addresses physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Contrary to what many people think, OA is not a religious organization. It also does not promote any particular diet, although in the groups in which I participate many people follow Kay Sheppard's plan of eating or a modified version thereof. To address weight loss, OA encourages members to develop a food plan with a healthcare professional and a sponsor. If you want to change your behaviors, change the way that you relate to food, and maintain lifetime weight loss and disease management, please check out Overeaters Anonymous.
What does OA mean to me?
I developed my food plan with a nutritionist who understood the unique needs of a bariatric lifestyle. My goal in meeting with her was to setup a healthy 'lifelong' eating and exercise plan that accomodates my very specific dietary needs based on my medical conditions. One thing she identified is that I am insulin resistant (I am, afterall, a diabetic type II) and educated me on the specific needs of my diet. She pointed out that in order to lose weight, I'd need to balance the protein to carb grams ratio at every meal 2:1.
It was vital that I work with such an educator because I did not know what a healthful food plan looked like. I had a history of starvation diets and binge eating -- and long-term failure. This much I knew: any weight lost from a such a diet is not sustainable. I also believe severe restriction diets play into the whole food addiction life cycle.
You will come to learn that I have a long history of disordered eating, including compulsive eating, anorexia and bulimia. So, insanity surrounding the use or restriction of food is something that I am ever mindful of. Developing a healthly relationship with food is something that OA has been very helpful with.
The term diet can mean "weight loss" and it also can mean "food plan." I can say that my diet consists of xyz or I can say that my food plan consists of xyz. However, I rarely use the phrase "I am on a diet." I am normally NOT on a diet which implies a short term solution to a long term problem. This is simply the way that I have chosen to eat. That's a very empowering way to look at this. Can I eat at a fast food joint? Yes,
I sure can. But, I CHOOSE not to.
I subscribe to the philosophy that food addiction is a physical, emotional, and spiritual illness. When I had my
bariatric surgery in 2003 it saved my life in the physical sense. I am ever grateful for that surgery. Sadly, the surgery doesn't fix the REASONS why I ate myself into oblivion, into being morbidly obese, into diabetes, into hypertension, into back problems, into GERD and surely into an early grave. How simple life would be if I could have the surgery and be done with it... one and done... and live the remainder of my life having a normal relationship with food.
This is where OA comes in, and has saved my life in another sense. To have the insanity STOP, to feel at ease mentally, to know peace is indeed a gift. I am grateful for the gifts I receive from this program that go beyond my relationship with food, too... removing my defects of character (and there are many) enables me to better cope with life's problems (and there are many) and maintain better relationships with people. I can definately see and feel a difference in my attitude when I do not attend meetings.
You can learn more by visiting the OA site at http://www.oa.org/index.htm My suggestion is that you find a meeting in your area and attend 6 meetings before making a decision if that group is a fit for you... if not, find another group and do another 6 meetings until you find a "home." Like any group, each has their own personality and you may have to try more than one before you find one that clicks with you. Regardless, be sure that after the meeting you talk with people in attendance... as they say, sometimes the best meetings occur in the parking lot. If I can make one promise to you it is that OA is the best way to behavior change.
You can read about other tools I use, such as the
Pouch Rules for Dummies and
FitDay.com, and recipes I've created like OMG! Almond Joy Protein Bars, so as to maintain a lifetime of obesity disease management following my
in 2003. My wish is to help you on your own journey of lifetime obesity disease management with shareposts along the way to help you navigate that journey successfully.