By Jennifer

When I had bariatric surgery, it was strictly to save my life. I was in bad shape – at close to 300 lbs with high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and sleep apnea (to name a few issues). With the life I was living, it was a fair statement to say that my life expectancy was lowered considerably. At the time, I didn’t even think of the words “recovery” or “addiction” or “eating disorder”. All I thought of was my health and seeing my babies grow up, hit milestones of adulthood, and evetually love on my grandbabies.

I had no idea that “recovery” meant anything but healing from the incisions on my stomach.

Fast forward a year … I lost close to 100 lbs and was stuck. I started researching and fell into the fad diet trap (and it really is a trap, folks). Gluten free, high protein/high fat, pouch test diet, etcetera, etcetera ….
Pre-surgery I had a cycle of looking for the best diet to help me to lose weight.
Guess what I fell into … again?

The sad thing is, none of these were “right” for me – they were all ways of me getting in the yummy foods I craved and giving me an excuse for them. Gluten free eating gave me an excuse to eat rice crackers, potato chips, and gluten-free cookies. High protein/high fat told me I could eat all the bacon I wanted, and that side of avocado dipped in mayonnaise was just fine. And don’t get me started on the “eat whatever you want in moderation” philosophy … So not only did I STOP losing weight at 50 lbs to goal … but I put on 20 lbs of what I’d lost!

Now … a person that has a stomach the size and shape of a banana shouldn’t be able to eat enough food to put on 20 lbs. … or you would think.
But it happened.

So … then I gave up for the second (okay … 50th) time in my life. I ate pretty much whatever I wanted, consequences be damned. Fast food, gas station burritos (trust me … you know these little babies if you live near an Allsup’s), chips, fried food, baked goods … Oh lord, it was a smorgasbord of culinary atrocity. All the while telling my friends and neighbors to eat a healthy bariatric diet.

Hi. My name is Jennifer. And I am one hell of a hypocrite.

Then my mom saw a woman named Tennie McCarthy on TV. She was talking about food addiction and eating disorders and … SHE’D HAD BARIATRIC SURGERY. Of course, immediately my mom bought the book. After reading the introduction, she called me and told me, “You HAVE to read this book!” I have to admit, I kind of rolled my eyes. But I ordered a copy for myself. And my life … my journey … took a drastic turn.

I never realized that food addiction was such a strong guiding force in my life. But it was – everything revolved around food. What I was going to eat, when I was going to eat it, what recipes I was going to write, looking up recipes to modify, food, food, food, food, FOOD. Everywhere everyday all the time food. But … I didn’t “have a problem” … did I? Psh … I’d had the sleeve. I wasn’t a food addict … or was I?

As I delved further into the book and thus further into myself, I started realizing things about myself that I never knew I didn’t know.

And so, for the first time in my life, I made the decision to take a trip down the road of recovery.
I joined Overeaters Anonymous. I started an online treatment program through Shades of Hope Recovery Center.
Recovery became part of my vocabulary.

Being in the bariatric community, I’ve heard a lot about people’s struggles with addiction. But I rarely hear people talking about recovery. At least, not in the terms that I’m speaking of. There are some that have traded one addiction for another – going from food to exercise, love addiction, and for some even sex addiction and/or drugs and alcohol. The fact is, WE ARE ADDICTS. There are so many that completely deny this statement. And I’m not going to say that every single person that has had bariatric surgery is an addict. That’s not a fair assessment. But the majority – I’d venture forth to say as high as 99% of us – ARE. And the surgery only fixes the physical. It does nothing for the mental or emotional side of things.

Recovery is something that every person that has had bariatric surgery NEEDS to think about and be involved in. Otherwise you will fall into a cycle of addiction and shame all over again. There’s a very high percentage of bariatric patients who’s surgeries failed. But it’s not the surgery’s fault. That percentage of failures can be attributed to addiction. Many people eat around their surgeries, learning how to graze and eat the foods that they can eat a lot of (aka “slider foods”). Some people start from the beginning, continuing on with their bad eating habits. Whatever the case is, the problem is not physical. The problem is emotional and mental. And the only thing that can help with THAT is treatment.

I encourage you, friends, to seek that treatment if you haven’t already. Seek out a counselor that specializes in eating disorders or bariatrics. Find a support group – bariatric support groups, overeaters anonymous, food addicts anonymous … whichever of those speaks to you. Consider online treatment like the one offered by Shades of Hope. Or, if you feel you are in severe need of in-house treatment, seek that out.

Recovery doesn’t mean sitting on a chair while our wounds heal. Recovery means being proactive in making food something that is NOT the center of your life.
What steps are you going to take towards your recovery today?