Last month I went to a weight-loss surgery support group that was led by a well known, and well loved Bariatric Psychologist. He chose to focus on the topic of body image.
At first I was pretty uncomfortable. I shifted in my seat a little. I was thankful that my role was to sit quietly in the back because I’m not a patient. It’s so tempting to talk about all the wonderful things about weight-loss surgery, I admit I often avoid the negative conversations. I could see other patients feeling the same way.
As the conversation got going, it evolved into one of the most honest and refreshing support groups I’ve been a part of. “Let’s call a spade a spade” and share the honest truth about body changes after surgery. Lose skin. Thinning hair (that comes back but takes forever). Looking in the mirror and seeing the same person despite the 50, 60, 100 pounds of weight-loss.
It happens often in my life that I start learning something, and that same lesson comes around again…and again for me. The topic of body image started that night at support group. It didn’t stop for me there.
You see, while I was sitting there, I was 9 weeks pregnant and struggling with morning sickness and nausea. No one there knew it, but I had been struggling with eating poorly because any remotely healthy thing was so repulsive to me. I had been praying for God to help healthy food to start sounding good.
In the coming weeks, I started also struggling with comparison. Oh, you know that toxic game of “she had her surgery the same day I did and look how much faster she is losing….”
I can officially say I can now relate, only it’s in the way of “she’s due a week behind me and my belly is growing and showing so much faster than hers…” I never knew pregnancy could open my eyes to some of the things my patients struggle with.
I’ve fallen into the trap of reading too many blogs that tell me most first time moms aren’t in maternity clothes until well into the second trimester, and finding myself upset that I needed to slowly change over my closet to pregnancy clothes before the strangers out in the blog world told me I would. I would see pictures on Facebook of other pregnant girls and find myself comparing my body type to someone’s totally different body type. I’d look at how much they recommend in weight gain and pregnancy and thank GOODNESS my scale at home was broken so I couldn’t obsessively check how I was doing. Who made up those charts anyway??
And it began to dawn on me. I’m doing exactly what I encouraged my patients to break free from. The toxic cycle of comparison and negativity.
Instead of REJOICING in this beautiful process of what my body was going through, I was robbing myself of so….much….joy.
That’s what we do isn’t it? The very surgery you dreamed of, couldn’t wait for, worked hard to prepare for, celebrated the day it came, has now become something that looms over your head because you aren’t measuring up to what you thought you should be or what someone else is doing. You rob yourself of the joy of the process. Instead of celebrating each beautiful pound that falls off, you tell yourself it isn’t enough.
But my lesson didn’t stop here. I went to church on Sunday and as often happens, the message was exactly what I needed to hear. (In fact, if your struggling with self-image, I would encourage you to watch the full message from Louie Giglio)
The message was “Man in the Mirror” and Pastor Louie focused on what we see when we look in the mirror, compared to what God sees. *OUCH*
When I look in the mirror, I look at my stomach and worry about being that dietitian who gains 80 pounds while she’s pregnant and fears what people will think.
When God sees us in the mirror….it’s a different story.
I love you. I’m grateful for you. You are a rare and beautiful treasure. You are completely forgiven.
Heaven has spoken. And who am I to disagree with what my Heavenly Father says about me?
So, is it true that after Gastric Sleeve or Gastric Bypass surgery you may have some hair loss? Yes. (I have a video about that for Premier Access Members). Is it true you’ll still want to wear sleeves because of the loose skin on your arms? Probably. Is it true my stomach is going to stretch beyond my imagination and probably leave me with stretch marks? Yep.
Is it all completely worth it?
Does it change what God says about me? That I’m his. That I’m a treasure.
We’ll always fight this battle of body image, self-esteem, comparison and the like. But with each moment we look in the mirror, may we start to see things differently and rejoice in this beautiful process and the bodies we’ve been given.
So now I celebrate the fact that healthy food IS sounding good because God is faithful to answer my prayers. I celebrate that I’m feeling well enough to cook a healthy dinner for me and my husband (and unborn baby). I celebrate the miracle of this life growing inside my body. I celebrate every beautiful pound of weight gain as a symbol of his miracles and grace in my life.
And I pray for you, my patients, followers and friends. That you would celebrate each day you drank all the water you were supposed to. Celebrate each vitamin as a reminder of health being your new found focus. Celebrate each beautiful ounce that falls off your body and protect yourself from any moments of comparison or negative thoughts that rob you of the joy of this process.
Thanks for reading. All my best to you in your journey to forever health – Steph
PS here’s an old blog I wrote about why I decided I loved my body after my 2012 car accident.