Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Dangers of the Social Networks and WLS (and any kind of "self-help")

This is a long one.  Ready?

Yesterday a woman I know through one of my last two FB "Support" groups for people who have had VSG expressed that she was frustrated with the FB group and seeing everyone success left her beating herself up for not doing more, being better. It is a hard mental thought process that I totally connected with.

This made my heart break for her.  I have been there.  The initial group I found was composed of people who were all having VSG from November 1-30, 2013.  We were all new and all excited.  There was one women who had her surgery the year before- I am not sure why she wanted to be in out group.  There were a lot of people who were doing "self-pay" in Mexico as well (something I still don't really understand, but I own that).  It was a good group the first couple months.  I did make some good connections- there are two women, who had surgery the same day I did, "sleeve sisters" that I am still in touch with-and there are a few others from that original group, but that is it.  I had to back away after suggesting there be group norms to make the space safe for everyone after noticing a lot of food shaming (HERE is a great blog post about what it is) going on.  Much of it had to do with a gentleman who was very vocal about carbs being the devil and offering a lot of misinformation about nutrition to a large group of people.  I felt very protective of my peers and wanted to speak up so I did.  I wrote a long post about the proposal and it was struck down by the group admin.  I made the choice to leave that group.  It left me feeling sad and like I had done something wrong.  This is not what support should look like.

A woman from the group reached out to me to touch base and to see what had happened.  This is what I told her: 

"When I suggested establishing group norms, which are not rules but guidelines that a group follows for the safety of all, I was shot down by X. As an educator and an advocate (and a New Yorker) I saw something happening on an ongoing basis and spoke up. I now seem to be ostracized from the group for raising a concern that I had so I think the best thing is for me to leave."

We exchanged a few messages back and fourth and she asked me to reconsider and let me know that many people had spoke up- privately, quite the redundancy, on my behalf and it seems the frequent offenders were addressed.  It was too little too late for me.

This left me floundering.  I looked for a meet-up but didn't find anything.  Then I found a FB group for people who have 200+ lbs. to lose or more.  That was a tough pill to swallow.  I knew I was different from the people who elected to have WLS and only needed to lost 50, 75 or even 100 lbs.  Having lost 100lbs before not once but twice in my life, I know it can be done with diet and exercise.  In my opinion, WLS should be used as a tool by people who have yo-yoed for years, have co-morbidities (like HBP, Diabetes, etc.) and have done the "head work" that I so often talk about here. WLS is a last resort, not a quick fix. This new group felt so different.  I didn't feel like I was doing a bad job because I was eating carbs or not losing 30 lbs a month.  I also had 200 lbs (or more, not sure what my final weight will be) to shed.  I had found a new home and it still continues to be important however boundaries are necessary.

So back to my original thought about what the woman, who is 29 days out is experiencing.  I will be 9 months out on the 25th.  There were people I knew who were hitting goal after 3 and 4 months who were in my surgery cohort and that did a number on my head.  When people were getting to "one-derland" after just a few months it hurt my heart.  I felt so jealous, like I was failing and was so angry at myself for reaching 386 and not making the choice sooner to have the VSG.  Reading through all the posts by my fellow sleevers was so hard sometimes. I needed to step back and take a break. The use of the online groups had to be on my terms and in a way that was SUPPORTIVE for me.  Even 8.5 months out I still have to step back from time to time to turn off all the voices coming from the interweb.  I know I am working my program and I can't compare myself to anyone else.

Now, I know that I too have a strong voice and I am not afraid to speak up.  I try to think about when and what I am saying and consider the person, as much as I can, and what they are going through.  I also come back to the same things though:
  • Each person is unique, our bodies, our experiences and there is no one right way to go through this process.
  • Always follow your surgeon and nutritionists guidance first.  They are YOUR experts and they have a plan for you.  While everyone online has the best of intentions and a story about what worked for them, most are not medical professionals nor have they ever met you.  Defer to your team first.
  • Do the "head work"!!!  This is as much about the mental as it is the physical.  Find a therapist and GO, at least 2x a month.  I go way more than that but it is what works for me and I have great insurance and I know not everyone is so lucky.
  • Each meal is a opportunity to start again if you feel like you "fell off".  Some of the diet mentality is that once you screw up your day it is an excuse to go through the rest of the day eating what ever you want.  It doesn't have to be this way.  So you don't make the best choice (I had a cold slice of pizza yesterday for breakfast :-) I had a smart lunch and dinner and got my water in the rest of the day. 
My journey is not a perfect one.  I have found support and solace in the online community but it can also do bad and I or YOU have to be the ultimate decision maker when it comes to what feels good for you.  I am going to a new WLS meet-up next week that I have hopes for.  To be determined. 

Current stats: 
Down 141 lbs. 
Top: XL (from 4x)
Bottom: 16/18 (from 28/30)
Shoe: 9.5 (from 11) (I know, right?)

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