Two weeks ago, I had some ground beef in the freezer and decided the weather was perfect for making a pot of chili. So I did. And it was good. And I literally ate three bowls of chili every day until it was gone. I would wake up, eat my normal breakfast and then by around 10:00, I'd be starving again and make myself a bowl of chili.
And then I'd have another one for lunch. And another one either for dinner or as an after dinner/pre-bedtime snack. Sometimes both.
Finally I ran out of chili and had to put it on the menu again. I made an even more obscenely-sized pot the second time around and just finished the last of it last night.
A serving of chili for me consists of about 1.5 cups of chili with about a quarter cup of cold sour cream. It's rich, but healthy and I cook the (extra lean) meat separately and drain the fat and always add about a half dozen shredded carrots to the pot with the onions, so it has some veggies in it.
Anyway, now I'm done with chili until next year. I don't even want to LOOK at chili. And this is my regular food pattern. I get a craving for something, I act on it, I eat it until I'm sick to death of it and then I shelve it for a while. The only food I consistently crave is my morning oatmeal; it's been my breakfast of choice for over five years. (I make one packet drowned in milk, cook it for a minute and then dump another dry packet on top of it. I can't finish the bowl without getting sick (so I never finish it), but this is what I eat every. single. day.)
The best thing about having weight loss surgery is the most unexpected thing and the thing I think MOST post-ops get bass-ackwards: I DON'T WATCH WHAT I EAT. I don't pay attention. I don't count calories and I never EVER restrict myself.
I eat WHATEVER I WANT, WHENEVER I WANT IT.
I will never go on another diet again for the rest of my life.
And here's the thing: THIS WORKS ridiculously well. If you ask people who are naturally thin (like Gwyneth Paltrow, who LOVES to eat, but stays thin), this is also how they eat. NOT restricting yourself is the key. Eating until you're full, and not one single bite more, is the way to maintain your weight. My diet is mostly junk. I love junk food. I'm addicted to junk food and I eat it every day. But I only eat it in moderation and I ALSO eat plenty of good stuff, including a delicious, all-natural homemade dinner almost every night (see my sidebar).
So my diet is FAR from perfect, but it works for me.
Halloween is a perfect illustration of the way the surgery has worked for me. I LOVE candy. I eat it every day. Normally, though, I'll eat maybe one or two pieces and then I'm done. I stop. I just... don't want any more. I think this MIGHT be how "normal" people feel about candy. They like it and they eat it in moderation and then they stop thinking about it.
Obese people? HELL TO THE NO. When I was heavy and there was candy in the house, I would eat it until it was gone. And if I wasn't eating it? I was THINKING about eating it. It was THERE and I knew it and I would spend days, natch, WEEKS punishing myself over my inability to control myself. I never EVER felt full and as soon as the candy was gone, I would just buy more. I felt much the same way about cheeseburgers. And Hagen-Daas. And everything else.
The best part of having gastric bypass surgery and why I think it works so much better than dieting is that, if you're doing it right, you lose that internal dialogue. The one that distinguishes between what you "should" be eating and what you WANT to eat. I have these vivid memories of walking into a restaurant when I was heavy and reading the menu and REALLY REALLY wanting something "bad" like a cheeseburger or the fettuccine Alfredo, but also seeing that they had healthier choices that I "should" eat and feeling like being fat was always LOSE-LOSE. You lose if you eat what you WANT and you lose if you eat what you SHOULD.
Now WANT and SHOULD are completely the same for me and that battle is over, literally for the rest of my life. I order what I want and I naturally eat the amount of it that I should. WIN-WIN.
On my body:
The big caveat to everything I just wrote is acceptance. BODY acceptance. This is the hardest part for most post-ops.
After I had Alex, I got back to my starting weight within a week and then I continued to lose weight. My lowest-ever post-gastric-bypass surgery weight was 165 pounds. I was a perfect size ten and it was lovely. I was also only that weight for about three weeks, during which time I was a) nursing b) insanely busy and c) painting our condo from top to bottom for 7 hours a day, every day of the week (I took two weeks paid vacation to do it and my mom continued to watch Alex for me). It was hard to eat during that time because the condo was empty (we hadn't moved in yet) and my hands were always all painty.
I even remember my thinnest day: the day I qualified for life insurance. I weighed 165 pounds when I stepped on the scale with all my clothes on. It was awesome.
But then we moved in and I started to cook more again and by the time Alex was a year old, I stopped pumping breast milk and even though I was still nursing him, my milk production probably dropped by half and I started to gain weight again. By the time Alex was 18 months old, I had gained 20 pounds and weighed 185 pounds. A lot of that was stress weight I had from quitting my job and my entire life changing so drastically.
But as far as post-ops go, it was TOTALLY NORMAL.
Of course at the time I thought it was the end of the world. But I STILL didn't want to diet. I mostly just cut out my See's Candy addiction for a few months and managed to get back down to about 178 pounds.
Then it was time for us to start trying to get pregnant again and I had Genoa. I think I gained around 40 pounds with her pregnancy (none of which happened in the first trimester). It took me several months to lose the weight again, but I'm back to my pre-pregnancy size and have been for over two years.
I weigh 180 pounds.
Now, to a THIN person that probably sounds IMMENSE. I'm 5'7" and it's still a lot to weigh. It's a man weight, not a girl weight. But let me remind you what I USED TO weigh: 309 pounds. To an obese person? Anything under 200 pounds is the fricking HOLY GRAIL of weight loss. I might as well be wearing a size 2.
Of course, I'm NOT in a size two. I'm a happy size 12/14. My body is far from perfect. Far. It's even a far cry from my lowest weight of 165 pounds, but still, I LOVE IT.
Let me repeat that for the people in the back: I LOVE my 180-pound size 14 body. LOVE. IT.
I get to eat whatever I want at this weight and I'm not sure if you've noticed a theme here or not, but I? LOVE TO EAT. I will happily stay a size 14 for the rest of my days if it means I can nosh on mini snickers and eat four bowls of chili with sour cream every day and not have to worry about it. The truth is that I don't want the HASSLE of being any thinner than I am.
I am happy just how I am.
I won the biggest battle I've ever had with myself.
But again, not all post-ops have this attitude. They think they're still fat. They diet (oh god do they diet!), but it rarely works and they end up right back on the train they were on before surgery. The guilt/remorse/emotional eating train that leads right back to being fat again.
If you take one thing from the thousands of words I've written on this subject, take this: Dieting DOES NOT WORK.
Yes, I had to have major surgery to fix my over-eating, but it was the best thing I ever did for myself. It was a CHOICE. Just like a diet, it took WORK and energy and commitment. It was dangerous and risky and definitely NOT the easy way out. It took balls. I know plenty of morbidly obese people who desperately want to lose weight, but will never take the steps to get surgery, even though it would work for them. It would help them lead healthier, happier, more fulfilled LONGER lives. But they are afraid. And for the most part, I'm not talking about your run-of-the-mill fear of death or needles or the hospital. I'm talking about fear of success. Fear of failure. Fear of finally finding out what it's like to not have a crutch anymore.