Random header image... Refresh for more!

Category — Motivation

Easier or Stronger?


I saw this on Facebook this morning and it resonated with me. Yesterday was a rough day, and I remember thinking, “I just need to get through this because I don’t like it. What is the lesson I’m supposed to learn from this? I’m ready. I want to learn and I want to be stronger because I know this will come again.”

In this case, I chose to “Phone a friend” and, though she couldn’t fix the situation for me, she did show me great compassion and reminded me that I had the strength to do it myself. She let me know that I knew how to survive (solve) the situation (problem).

In the past, I might have said, “Why me?” or “Make it stop!” But, I’ve learned that this type of thinking doesn’t move me forward, and only puts me in the position of getting to repeat the life lesson over and over until I learn it! Now, I really don’t like “Karmic” situations (especially when the bank is involved), so I prefer to look at this through the lens of “Problems I can solve by using proper formulas.”

Let’s think about it in terms of numbers and letters.

Math problems can be hard until you learn how to solve them:

  • “Anything times zero is zero”
  • “Reduce to the lowest common denominator”
  • “Follow the order of operations”
  • “Standard Deviation is a way to tell approximately how much of the data will cluster around the mean.”

OOOPS. That last one was kinda hard.

Don’t like math? How about words? Grammar can be hard, if you don’t know the rules:

  • “I before E, except after C.”
  • “Chickens lay eggs; people lie down.” I’d be lying if I said I laid an egg.
  • “Don’t end a sentence with a prepositional phrase.” I wonder where that rule came from?
  • “ER not RE, unless you live someplace funny where they like to switch the letters, substitute ‘S’ for ‘Z’ and add an unnecessary ‘U’ after ‘O…”

Ignore that last one if you live below the equator or you have pictures of a royal family on your credenza.

But, back to the point: Once you know the secret (the formula), you can beat the situation (solve the problem) – or, at least, make it more manageable.

You know, I think math and grammar rules are useful in everyday life. Like…it’s good to put others before ourselves: “Alice and I went to the store.” Not “Me and Alice went to the store.” (We before me, including he, she and thee?)

It’s good to understand the order of operations, to solve one part of the problem first and then simplify to the lowest common denominator. “I eat too much and I am fat.” Let’s solve that problem with the order of operations: “I want to lose weight, so the first thing to do is determine what I’m eating and formulate a healthy eating program. Next, I need to purchase those foods and learn proper portions. Finally, I need to eat my breakfast, pack my lunch, and plan a healthy dinner.”

But, all of that can still seem hard, particularly when we get a little over-possessive and selfish about thing’s. We want what we want when we want it and we don’t care what anyone thinks. It can be really hard to get out of our own way – but that’s precisely the time we can do something for someone else. If we put others’ wants before our own, our own wants can seem less significant.

• • •

I have a feeling you’re not feeling what I’m saying here.

Okay…let me take a big step backward and return to the original thought behind this post: Do I want it to be EASIER or do I want to be STRONGER?

We’ve discussed that, in order to do something, it’s best to know the rules and understand how to solve problems. Each time we master a problem, it can be easier to solve next time – or, at least we are more confident in our ability to do it (and, as I have learned, self-efficacy is critical to our self-worth and self-esteem.)

How often have you heard yourself say, “Why is this so hard?” Especially when thinking about weight loss and weight management. Well, I think it comes down to perspective.

  • A knife can be really sharp and sometimes, we get cut. Do we really want that knife to be dull (so it can’t even cut milk), or, do we want to know how to safely and correctly USE that knife to accomplish what we need to do?
  • A propeller on an airplane can hurt you if you walk into it, but do you really want those blades to stop spinning, or do you want to learn to steer clear of the blades so the plane can take you where you want to go?
  • A chain saw can be really noisy and really dangerous – if you don’t know how to use it – but, do you really want to cut those logs for your fireplace with a hand saw?
  • Does it make sense to drive nails with a high-heel shoe, just so you won’t whack your thumb with a hammer?

(Okay, let’s ignore that last one because, I really don’t see anything wrong with it.)

The point of all this is, we can look at life as a bunch of hard problems that we can’t solve. Or, we can look at it as a series of problems we can solve, if we know the formulas and rules, know how to use the tools, and believe we can succeed.

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to slice a turkey with a plastic spoon just because I think it might be safer (ever broken one of those sporks and cut your cagina? It would take too long, be inefficient, and frustrate me to no end.

Think that example was too easy? How about this: I don’t want weight management to be easy, or I will take it for granted and not be proud of my accomplishments. Oh boy, that one sounds really suspicious and doesn’t involve plastic utensils.

Look, I get it…we all want the Bariatric After Life™ to be easy — but if it were easy, what would that do for our self-worth?

Here’s what I know: I want to get stronger when I exercise and I want to feel better by making healthy food choices. I want to know I can deal with stressful situations at work (or at the bank). I want to feel good and strong and that’s not going to happen by running away from problems, ignoring the rules, not asking how to solve the problem in the first place, or not believing I can do it.

Ultimately, we all know that life is challenging and sometimes not a whole of fun. Sometimes we just want to plop into a corner and wait for it to all go away. But, it won’t go away – it will be there when our butt falls asleep because we were sitting on the hard floor, and it will be there when we get up and our legs tingle because the blood is returning to our feet – AND – it will be there whether or not we want it to be.

The question is: “What are you willing to do to get through those inevitable hard times?”

  • Are you willing to ask for help from those who have mastered the problem (are successfully living a life in recovery from obesity?)
  • Are you willing to follow the “order of operations” and do what you need to do face the challenges?
  • Are you willing to say, “I don’t want it to be easier – I want to be stronger?”

Only you can answer those questions, but for me? I hate being uncomfortable and repeating the same “mistakes” over and over and over. If I know certain things are going to happen, my job is to find a way to get through it so I can get over it.

As I used to tell my daughter, Hannah (she hated this): You can stop running into the wall because it hurts, or you can stop running into the wall because it’s not smart to run into the wall. Either way, just stop running into the wall.

The moral of that story is, life doesn’t have to be as challenging as we make it, if we are willing to learn the rules and solve the problems.

  • Know the rules.
  • Use the tools.
  • Solve in order of operations.
  • Have your friend on speed dial.
  • Ask for help.
  • Believe in yourself.

2+2 will always be 4 and there is no 29st of February (Not even in New Zealand…that’s for you, Sine).

What do you think? Are you running into the wall or are you looking for a solution to get beyond it? Leave me a comment below with your thoughts.

March 2, 2013   1 Comment

Making the Grade: Are you afraid to fail?

I don’t know about you, but I was never a very good test-taker in school. At the time, I was convinced that it was because I just wasn’t able to remember things as well as people like my brother, who often bragged that he could ace any test without even trying or studying.

I now know that my perception of test-taking was horribly flawed by misbeliefs and misperceptions.


Ironically, I was always in advanced classes (except in math), and typically got A’s and B’s. In elementary school, I was in a “mixed class,” where they combined first and second graders in the same room. I was always watching (studying) the second grade curriculum, rather than the first grade curriculum, because I believed that I had already learned everything they could teach me in first grade, when I was in private school for Kindergarten!

I believed I was smarter than all of the first graders.

I had this belief about a lot of things in grade school. My best friend was about a year older than me, so when we went to camp or Sunday School, my mom would always “weedle” to get me into the class with the older kids. I assigned myself as my friend’s protector. And this worked, (until I was in fifth grade and she was in sixth), when she found a new best friend her own age and I was suddenly lost. I was out of a job.

In junior high, there were new friends to make (and protect), only…a lot of these friends were smarter than me. They were GOOD at math and I wasn’t. Though I continued to be in advanced classes, “they” always seemed to have an “easier” time of it. They never seemed to have to work hard at it and things just came naturally.

By the tender age of 13, I had mastered the art of comparison, and if there had been a class in it, I’d surely have scored an “A” – not for achievement, but for “absorbed,” because I was consumed by my own deficiencies.

By high school, the pattern was set. There were always others who were smarter, better, brighter, prettier, faster, more artistic, more accomplished, or richer. I was in AP (Advanced Placement) classes with “very smart” people who “got” A’s and passed the AP tests (which meant they were well-qualified to earn scholarships to prestigious universities.) Meanwhile, I struggled to maintain B’s and C’s and did not take the AP tests. My friends “got” 1300+ on their SAT’s; I earned a little under 1100. I lied to myself for years about my score because I could stand the thought of being viewed as average – or stupid. By “failing” the SAT, I believed that I had failed the ultimate test: LIFE.

So, here’s the point of that characterization:

From the time I was young, I believed (through various pieces of misinterpreted empirical evidence) that things were just “easier” for others and that scoring well on tests was largely a matter of luck. I believed that test-taking was a skill I just didn’t possess. I believed that letter grades on the top of my papers were a direct representation of my value as a person. As the grades dropped, so did my self-worth. I began to take what I got because I figured it represented my true value.

After high school, I began to surround myself by people who were “less intelligent” so that I could feel superior without even trying. If they called me on it, I would simply say that I wasn’t doing anything wrong, and if they had a problem, it was there fault. In other words, if they weren’t making the grade, it was on them.

Just think, I “learned” all of this from a fear of taking tests.

I’m sitting here asking myself, “Why didn’t someone set me straight?” Oh sure, people told me how smart I was, and how I wasn’t living up to my potential – but they said that to my brother, too, and he got straight A’s. In other words, he was brilliant and a genius, yet he was told he could do better. Compare that to my self-view, and you end up with a person who couldn’t do or be better if she tried.

It only took me about 40 years to figure it out, but as my father always said, “Experience keeps a dear school, but a fool will have no other.” (Yeah, that confused me for a long time, too, but I understand it now and this “fool finally learned what dad was always saying:

If you want to succeed at anything in life, you have to….

  • Want it.
  • Prepare for it.
  • Study for it.
  • Commit to it.
  • Believe you can do it.

For the first 40 years of my life, I can say that I “wanted it”…but that is where my plan for success ended, and that is why I did not achieve the success I claimed to want!

Fast forward to my Bariatric After Life.™

People often tell me that managing my weight is just “easier” for me and that I am “lucky” to have lost as much as I did. They tell me they are terrified of regain and failure, something I will “never” have to worry about.

Well I say, weight management is like anything else in life. Look at it as a series of tests, if you want, but the thing is, it has NOTHING to do with luck or ease and everything to do with preparation, commitment and thebelief that you can do it.

If living a healthy life were like a test, what would I have to do to score a good grade on it?

  1. I would have to know (be prepared for) what is going to be on the test. Good teachers always give you a syllabus at the beginning of the course and tell you what to study. They give you a list of books and materials that you’ll have to read in order to do well in the class, and they’ll often give you a study guide. Hey, in spelling, you get the answers in advance! In other words, I’m going to need to know what is expected of me.
  2. I will have to do the assigned work (studying, reading, answering questions, writing essays) to prepare for the test. People don’t have a “testing gene” in their DNA; they aren’t genetically wired to somehow now how to ace tests. They might have an aptitude or predisposition for being able to learn quickly and understand what will be expected of them – but they aren’t psychic. In other words, even pop quizzes aren’t really total surprises. No, if you’ve been paying attention, you already know what’s on the quiz.
  3. I have to want it badly enough to ask questions when I don’t understand something, and I have put in the time and effort required to do the work. I can’t just give up when it gets hard or confusing.
  4. I have to believe I can pass the test. If I have done the work, asked the questions, and know what the test is about, I must believe that I am ready to pass it – not because I am lucky or smarter, but because I am prepared.
  5. I have to take the test. This is no time for fear. I can’t be worried about failure here…it’s time to succeed.

Thoughts about tests.

There are lots of different kinds of tests: Pop Quiz, Essay, Multiple Choice (otherwise known as “Multiple Guess), Fill in the Blank, Verbal, and True/False (just to name a few). We took those tests in school and still take them in life. The difference is, we don’t get a letter grade on the top of our paper – but we do know when we come up with the wrong answer! I used the word “wrong” on purpose. That’s because we are familiar with the terminology of tests: You’re Right or Wrong; You Passed or Failed – and it was either Incomplete or complete. When you miss something, you get a check mark, and when you do well, you get a gold star or a happy face. Right?

Well, I believe that many of us have applied what we think we learned in school on tests to what we think we know about life: We’re right or wrong. We pass or we fail. We give up because we are afraid we’ll miss one of the questions…which earns us an incomplete.

Hmmm…why are we afraid to miss a question on the test? Isn’t that how you learn? Didn’t your teacher give you the right answer when you answered incorrectly? Didn’t you learn that getting something wrong enables you to get it right next time? What about those math tests…show your work! Why? So the teacher can show you where you went off track – and give you partial credit!

You know, I think we should show our work on our life tests. I think we should not look at life as a series of passes (successes) or failures; rights or wrongs, trues or falses…we should look at life as a series of lessons. When we learn that something doesn’t work, we need to change our answer for the next time that same question shows up in life. We need to build upon the work we are doing – the studying and preparation – so that we can advance, move up, learn more…succeed at life.

Life is full of tests – but you don’t have to feel unprepared for them. You already know the answers (or have enough knowledge to figure them out) because life is the best teacher of all – if you’re willing to learn.

Here’s the bottom line for me: When I didn’t do well on tests, it was because I didn’t study or prepare; I didn’t learn from my incorrect answers…I didn’t ask questions, because I thought I should already know the answers. I didn’t do well on essays because I didn’t believe I knew enough about the question to answer, and the 50/50 chance of the true/false often felt like 90/10 (false!)

I’ll end with this true story from 10th Grade AP History.

Our teacher, Mr. Wyatt, was a great instructor who was passionate about the subject of history. He loved watching his students succeed and gave us all the opportunity to do well in his class. We got study notes, knew what would be on the tests, and were encouraged to ask questions.

Now, here’s the unique part: His tests always featured a “correction factor” because he knew that, not all tests are perfect, he might not have covered a certain topic thoroughly enough in our class and, that people can misinterpret meanings.

The correction factor was equal the highest grade in each class, so if someone scored a 93/100, that person would earn the factor of 7 and get a 100/100; everyone else would get 7 points added to their score. This was a great system, but many of us hoped that the highest grade in the class would be low so we’d get a higher correction factor added to our grade!

It’s funny, really, because we still missed what we missed, but it was just easier to blame the “smart person” in the room.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like to read my history book (it was big and wordy) and AP History was 6th period for me, which was immediately after 5th period lunch – so I always fell asleep and Mr. Wyatt always kicked my chair to gently “nudge” me awake. Did I mention my brother was one of his favorite students four years earlier? Did I mention that the semester final contained 200 multiple choice questions? Did I mention that anyone who could miss 100% of the questions would score 100% on their paper (thus, eliminating the correction factor)? Did I mention that one guy got exactly one right on the final exam? That took guts and needless to say, he scored a 1/200…well, the correction factor was 13…so he really got 14/200 – clearly, not an A.

The moral of the story? Life has a correction factor…if we look for it. And that’s a good thing. We can pass the tests that come our way – even if we don’t get a “perfect” score on our paper, a big red “A+” on page one, or a gold star at the top. We can learn when we get it wrong, and we can encourage others to do well.

The Bariatric After Life is not a pop quiz. We don’t have to fear the test; we can welcome it as a new opportunity to learn where we can do better. Ultimately, we must believe that we have the answers to the questions, or have what it takes to figure it out. We are prepared (or are preparing) to pass the test. There are no letter grades here, and the only “fail” is the one you put on your own paper. You won’t get in trouble if you ask your neighbor for help here, but it’s best to ask the teacher. The correction factor is as big or small as you make it, but at the end of the day, you have to BELIEVE that you can succeed at maintaining a healthy life.

Remember to show your work – partial credit counts!

February 18, 2013   1 Comment

Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say, Don’t Be Mean About What You Say

Say What You Mean
Mean What You Say
Don’t Be Mean About What You Say

Words are incredibly powerful.

They can be used for healing or for hurting.
They can be helpful or they can be harmful.
They can be used as weapons or as olive branches.
They can be understood and misunderstoodused and misused.

Words are used to convey emotions, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs.

To others.
To ourselves.

I spend a lot of time thinking about words. I’d say 95% of my day (if not more) is consumed by the processing of words. I process words in emails that I write to friends, coworkers and business associates, and I process words that I text, post or tweet. I process words that I speak, and I process words that I hear and read.

I ponder over the meanings of words — overt and covert, intentional and unintentional, serious and funny — in my own messages and thoughts, those written or spoken to me, and those written or spoken for no one in particular.

Sometimes, I wonder if people really know what they are saying? I like to THINK they know, but the reality is, they probably don’t, and I like to THINK they want OTHERS to think they know, and I’d go even further to say that what they THINK are saying really isn’t what they are saying.

Confused, yet?

Let me try and make it clear, because I think that what I’m trying to say would fit neatly into something called the Johari Window. In my study of life, I was aware of three of the panes (what I know about myself, what others know about me, what I share about myself), but not the fourth (what isn’t known by anyone). Now that I AM aware, life looks much different.

Let me see if I can do a better job of explaining it to you:

Basically, there are 4 “parts” to each of us: Our Private self, Hidden self, Unknown self and Blind self. It’s pretty easy to understand the private and hidden selves, for they are what we know about ourselves and choose either to show the world, or hide. The other window panes are a bit trickier because they represent selves others know or no one knows.

Johari Window

Why am I talking about pictures when my opening comments were about words?

Well, think about this for a moment: Our friends look through the same 4 panes as we do, although we are not familiar with at least two of them. So, when we speak, it’s to the public or blind person and we choose our words accordingly. It’s pretty easy to speak to someone in familiar terms, addressing them as they want others to know them, but much more challenging to point out areas where the other person is completely unaware.

Now, imagine the person to whom you are speaking is YOU. Hmmm…We speak to the person we want the world to believe we are, and we speak to the person we believe we are (but hide from the world), but that leaves two panes unaddressed: The blind pane (things we don’t know about ourselves) and the unconscious or unknown pane (things no one knows about us, even ourselves.)

Do we speak to our hidden person as kindly as we speak to another person’s blind spots? Do we speak to our public selves in honest terms, or do we lie to keep up an image?

This is where words matter most. There are kind words and mean words, and two of the words I use mostly frequently when speaking to myself are: OUGHT and SHOULD – especially during the holidays.

I hear myself telling myself:
You SHOULD work out more to compensate for the Halloween candy you SHOULDN’T have eaten.
Of course, you SHOULDN’T eat the candy in the first place, but if you buy it, you OUGHT to hand it out at the door.

You SHOULD buy a Christmas present for that person. You OUGHT to cook Thanksgiving dinner like you always do. You SHOULD hang a wreath on the door and decorate for the holidays. You SHOULD have started your Christmas shopping early. You SHOULD call your brother and your mother more often, especially during this “blue” season. You OUGHT to be a better friend. You SHOULD have gotten up earlier this morning. You OUGHT to know better than to bring home a whole sugar free pie.

And on and on.


Fortunately, as I explore my recovery from obesity further, I am learning to reframe my inner dialogue to exclude the shaming words, which sounds something like this:

OLD: You SHOULD work out more to the eat the candy you SHOULDN’T have eaten.
NEW: I can choose to work out today and I can choose to pass on the candy. If I choose the candy, I am responsible for the repercussions. If I don’t want to pass candy out at the door because it is too great a temptation, it’s okay. I don’t have to. But, I must accept the consequences.There are no rules that say I must have bowls of candy to give to trick-or-treaters, but there are no rules that say I have to buy it, either.

OR THIS: You CAN buy Christmas presents for people, and if you CAN’T afford it, you can always make a thoughtful card. You CAN have your family over for dinner another night; it doesn’t have to be on Thanksgiving. It’s OKAY to go camping — but call your mother. It’s OKAY that you didn’t call your friend yesterday; call her NOW. It’s okay that you didn’t work out this morning, go to the gym tonight.

Ultimately, I view it as negotiation. In speaking to myself, what is my goal? Resolution or condemnation? If you think of it in terms of speaking to a child, when you ask them to do a task, are you asking with the goal of accomplishing something (clean your room, make your bed, empty the cat box), OR, are you being critical: You SHOULD clean your room; it’s a pigpen. You OUGHT to wash your bedsheets because they haven’t been washed in months! The cat box stinks; you SHOULD think about how other people feel when they have to smell it.

Different tone, don’t you agree? If we speak like that to others, how do we feel when we speak to ourselves like that???

Without going much deeper, this is what I want you to hear:

  • LISTEN to what you are saying.
  • Speak to yourself with kindness and purpose; there is no room for blame and shame.
  • Learn more about the person you hide from the world by asking respectful questions.
  • Encourage trusted friends to speak to the self you don’t know.
  • Do your best to know yourself better.

Ultimately, choose your words carefully; if they don’t sound like something you would tell another person, consider whether it needs to be said at all.

October 26, 2012   4 Comments

The Scale: Friend or Foe?

Another one from the archives. This one ran back in September of 2009. I reread it and…guess what? I still believe it! Are you letting your scale judge you? ~ Cari

The Scale

I don’t know about you, but in my past life, the scale was my enemy. And I don’t just mean the scale on the floor that you step on…barefoot…and naked…first thing in the morning…to make sure you are at your absolute feather-lightest. I’m talking about ALL scales, (which includes the stupid Weight Watchers scale you put on your counter top to weigh apples on. Is it a medium apple? A small apple? A large apple? Of course, it was *always* a small apple, wasn’t it?)

For 40 years, my experience with THE SCALE was negative — Heck, I weighed 11 lbs. 6 oz. at birth, where did I expect to go from there? The frustrating thing is, it never showed me what I wanted to see. The “points” value on the food scale was always higher than I expected and my weight value was never as low as I expected.

  • Why couldn’t I make that scale like me?
  • Why did it hate me so much?
  • How could I make it lie to me so I’d feel better?

That scale was judge, jury and executioner — no two ways about it. Good news NEVER came from a scale and I never measured up. My value and self-worth were inexorably tied to the scale.

But that was then. How do I feel about scales now that I’m living a successful bariatric AFTER LIFE?

In the beginning, in the honeymoon period after surgery, the scale was my very best friend. It would whisper sweet nothings into my ear just about every day: “You lost another 5 pounds! You are good and wonderful and successful! You are worthy or value and praise. People love and admire you because of your amazing achievement! Cari is GOOD.”

Over time, the scale stopped giving me new news and started telling me the same, tired old story. Day after day, the number never changed. But, that was still okay (no news is good news) and the scale was still my buddy.

One day, the scale told me that I weighed 137 pounds. This was titillating — for about a week. Then I realized that I couldn’t find any clothes that fit me unless I wandered over to the “Junior” department. Even then, it was a challenge. So, I was in conflict. Was the scale telling me I was GOOD or BAD?

As time wore on, people began to tell me how skinny I was, that I was too thin and looked anorexic; they didn’t think I looked fabulous anymore. The scale stopped being my BFF and started being that familiar enemy again. Cari was BAD.

But, just as it always had before, our relationship took a turn for the best and, eventually, as I started to gain weight again, the scale and I rekindled our magical romance. 145! 145! 145! It said. Cari is GOOD. Cari is GOOD. Cari is GOOD.

And then it happened.

That fickle scale told me something I didn’t want to know (even though I had asked). It had the audacity to show me I weighed 150 pounds! Maybe it was broken? But then it started fibbing and giving me even bigger numbers…151…152..153.6. In no time at all I felt bad about myself AND my scale.

And then it hit me: The scale is neither friend, nor enemy; it delivers neither good, nor bad news. It is not a judge, and does not determine my worth or value. It simply gives me a number. What I assign to that number is in my control. How much power I give to it, how much authority it has over me, how much value it deserves — it’s all up to me.

Awhile back, I had determined that I would like to weigh no more than 150 and would try to stay within a 5-pound range. Anything between 145 and 150 would be great. That’s because I feel most comfortable at around 145, but realize that “sometimes” I’m going to weigh a little more, due to water retention or muscle growth, or whatever. So, when I found myself outside that range (higher, not lower) I started an LPT (liquid protein train). I decided that my priorities were off kilter and I had begun to give entirely too much authority to food. I was eating too much, too fast, too late and trying to compensate by exercising like a fiend. I reasoned that the LPT would reset the meter, help me regain balance and perspective, and prove that I would no longer be controlled by food again.

Since I began this journey Sunday morning (so, 3-1/2 days ago) I am happy to report that I feel powerful, happy, balanced and focused. Overall, it has been a very rewarding and positive experience.

And the scale? Oh, it tried to whisper sweet nothings into my ear again this morning, but I relegated it to the corner, where it belongs.

You see, I’ve decided that I will no longer use the scale to determine if I “measure” up, decide if I’m GOOD or BAD, or assess my value or self worth. Instead, I will use it as a roadmap to show me how far I’ve come, where I am now, and how far I have to go. After all, a road map is neither positive nor negative; good nor bad. It simply IS. Or maybe my scale will be like those scales you see in the marketplace. Something that should be BALANCED, not weighted more heavily on one side than the other. I mean, isn’t that the goal of life? To achieve homeostasis — balance? Hmmmm….

  • What does your scale look like/
  • How much power have you given it over your life?
  • Does your scale judge you?
  • Is the number on the scale merely a number, or does it determine your self-worth?
  • Is your scale in balanced, or constantly shifting?
  • What does your scale mean to you?

I welcome your comments. Otherwise, I’ll think I’m the only woman on the planet who ever had a love-hate relationship with her scale…

June 26, 2012   6 Comments

Faster. Stronger. Higher. Farther. NOT.

This article was originally published on Gastric Bypass Barbie in August 2009, but I reread it and noticed that…I’m still the same girl: Not the front of the pack; not the back of the pack…just right 😉 Feel free to read, enjoy and comment!

Exercise in the Bariatric After Life™
Celebrating My Limitations

I’ve discovered something fascinating about myself:  When it comes to physical exertion — I’m not speedy, I don’t have a lot of endurance, and I’m pretty much just middle of the road.

  • If you’re looking for explosive bursts of speed, or incredible bouts of endurance: I’m NOT your girl.
  • If you don’t need the greatest strength or the most sweat: I AM your girl.
  • If you want me to show up with a smile on my face, give it my best effort, and promise me I won’t die trying: I’m your girl.
  • If it’s going to hurt a little: I AM your girl.
  • If it’s going to hurt a LOT: I’m probably NOT your girl.

On the plus side, I am persistent, fairly consistent, and learning to be less resistant.

So why am I sharing all of this? Well, I had this epiphany about my “limitations” (or shall I say “realities?”) while I was riding my bike with hubby the other morning before work. We rode 15 miles in an hour, which means that we weren’t breaking any land speed records, and I wasn’t “leaving it all on the trail” either. I guess I was moving along and a consistently decent and fairly quick clip, but didn’t kill myself doing it.

So, is that good or bad? Is it good that I don’t like to push myself too hard? Am I letting myself off easy, or just making sure I don’t overdo it (and wind up quitting, because it’s too hard or I end up hurting myself?)

Like the other night: MexiKen and I were out for an evening walk and, as usual, we weren’t speed walking (or running), and I wasn’t swinging my arms wildly. We were just walking –  faster than a crawl, but slower than a sprint.

I commented that:

  1. I should never walk if I’m in a hurry to actually “get” anywhere.
  2. I should not expect the scenery to change quickly.
  3. I should focus on the WALK and not the WALKING.
  4. I probably won’t be breaking any “distance” records any time soon because I get bored quite easily.

So, what do I do with this knowledge? Well, as I continue to transform myself in this Bariatric After Life — mentally, physically and emotionally — I think it’s important to regularly self-assess; to take stock in how I think and feel about exercise, especially since I never exercised before. I think this keeps me grounded and on track, but also gives me room for growth. It’s the same as introspection and reflection on emotional stuff — I need to know what makes me tick so I can exploit my strengths and not be hamstrung by my weaknesses.

In the past, I spent a great deal of time and mental energy comparing myself to others. Typically, I didn’t measure up and fell short because they were prettier, skinnier, richer, healthier, happier, smarter — whatever-er.

As I lost weight after my WLS, I kept comparing myself, but now I began to see that I was “as thin as…,” or “as pretty as…” or “as worthwhile as…” — but I still struggled with being “as fit as…” or as “physically talented as…” — Instead of running my own race (literally and figuratively), I was measuring my own accomplishments against others’ and coming to the conclusion that I was falling short and not keeping up with them! If someone else was doing more RPMs on the elliptical machine, I was not worthy; if someone else was able to kick higher at power tae, I was not worthy; if someone else could run a marathon (and I couldn’t run for 1 minute), I was not worthy; if someone else was able to ride farther on their bike, I was not worthy. It didn’t matter that I was doing 45 minutes of good, hard work on the elliptical, or riding 30 miles on my bike, or walking 5 miles, or kicking as high as I could for an hour at power tae.  In my estimation, I was “less than…” (again.)

I invalidated everything I was accomplishing if it didn’t measure up to what others were accomplishing. Fortunately, I realized that this was destructive and counterproductive and, with this latest epiphany, I have begun to right some debilitating and crippling wrongs.

Here’s what I know:

  • I am who I am.
  • I am good, and getting better.
  • I have limitations; some are permanent, others can be corrected with time and effort.
  • Life is not a race, and I’m not in competition with anyone else.
  • As long as I work hard at improving my abilities, whenever and wherever possible, then I’m making progress.
  • If I never run a 5K or swim a mile, I’m okay.*
*I have walked a 5K and I’m a reasonably good dog-paddeler.


At the end of the day, I’m happy with my second chance at living, and have learned to spend my days dreaming of new and wonderful ways to use my improved body.

Just this weekend, MexiKen and I went to REI and bought some hiking boots and a book with 100’s of California Hiking trails. There are details about the trails, difficulty, distance and length of time required to complete the hikes. We cannot WAIT to get out there and explore our Golden State. Oh, and if I DON’T finish the hike in the time mentioned in the book, that’s okay! I’m going at my own pace 🙂

Life is good, and getting better;  and, it’s okay that I probably won’t be crossing the finish line first…because, hey, I probably won’t be crossing it LAST, either!

Does all of this mean that I will live my life settling for mediocrity? Nope. It means that, now that I know who I am:

  • I  celebrate my success.
  • I strive for greater success — at my own speed.
  • I do not compare my success to others.

Are you fully celebrating your limitations? Why not shoot me a comment and let me know how “limited” you are? LOL.

June 25, 2012   1 Comment

A Reason to Quit

This was originally posted on Gastric Bypass Barbie “way back” in August 2009. I thought it was quite apropos. Especially for today…when I see people flirting with disaster…making unwise choices…quitting…giving up on their weight loss goals…quitting the journey. May you choose to ignore all of your own reasons to quit, and cling to the one reason to keep going: Y-O-U. ~ Me

A Reason to Quit


Today, I was making the rounds on my new favorite blogs, when I came across an article that hit me straight between the eyes. The site is refusetoregain.com, and, while it’s not bariatric-centric, it IS relevant, as anyone who has lost a ton of weight needs help to keep it off.

“Refusing Under Stress,” is written by Dr. Barbara Berkeley, a board certified internist who specializes in the care of overweight and obese patients, and is one of two doctors who operate the site. In this particular article, she discusses the rationale of using “stress” as an excuse to practice “food soothing” (the fine art of making yourself feel better by eating things like cake, cookies, ice cream sundaes, and other garbage.) She includes a short list that mentions everything from worrying about money, to having trouble with a child, being sick, being busy, or even worrying about a doctor or dentist appointment. In other words, there isn’t a single day in anyone’s life where there isn’t a “qualifying stressor” that could trigger the “right” to participate in “food soothing.”


She agrees that the list could go on for pages, but her point was that anyone who plays the “just this once” card to deal with stress is more likely to do it daily, rather than “once in a great while.” Clearly, this is a habit that leads to weight regain.

But, how do we deal with stress? We’ve all heard that one solution is to distract ourselves with another thought or activity, which in her case, revolves around running. When she first began this form of exercise, she bought a book by an Olympic runner that explained how to build up to long distance running.

It turns out that distance runners are a lot like weight maintainers, in that they struggle to continue DESPITE DISCOMFORT. Hmmm…

In other words, even though I, as a gastric surgery after lifer experience hunger throughout the day, I am training myself to distinguish the type of hunger, address it properly and administer the appropriate fix! But what is the exact “thing” that I’m trying to “fix” when I feel hungry? Turns out, it’s DISCOMFORT. I don’t LIKE being hungry.

And this general disdain for discomfort doesn’t limit itself to food. No, as it turns out, it extends to my workout regimen — just as the distance runners say. The more I think about it, the more I realize I am guilty of not pushing myself because I don’t like the way it feels! Here are some of the things I say while I’m in my 2nd half hour on the elliptical at the gym or trying to do my 90th consecutive jumping jack at power tae aerobics:

  • I can’t go on.
  • It’s too hard.
  • I hurt.
  • I’m tired.
  • I’m bored.
  • I can only do so much.
  • I am doing better than yesterday.
  • I should’nt overdo it.
  • I need to build up to it.
  • What if I hurt myself?
  • She’s been doing it longer.
  • I’m blood type A. I’m not as strong as the type O’s.
  • I’m taller.
  • I have bad knees.

This is what the marathon runner in the book calls “messaging” and it’s a very powerful force!

The Mind is Divided: “The power of the mind to push the body to its potential is limited by an internal conflict. The logical side (left brain) does not communicate with the creative side (right brain). A primary mission of the analytical side is to steer you into comfort and away from stress. The more stress you generate from running and other areas, the more negative messages: “slow down,” “stop,” or what is even worse, “why am I doing this?” If you don’t have a mental strategy for dealing with this barrage of negativity, you’ll start losing confidence in your ability to achieve your potential…”

Source: http://refusetoregain.com/my_weblog/2009/08/refusing-under-stress.html

Now, if we can participate in negative messaging, and we can participate in POSITIVE messaging, do we have a third option? YES! We can IGNORE THE MESSAGES. That’s right! We do not have to address the message. As Dr. Berkeley says, we can acknowledge it as if it is a helium filled balloon just “floating by.” It’s like saying, “Hey, that’s a balloon,” but doing nothing about it and returning to the task at hand.

I’m taking this concept of messaging to heart and will be employing my new technique at tae tonight. I will NOT give myself a free pass to slack off just because I’m tired or it gets tough. I will not say that I have a week core, so I can’t do all of the leg lifts. I will not push myself to the point of unreasonable pain, but I will push beyond the manageable sort, because it will help me to build strength.

I guess another old adage proves itself to be true: That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger!

June 24, 2012   4 Comments

An Update on My Friend

It’s been one week since I learned about my friend’s condition and shared it with you here on my blog, so I felt it was time for an update. I would love to tell you that she is doing well and has “turned the corner.” But…you don’t turn a corner with liver failure…not a “good” one, anyway.

They have sent her home to…I suppose…wait for a donor, a limbo I know all to well, as my own family lived there for 3 years while my brother waited for a kidney to save his life. As you can imagine, it was a horrible time waiting and worrying that his dialysis would stop working before a match could be found. But fortunately, about 15 years ago, they DID find a kidney for him — and a great one, at that…”Sydney” has been performing like a champ ever since.

“Our” story turned out well. But…we must wait to learn how the next chapter will be written for my friend. No matter how it unfolds, her journey will not be an easy one to read. That’s because there’s a bitter irony to her survival; she’ll need a new liver to live, but someone will have to die first.

Such is the beauty and horror of organ donation.

The horror is the death. But the beauty is the life that’s given. You see, organ donors are the most special of angels; they give the greatest gift without ever knowing they gave it, and those who receive it get a gift they will never forget.

* * *

But, back to the situation at hand: I’ve been pondering my friend’s circumstances, wondering if there were warning signs that she simply didn’t recognize…wondering if some doctor, somewhere, with some blood test could have called attention to this before it got this bad; wondering WHY it got this bad…? Of course, all of this is like yearning for yesterday, but it still makes me wish for a “Wayback Machine” so I could send her back in time to face this monster before it got its hold on her.

As I write this, she has still not been able to eliminate the 30 pounds of toxins that her body has decided to hold onto, so she is feeling understandably miserable. Also, she has been banned from ever consuming sushi or shellfish again. Ever. These are things she adored for as long as I’ve known her, and I promise you, she is mourning the loss. When I asked her why the doctor said not to eat them, she simply said, “I was told to eat like a pregnant woman for the rest of my life.” And that means, no alcohol, either…

When I told her I had shared her story with all of you. she was momentarily heartened because she knew some good would come of her bad. She knew her suffering could save someone else’s life, or keep them from suffering quite as much. I’m sure she never imagined she’d become an advocate for this cause, but she has assumed that role as gracefully as one can expect, and promises me that she will avail herself to any support groups in the area who want to meet her and ask her questions about her life since weight loss surgery — especially the tough stuff about the booze.

So, where am I in all of this today? Well, for the last week I’ve been, for lack of a better word, “managing” an unbelievable volume of feedback and discussion on the subject of alcohol consumption after weight loss surgery.

I’ve witnessed an avalanche of outpouring for my friend’s condition, and I am eternally grateful for the love, support and prayers going her way; thank you all for that.

I have also felt the undeniable burn of fear and frustration as the subject of my blog spread like wildfire through our community.

I have heard a chorus of confusion, anger and denial from those who simply want to know how this could have happened.

I have fielded more than a few private messages from people who see themselves in my friend’s story, and are terrified that they will end up like her.

I’ve heard from multitudes who simply didn’t know this was a possibility after surgery, and feel betrayed that they were never warned.

I’ve met precious people who shared with me how terrified they are to be at a point where they’re so far out of control with their own alcohol consumption they wonder if they’ll ever find their way home. They worry that it’s too late, and fear that all hope is lost, but mostly, they want to know if they really are addicts.

Well…addiction is a scary word and sometimes, it keeps people from getting the help they need. So…why use it? It’s not necessary to identify yourself as an addict to seek recovery — you only have to know you have a problem and need help. It sounds trite, but it’s true, and I tell everyone the same thing: Recovery is not easy, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it; it simply means we shouldn’t give up when it gets hard.

I am passionate about this subject. I am convinced to my core that we must open the lines of communication and talk about this very real, very deadly problem. And we must start now.

  • We must talk about the things that scare us.
  • We must be bold in the face of criticism.
  • We must not fear judgment more than we crave recovery.
  • We must take a stand and tell others what so many doctors neglected to tell us: Alcohol consumption after surgery is not healthy, not necessary, and non-negotiable.

We lost weight to gain our health; why would we throw it away on something as meaningless as a drink? Clearly, we didn’t see it that way, for if we had, we might have thought a bit longer before we poured that first glass.

If I could speak to doctors, here’s what I’d tell them:

  • You MUST talk to your patients about the very real dangers of alcohol consumption after weight loss surgery.
  • You MUST educate them on how their new bodies will process the toxins in alcohol.
  • You MUST let them know that therapy is okay.
  • You MUST let them know about the potential for cross-transfer addictions. And finally,
  • You MUST let them know it again, and again, and again.

You know my position on this:

  • We must stand together as a community and support our brothers and sisters who are struggling with addiction (or whatever you want to want to call it) after WLS.
  • We must bring a united message of hope — not judgment or condemnation — to those who would confide in us about their private battles with food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, etc..
  • We must not fear the truth, for those who follow in our footsteps will demand better of us.

I am on the front lines…ready to do what it takes to shine a light upon the dark secret that is not-so-silently killing people in our community. I hope you will join me.

I will keep you posted on my friend’s condition. In the meantime, thanks for your support and prayers. We ALL need and appreciate them.


RECOVERY FROM OBESITY: Learn About the 12-Steps

June 17, 2012   7 Comments

Vignettes From the Bariatric After Life™

I call today’s posting Vignettes from the Bariatric After Life™ but really, they are just scenes from life. Ready to watch?

SET-UP: You are a pre-op, a new post-op, or someone who is overweight. This could be the “before” you or the “now” you.

SCENE 1: Try-On Room at the Clothing Store.
You’re in your room, checking with the mirror to see how your butt looks in your jeans. Suddenly, a woman in the hall exclaims: “Darnit! These are too tight. I look so FAT in this!” Of course you want to see what she’s talking about, so you peek out from behind the curtain and notice she is evaluating herself in the 3-way mirror. You estimate that she is about a size 4 and respond:

“You? FAT? Are you kidding me? You could never look fat! I wish I was that fat…”

Alternate: You see a woman who is obviously too big for what she’s wearing, look appreciably in the mirror and say, “I love how this looks on me. Don’t I look thin?”

You shake your head and think, “Doesn’t she see how she looks? That is NOT flattering on her! It’s too small, shows all of her rolls and makes her look bigger than she is. If I were here, I’d never dress like that.”


SCENE 2: Weigh-in at a Weight Watchers Meeting
You’re next in line to be “judged” by the scale. The lady in front of you removes her shoes, puts her purse down, holds her breath and steps onto the scale, where she laments, “What? How could I have gained a pound this week? Why is it so hard to lose those 10 pounds?!”

You roll your eyes and say to yourself, “She’s complaining about losing 10 pounds and she gained 1 pound this week??? Are you KIDDING ME? I could lose 10 pounds by skipping breakfast and if I ONLY gained a pound, I’d be thrilled!”

Alternate: A woman who wears about a size 8-10 is standing in line with you. You think: “Why is she even HERE? If I weighed what she weighs, I’d never complain and would always be happy.”


SCENE 3: All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet
You watch as very large man piles fried chicken, french fries, potato salad, steak potatoes, buffalo wings, and baked beans onto his second plate and think: “If I weighed that much, I’d never do that. Doesn’t he see that’s he’s making himself fat? That’s just wrong.”

Alternate: You overhear someone at a nearby table loudly whisper, “Are you looking at this guy? Can you SEE how much food he has on his plate? No WONDER he’s fat! That’s his second plate, and I’m sure it’s not his last. Watch what he eats for dessert. Pig.” (You silently agree.)

Alternate: You see a thin person selecting small portions of fresh veggies, fruit, salad with lo-fat dressing and some grilled chicken and say, “Why did they even COME to this place if they’re going to eat so little of that rabbit food?”

Alternate: After about 10 bites and 10 minutes, you watch as the person pushes the plate away, pats their belly and sighs, “I am stuffed! I can’t eat another bite! I’m stopping there…no room for dessert.”

You mutter, “I wish I could get full on so little food. I’d never complain. What would it feel like NOT to want dessert…?”

SCENE 4: You are on Facebook and you see a picture of someone who has just finished a half-marathon. The caption reads: “Just ran 13 miles. Really slow for me, and it’s not a full-marathon, but it’s better than nothing….”

You think, “ONLY 13 miles? In the same day? And you’re unhappy because it wasn’t a Marathon? I can’t even walk around the block, so if I could do that, I’d be the happiest person in the world.”


What do all of these little scenes have to do with you (and me)? Each of them involves active ‘marginalizing, mitigating and minimizing.’ In each scenario, we have a person who as accomplished something. To you, it is big; to them, it is either unacceptable, or not worth mentioning. Before we get too much further, let’s define each of those terms (so we’re all on the same page. After all, I’d hate to think you were marginalizing, minimizing or mitigating the value of this posting because of different meanings.)

MARGINALIZETreat someone or something as insignificant or peripheral.
MINIMIZEReduce something to the smallest possible amount or degree. Represent or estimate as less than the true value or importance.
MITIGATEMake less severe, serious or painful; lessen the gravity of.

NOW…back to the scenarios. Let’s review:

  • Thin woman says she’s fat. You mitigate her feelings about her weight because you weigh more. Basically, you write her and her feelings off and decide she is making something out of nothing. You conclude that she probably has an eating disorder, because that is the only way anyone could look and think like that.
  • Alternately, you see a big woman doing what you, yourself might actually do (or did), except that she “actually, really looks bad.”
  • People you don’t think belong at a Weight Watchers meeting complain about their failures. You minimize their struggles because they do not look like you. You determine that it is ridiculous to obsess over 1 pound…or 10 pounds when your problems are so much bigger.
  • You observe big and small people at a buffet and have completely different interpretations of their actions. You decide that the “big man” is bad, and the “small person” is bad – but with a good excuse. You are quite certain you would never act like either one of them.
  • Your Facebook friend is dissatisfied with an achievement you say you’d be overjoyed to accomplish. You marginalize their beliefs as being extreme and surmise that they are probably just fishing for compliments.

Time for some unexpected juxtaposition! Let’s reset our vignettes.

SET UP: You have lost 130 pounds.

SCENE 1: You are trying on a pair of size 4 jeans and they are tight.

You exclaim, “I look so fat in these jeans!”

  • You mitigate the fact that you used to wear a size 24 and ignore the fact that a woman who had on the same pants thought she looked fat, too.

SCENE 2:You get on the scale and see that you have gained a pound. You sputter, “I am such a failure! I gained an entire pound!”

  • You minimize the fact that you have not regained 129 pounds.

Alternate: You have lost 120 pounds, but your “GOAL” is 130 pounds. You say, “I will never reach goal. There is no way I can ever lose 10 more pounds. It might as well be 100.”

  • You marginalize your ability to lose weight and inflate the magnitude of the small number of pounds you say you still want to lose.

SCENE 3: You put small portions of healthy foods on your plate and include several desserts. You do not finish all of the healthy foods on your plate, but force yourself to consume almost all of the desserts.
You say, “Just about everything I ate was healthy for me. I don’t always eat desserts. Only on special occasions…or when I come to buffets.”

  • You minimize the behavior of making unhealthy choices, but criticize another person for doing the same thing.

SCENE 4: You complete your first 10K and post a picture on Facebook that says, “I didn’t run the whole way, but at least I finished.”

  • You marginalize the significance of completing ANY race because you did not do it the same way (or speed) as someone else. You reduce the accomplishment to something just short of total failure, but condemn someone else for doing the same thing.

In each of these instances, you are doing the same thing as someone you criticize, but have convinced yourself that you’re not doing it! Which is it? Or…is it only true when it’s about Y-O-U?
Since the common denominator is YOU,the conclusions are not surprising, but they are revealing. What we think and say about others says a lot about what we think and say about ourselves. And we are pros at defending our positions, even if we argue from both sides! So, which is it?

  • Is the person — any person — who wears a size 4 fat or thin?
  • has the person who loses 130 pounds accomplished an incredible achievement, or not?
  • Is the person who makes wise food choices most of the time healthier, or not?
  • Is the person who runs a half-marathon better than the person who completes the 10K? How about a 5K?  How about 10 minutes on the treadmill?
  • Does it matter?

In my book, you can be healthy, successful and accomplished no matter what size you wear, how many pounds you shed, how many healthy things you put on your plate at a buffet, or how fast you run a race – as long as you choose to see it that way.

As usual, there is a *subtle* duality to my message today:

  • Don’t judge others’ accomplishments against your own (unless you are in the Olympics), but judge your own accomplishments as you would judge others.
  • Don’t project your feelings onto someone else, but be willing to examine those  feelings for yourself.
  • Don’t diminish the feelings of others or magnify your own.
  • Don’t presume to know what someone is thinking or feeling by interpreting their actions, and don’t let their actions interpret your thoughts and feelings about yourself.
  • Don’t do to others what you are unwilling to do yourself, but be willing to do for yourself what you claim others are unwilling to do at all.

Can you see yourself in any of these vignettes? I am interested to hear how you have minimized, marginalized and mitigated situations, achievements, and realities in your OWN LIFE.

May 31, 2012   6 Comments

Ampersands & Addiction

Call it cleansing, or organizing, or restructuring — call it whatever you want, but since we moved (for the first time in 18 years), I’ve been in something of a reminiscent sorta-mood. So much so that I decided to go back into the Barbie Archives and pull out some of my favorite blogs. This one never got much “airplay” because I didn’t have much of a readership then, so I’m hoping it will find new legs with my Facebook Friends! Enjoy what I originally wrote in 2009…It’s still good. I mean it! – Cari

This & That: Nearly Derailed By An Ampersand*


*An “ampersand” is the proper name of the symbol you use between two, separate items, to make them one, compound item:  “Salt & Pepper,” “Bert & Ernie,” and “Tea & Crumpetts”

“University study finds ampersands leading cause of obesity in US;

poor use of punctuation mark linked to high BMIs.”


Can you imagine surfing the web one day and seeing that headline on a major news site like Foxnews.com or CNN.com?

Okay, I know that headline sounds silly, but here’s where I’m going with it: Yesterday I caught myself musing that I should be eating a donut with my decaf coffee!While I did not act on this impulse, it did get me thinking: What caused me to make the gigantic leap from “coffee” to “donuts” so quickly? I thought I was cured of those temptations. Maybe I’d forgotten about that neatly paved, well-marked, 5-lane wide, permanent “coffee & donuts”  neuro-pathway in my brain. Whatever the case, as it turns out, the ampersand problem was much bigger than donuts.

The longer I thought about it, the more I realized this innocent little punctuation mark could actually mean the difference between success and sabotage in my weight loss After Life!  I mean, it’s not like overusing a comma, or something, where someone just has pause a little longer! This deceptively simple little squiggly mark (just above the number “7” on your keyboard) has the power to permanently combine two, separate things, and turn them into one, potentially dangerous combination!

If that sounds melodramatic, think about this: We are conditioned from the moment we are born to experience food in “twos” (applesauce & bananas, strained turkey & peas, lamb & rice). This concept continues to be reinforced as we mature: Macaroni & Cheese; Hamburgers & French Fries, Ice Cream & Apple Pie. Eventually, we are convinced that we cannot have one thing without the other: Steak & Lobster, Champagne & Strawberries, Bagels & Cream Cheese.

It gets to the point where we are unable to watch a movie without eating popcorn (& butter), have a campfire without making s’mores (& hot chocolate), get through Halloween without eating chocolate (& candy corn), or celebrate Christmas without baking cookies (& fudge)! Events become inexorably linked to the combination of foods we consume until eventually the memories are defined by the combination of food & event.

Morning = Coffee & Donuts. Lunch = Hamburger & French Fries. Dinner = Meat & Potatoes.

The better the combination, the better the memory. “Oh my gosh, I can’t remember a Thanskgiving where I had a yummier pumpkin pie & Cool Whip!!” “Can you remember a better Sourdough Bread Bowl & Chili than the one we at at that little restaurant in San Francisco?” “Those BBQ ribs at the company picnic would have been tasteless without those bake beans!” And on it goes….

Armed with this revelation, I decided to make a quick list of common food pairings,  just so I could see how pervasive the ampersand problem was. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Peanut Butter & Jelly
  • Lime & Tequila
  • Bacon & Eggs
  • Beer & Pretzels
  • Spaghetti & Meatballs
  • Hamburgers & French Fries
  • Nachos & Salsa
  • Coffee & Donuts
  • Coke & A Smile <– that’s only 1/2 bad
  • FIsh & Chips
  • Cake & Ice Cream
  • Cheese & Crackers
  • Bagels & Cream Cheese
  • Mashed Potatoes & Gravy
  • Turkey & Stuffing
  • Pork Chops & Applesauce (any Peter Brady fans out there?)
  • Curds & Whey <– Hey, that’s a good one!
  • Peas & Carrots <– healthy!
  • Popcorn & Movies
  • Chips and Dip
  • Corned Beef & Cabbage
  • Mom & Apple Pie <– Again, 1/2 of this is okay
  • Buffalo Wings & Ranch Dressing
  • Latte & Biscotti
  • Champagne & Strawberries
  • Biscuits & Gravy
  • Pancakes & Sausage
  • Green Eggs & Ham <– Dr. Seuss fans?
  • Vanilla Ice Cream & Hersheys Syrup
  • Dinner & Dessert


Did any of those resonate with you? I’m guessing you can come up with about a hundred more “combos”, but here’s what I want you to do: Take a moment to think about how often that little ampersand has threatened to undermined your post weight loss success.  Did the necessity of unhealthful food combos nearly derail your family gathering or holiday experience?

  • When you planned your 4th of July event, did you automatically include hot dogs & buns?
  • Last Thanksgiving, did you insist on eating turkey & stuffing (because you deserved it)?
  • Did your Super Bowl party experience include buffalo chicken wings & ranch dressing?

Now that you know about this little ampersand, how will it shape your future? Here’s what I think: To be successful in this WLS After Life, we have to begin recognizing, accepting and breaking those old habits that revolve around things we THOUGHT were eating imperatives. Old habits die hard, so this will take some brain power; but like mindful eating, we must learn to identify those ampersands before they sabotage our success!

I say we kick that ampersand to the curb and replace it with an EXCLAMATION POINT!!!! What do you think?

May 29, 2012   4 Comments

Addiction After WLS: In the Crosshairs of Cross Addiction

Obesity is a Gun
Pointed at Your Head  

Don’t like guns? Don’t like that imagery? Good. You’re not supposed to – because there is nothing safe or pretty about obesity. It kills.

In case you haven’t guessed, this is going to be a very serious, but very necessary post. You see, I’m a straight shooter and I’m pretty fired up about a few things that I’m witnessing in the bariatric community. But don’t think that I’m taking aim at anyone in particular, because I’m not. I am simply calling the shots as I see them, and I absolutely know that anyone who ignores the truth will eventually have to face the charges.


If obesity is a loaded gun, then the caliber of the round in your gun is relative to the caliber of your obesity. Thus, if you are super-morbidly obese, you are looking down the metaphorical barrel of a .50 caliber, semi-automatic machine gun.

But it doesn’t end there. In addition to the “obesity” round loaded in the chamber, you might also have other rounds of ammunition – one for each co-morbidity. In other words, one bullet for diabetes, another for high blood pressure, another for physical limitations, and so on. Over time, some obese people will end up with a round in every available chamber, while others will end up with a single open chamber. Either way, the odds aren’t good because whatever that pre-op (or pre-weight loss) gun looks like, it’s pointed directly at your head.

I don’t know about you, but I spent my obese life hoping and praying that the gun “wouldn’t go off.” Every morning I squeezed the trigger and prayed for a misfire.

Am I on target with my description so far?

Finding Yourself in the Crosshairs

I know what you’re saying – what does this have to do with me? Well, keep your eye on the target because I’m going to make my point right now:

After gastric bypass surgery, I got to swap my high-caliber firearm for a smaller (less deadly) weapon…but I was forced to keep a single shot for obesity loaded in the chamber. In other words, though the odds of “survival” are much higher for me now, I (like every other post-op) will always be at risk for relapse. Which would be bad enough, except that…for many post-ops, the remaining chambers of the gun won’t stay empty; they will be reloaded with bullets like alcohol, smoking, promiscuity, gambling, or eating disorders; instead of someone else holding the gun, they’ll hold it to their own heads and bet they won’t pull the trigger. They’ll play the ultimate game of Russian roulette.

In other words, if you’re a post-op who drinks alcohol, makes poor food choices, indulges in unhealthy foods, doesn’t exercise, or generally ignores the program, then you’re fighting a duel between you and yourself – and that, my friend, is a duel to the death. Don’t tell me that alcohol isn’t a danger, because it is – especially for an altered body and an unaltered mind.

Knowing this, why would anyone rearm themselves with a loaded gun? I mean, knowing that we are truly given a second chance at life why would we be willing to throw it all away for a “good time”? It just blows me away to think about it.

Still confused?

If you’re wondering why I wrote about this today, I’ll tell you: This past weekend in Las Vegas, I saw a lot of post-ops with guns blazing. I saw people hoping they could keep dodging bullets – even as they squeezed the trigger on excess and addiction – and I saw new or insecure post-ops getting caught in the crossfire. There was a lot of drinking, gambling and overeating.

It was a bloodbath and there were casualties…which breaks my heart.

You see, I’m not bullet proof, and neither are you. Ironically, I will catch a lot of flak for daring to discuss a loaded subject like this, but I’d rather speak my peace and lose the battle, than be quiet and lose the war on obesity.

I had surgery to save my life; I didn’t have it so I could get drunk faster, or take a vacation from healthy eating, or pretend that good health will just happen. Unhealthy behaviors are unhealthy and trying to convince myself that “I’m entitled” or “I deserve it” or “I should and ought to” or that no one can tell me how to live”…are loaded ideas that will backfire on me. Every time.

Dodging that Bullet

If you have placed yourself squarely in the crosshairs by drinking, smoking, making poor food choices, hanging out with negative influences or pretending you’re wearing a bullet proof vest – it’s not too late to “unchamber” that round.

You and I bear the wounds of a common enemy. Obesity found its mark over and over in my life and I refuse to get picked off again. I hope you’ll join me and holster your gun.

Hitting the Mark

Not sure how? Stop shooting, take cover, and stop reloading your gun. If you are taking on shrapnel with cross addiction, depression, or even disillusionment, and can’t seem to hit that healthy target, please seek help from a professional, therapist/counselor, clergyman, family member or trusted friend. Stop self-inflicting your wounds.

We don’t need more casualties in the war on obesity. What we need is people on the front lines who aren’t afraid to stand their ground, so that those who fall in behind us will find shelter of their own.

Pulling the trigger

It’s your gun. Are you going to reload, retreat or recommit? That’s entirely up to you.


May 25, 2012   15 Comments