There is something about being public with weight loss surgery that makes others believe they have permission to become volunteer “Food Police” monitoring our every bite when it comes to eating after gastric bypass. We can’t stop the constructive criticism of others, particularly when it comes to something as controversial as WLS. But we can arm ourselves with some effective coping skills.
I don’t believe there is one perfect coping skill for all of us when it comes to the food police. But here are some strategies I’ve found for dealing with self-appointed food monitors.
Identify the motive: When my husband asks, “Are you sure you want to try that?” his motive is genuine concern. He has seen me get sick and he hopes to help me avoid getting sick. In this case I can accept his policing with the kindness in which it is rendered. In the case of the skinny sister who said to her WLS sister, “I thought that surgery was supposed to make you stop eating and look at you with the food!” her motive is to hurt and belittle.
Acknowledge or Ignore the “citation”:
It has taken time but these days if my husband mentions something I’m eating I am able to pause and consider his feedback. Today I can say, “You know, sweetheart, you are right. I don’t need to get sick tonight.” This wasn’t easy at first but now it seems natural. As many of us struggle on the long road after WLS it is a good idea to have a few well-intentioned police to kindly help keep us on track. Find your supporters and let them know how they can be helpful because nobody should go this route alone.
In the case of skinny sister our friend could have acknowledged the comment saying “I appreciate your concern. It seems you have a misunderstanding about WLS. Would you like me to share with you how, with the help of surgery, I’ve changed my eating and lifestyle habits to improve my health?” Chances are the sister doesn’t want to listen but it is clear the error is the sisters, not our friend who was eating some great lean protein.
While many will disagree, sometimes the best course of action is to ignore completely the comment or citation. I believe there are people who use policing to engage in a debate over the merits of WLS, over the personal fortitude of the WLS patient and simply want to antagonize someone who is doing the best they can to fight the disease of obesity with the best medical means available. Such people will not be persuaded to think well of WLS or the person who has it. They may be arrogant and feel it their superior right to criticize, often in front of others, the WLS patient. When I find myself pitted against this person I do anything possible to disengage from the moment. This could mean exiting the room, turning my attention away from the antagonist or deflecting it by saying, “I would love to talk about WLS with you at another time.” The antagonist will bully and push but I will not engage myself in discussion. Six years ago I could not do this, but today I can.
I don’t remember reading about the food police before WLS. But they sure have been patrolling my plate the last six years. The skills above are the best I’ve found for personally coping with this social phenomena. What skills have you developed to manage your food police?
Kaye Bailey © 2005 – All Rights Reserved