Check The Environment

The other day an Instagram friend posted this quote:

“When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” – Alexander Den Heijer

I loved this because it resonated in me. But as swiftly as the thoughts came in, life swept them away.

I was going through my Facebook newsfeed a few days later and was quickly reminded of that post. It was from an article in the Paris Review from author CJ Hauser. The essay titled The Crane Wife was an incredible read about how a woman found herself on a crane research trip after breaking off an engagement. Here’s the passage that took me back to that earlier post:

Here is what I learned once I began studying whooping cranes: only a small part of studying them has anything to do with the birds. Instead we counted berries. Counted crabs. Measured water salinity. Stood in the mud. Measured the speed of the wind.

It turns out, if you want to save a species, you don’t spend your time staring at the bird you want to save. You look at the things it relies on to live instead. You ask if there is enough to eat and drink. You ask if there is a safe place to sleep. Is there enough here to survive?

Why did this hit me so hard? Spending the last five years ardently working on myself by dealing with my weight, my food addiction, and my (often crippling) anxiety I discovered a link I never knew I was missing! I’ve been so focused on myself that I haven’t paused – consciously – to consider my environment.

When a person has a weight issue it’s often because there’s an imbalance somewhere. Many will consider that imbalance to ONLY be calories in far exceed calories out. It would be nice if that were true. It’s just one part of a much more complex algorithm! There’s usually an underlying cause that leads to the pure calorie math.

For example, consider the environment in which a person lives. Has food insecurity ever been an issue? A person who was deprived food through poverty or even through a parent’s withholding can be a factor.

I personally know a woman whose mother was terrified she’d grow up to be fat. She was slightly overweight when we were kids and her mother was obsessed with how much she ate, what she could eat and where she could eat. Her mother constantly micromanaged her food. When I saw her ten years after we graduated from high school she had gained a lot of weight. I often wondered if leaving her parents house where she had no one to stop her or manage her food led to her weight gain. Turns out her mother was heavy as a child and was taunted throughout her school years. Her desire to save her daughter from the same treatment was the motivation behind her behavior.

Trauma is another item to consider. Comedian Russell Brand famously said this:

Cannabis isn’t a gateway drug. 
Alcohol isn’t a gateway drug. 
Nicotine isn’t a gateway drug. 
Caffeine isn’t a gateway drug.

Trauma is the gateway.
Childhood abuse is the gateway. 
Molestation is the gateway. 
Neglect is the gateway. 

Drug abuse, violent behavior, hypersexuality, and self-harm are often symptoms (not the cause) of much bigger issues.

And it almost always stems from a childhood filled with trauma, absent parents, and an abusive family.

But most people are too busy laughing at the homeless and drug addicts to realize your own children could be in their shoes in 15 years.

Communicate. 
Empathize. 
Rehabilitate.

— Russell Brand

When I first saw this, it hit me hard. The weight of that truth sunk into my core. Although he doesn’t specifically mention food, when it’s abused food can be just as dangerous! When I started to take on the challenge of my weight I had to consider the source! What is the root of my eating? It wasn’t only WHAT I was eating (calorie math) but WHY was I eating (complex algorithm)?

I was stagnant in my behaviors for years. I discovered that despite how I felt about myself the greater risk was in changing. It was far easier to stay the same! I willingly chose a life where I was so miserable in my own skin because even though I was unhappy with myself it was far more comfortable to stay in my misery than to attempt to do something and potentially fail… again. I knew my misery and ended up making it my friend. I was the flower that wouldn’t bloom but I didn’t have the strength to consider switching my environment!

Looking back, I see how taking the steps to work on myself contributed to a change in my environment. To be successful in how you live after surgery you have to be able to eat according to a plan. Before surgery I’d often order food or go out to fast food. I’d have a steady supply of ice cream, chocolate, and cookies at my disposal at all times! You can’t do that after surgery. The first environment I changed was my kitchen! I didn’t even realize that’s what happened!

If you’re struggling or lost, have you considered what in your environment is hindering you? Look around and take stock. Then look inside and try to uncover the roots. Having the courage to honestly get to truth of your weight and being willing to challenge the environment around you will lead to success.

After 30 Days – The Results

In the month of May I had my sinus surgery after a non-stop year of sinus infections that started to impact my overall wellbeing. As I started to heal I noticed just how far from the basics I was living. After RNY Gastric Bypass Surgery you have to be so diligent with food, movement, and daily habits and here I was over 4 years out and being too “busy” to get to the business of weight management.

Too busy. It’s really the most basic excuse and there is to justify why I was no longer paying attention. Taking stock of how I was feeling, what I was eating, and how I was moving made me realize that I needed to hop back on the wellness train. I’ve gained some weight in the past couple years and I stopped journaling my food about 6 months ago. Once you start slacking on your routines the inevitable is coming. Regain is an epidemic with weight loss surgery. If you don’t stay diligent then you have the potential of going right back where you started from. I definitely didn’t want to do that.

So what do you do? You get right back on the horse! I know what works, I’ve done it before, and it was time to do it again. I decided to take 30 days and really go back to the beginning focusing on these core things:

Eat well
Stay hydrated
Increase Daily Movement
Keep a Food Journal
Meal Plan and Prep
Check in with Friends

These were the foundations of my beginning with weight loss surgery. I needed to go back to that kind of diligence. In looking for a plan to help with meal prep I decided to do the Whole 30 because it fit with my goals and there are limitless resources to assist you with doing it. You can find information about the Whole30 here: Whole30.

Primary Foods to Eat During Whole30:
Vegetables
Fruits
Unprocessed Meat, Seafood, & Eggs
Nuts & Seeds (no peanuts or peanut butter)
Certain healthy oils and fats

Primary Foods to Avoid During Whole30:
Junk food
Fast Food
Sugar
Processed Food
Alcohol
Dairy
Legumes
Grains
Bread
Preservatives
Caffeine

I have a complicated history with scales and weigh ins. I like that the Whole30 doesn’t want you to weigh yourself or take any measurements for 30 days. Just do the work and trust the results will follow. I let all of my readers and social media friends know what I was doing as a means of support. For me, it also keeps me diligent. If I tried to do this on my own and it became too challenging I know I’d be the first to quit if no one knew what was happening. I wanted to regularly check in. Not only did I get to support others, but their support was so healthy for me.

I spent 30 days reading labels of all my food diligently checking for sugar and preservatives. I planned all my meals and prepped weekly. I learned to coook with ghee to avoid the dairy part of butter and discovered new ways of introducing veggies into my food. My husband was not too thrilled at first with the Whole30 and he ended up loving the dinners we created and new methods of cooking. The best part is that we took the time to cook together and eat together which was something that we let our “busy” schedules convince us was impossible. It wasn’t our schedules, it was our priorities.

So what happened after 30 days?

Clearer skin
Better sleep
Easier digestion
More energy
No more daily coffees
No sugar cravings
AND
I lost 24lbs in 30 days which I absolutely didn’t expect!

After RNY Gastric Bypass many people believe that the “work” of weight loss is over. That’s actually where the work begins and you have to keep working it for a lifetime or you run the risk of the behaviors you had before to re-emerge. It’s never too late to STOP, cycle back to the beginning and get back to basics to get Back on Track!

Give yourself 30 days and get right back at it!

For tips, tools, and motivation be sure to like my page on Facebook!

Thank you!