The success syndrome isn’t something that just happens to people that have gone through
bariatric surgery. It’s something that happens to most everyone that’s trying to make healthy life
changes. So what is the success syndrome?
The success syndrome is when you allow yourself to cheat because you’ve been so good for so
long. It’s not from a planned cheat day but it can make a planned cheat day into cheat days. The
success syndrome is that thought or feeling that allows you to eat more than you should or start
skipping workouts or doing less at each workout.
Let me use my own experience to explain what I mean.
A few years before I turned fifty, I decided I wanted to get the best shape that I could. I wanted to add a lot of muscle and become stronger at bike riding and hiking. These goals felt right to me and I knew I could achieve them. For about six months I was very disciplined and focused on these goals, and I was seeing the results I had hoped to see. But it was this success that pushed me off track. The same week that I posted a new personal best around a few exercises and also weighed in just a few pounds above my goal weight was the same week cheeseburgers came back into my life. I had gone out to lunch with my brother, and I rewarded myself for my success with a cheeseburger, fries, and two beers. Honestly, my stomach didn’t feel too good afterward, but it was a one-time thing, right? Sadly, no. I ate that meal again the next week, and then had pizza a few days later. Then a few weeks after that, I bought and ate a bag of chips and a container of dip. While this may not sound like a ton of food, up until that really successful week none of this food would have made it to my plate. But I never felt like I was cheating or doing anything to harm my overall goal, because I was still working out. Yet the next time I stepped on the scale I was six pounds heavier than my previous weigh-in—and it was all body fat. That shocked me, until I started to review what I had changed in my life, and of course it was the food. I had allowed myself to eat more unhealthy food not because I had given up on my goals, but because I had done much better than I had imagined in reaching those goals. I was able to easily justify the bad choices because I was being so successful with everything else. Though I knew what I was doing, I had also lied to myself, thinking that I was doing enough with workouts and previous good food choices to start eating like that again. Once I caught myself, I was able to get things back under control. But it’s an ongoing dynamic: sometimes I still see this success syndrome raise its ugly head, and I know I need to check myself.
Again, I’m not telling you this story to keep you from rewarding yourself. You definitely should give yourself a reward when you meet a goal. Rewards are a well known way to keep yourself on track and continue moving forward. Yet if you are going to make some type of food your reward, be very aware of how you justify using that item as your reward. Is it because you reached a milestone on your journey? Will this be a one-time thing until you hit the next major milestone? Or is it a “reward” because you did what is necessary to get to that next milestone? If you are using the phrase “I can eat this because I am working out” as a justification for poor food choices, then you may have fallen into the success syndrome.
How to Beat the Success Syndrome.
Best way to beat the success syndrome or the 6-month monster that comes with Bariatric
surgery is being aware of it. Take a few days each month to food log. This will give you a
chance to see where bad choices are starting to make their way into your diet. Get back to
measuring the volume of your food, it will keep you honest on the amount you are eating. If you
find that your workouts are becoming stale or you’re starting to slack on them, reach out and ask
for help. At Phoenix Fitness we have a short 3 month program to help people get back on track.
Celebrate your success, enjoy your cheat day just don’t let that success undermine the work
you’ve put in. It’s easier to read this than it is to actually do this but the more you’re aware of
what you’re doing the better chance you have of Breaking the Habit undermining your path to
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Geof has been working with bariatric surgery clients for over a decade. His goal with Phoenix Fitness is to give you the tools to make your weight loss successful for the long term.