There’s nothing really enjoyable about being obese. I’m not saying just because you’re obese you can’t enjoy your life, of course you can. I’m saying that obesity has a lot of limiting factors . Some of them are physical and some are mental. And this post I want to talk about one mental limiting factor that can come from being obese. I call it your “fat mind”. This is the little voice in your head that keeps telling you a false story about yourself.
The fat mind – seeing yourself differently after bariatric surgery.
In addition I’ve seen these false stories manifest themselves in a few different ways. One of the more common ways your “fat mind” can mess with you is when you start shopping for new clothes. If you listen to this little demon voice it’s easy to start in the double or triple XL section because your “fat mind” has told you that is where you need to be. Even after you’ve moved down the size rack to something that fits your new shape it can be a bit uncomfortable. These new smaller sizes show off your shape and your “fat mind” has told them that is wrong or embarrassing. It can also make you feel more fat than before surgery.
Another way this “fat mind” can try to derail you is by lying about what you’re capable of doing. It’s something that I see a lot in my personal training work. Many of my clients early on in their fitness journey are very nervous of certain movements. Some of this comes from joint pain from their previous weight and that makes sense to be careful of. Yet some of this comes from their “fat mind” telling them ‘You can’t do that, you’re too big and you will hurt yourself’ or some version of that. That’s a false story. You can do it.
For many people going through this weight loss journey this is a very difficult mindset to remove from their life even after losing weight. One of the most effective ways to quite these lies is to be aware of them. To recognize when you are having these thoughts and categorizing it as the falsehood that it is. You may not completely remove these thoughts from sneaking into your head but you can make them a bit less loud.
How do you shut up this “fat mind”
Well as I said above I’m not sure you can actually ever get rid of your fat mind completely but you can start working towards understanding that it’s not who you are today. I would say the best way to start that process is to find a professional that can help with a lot of what goes on in your head. A certified bariatric mindset coach can help you navigate this mindset trap.
Having a support team goes along way to silence the “fat mind”
In addition to working with a professional, some of the other ways I’ve seen people start to work against their “fat mind” is to do things that are kind of uncomfortable to you or would have been uncomfortable to you in the past.
Conquering a mountain
One example of this I have experienced is a client of mine who lost over a hundred pounds and wanted to start hiking more. We worked a lot together on her goals. We did a lot of short hikes but the one thing she always wanted to do was hike to the top of a 14000 foot peak here in Colorado.
“building the confidence to do the hike was more difficult than the hike!”
After about nine months of working with her I knew she was ready to go but she wasn’t there mentally. Her “fat mind” was telling her she couldn’t do it. She was still in the process of building the skills to quite these thoughts. So we kept working until one day in a session she decided it was time to go for her hike. I was surprised and excited to hear that from her. She told me that it hit her that this “fat mind” was just a way to hold in a comfortable space of fear. As long as she could come up with some excuse (however weak) she didn’t have to follow through with attempting the hike. She told me it actually pissed her off when she realized it. This was a goal she really wanted to achieve and fighting with herself whether to do it or not was ridiculous .
So we planned the hike, met at the trailhead and she made it to the top. On the way down she told me that quieting the “fat mind” was more difficult to do than the hike (and that’s not an easy hike.) But now she told me that her “fat mind” is a lot quieter than it used to be and she is more confident in a lot of new ways in her life.
Putting in the miles
Another client of mine really wanted to ride 100 miles on a bicycle. Just telling me that goal was difficult for him. His ‘”fat mind” was telling him “that’s ridiculous you’ll never do that”. We started slowly working on indoor cycling basic fitness along with building habits. We also started working on skills to help him become aware of these false, fear based thoughts and ways to counter them.
As the weight came off he became more confident riding outside. After a few sessions of bike riding outside he started to notice that his “fat mind” was becoming quieter and quieter. His confidence started to build and 16 months after his bariatric surgery he completed his first century on a bike.
The “fat mind” didn’t win because of work he put into his training.
When I asked him about it later he admitted there was a certain part of the ride where his “fat mind” almost got the better of him telling him he can’t do this. But the skills he had worked on around not letting the false thoughts we helped him to cross the finish line.
It’s not easy but it is doable
I don’t want you to read into this as it was easy for these two people who have gone through weight loss surgery to achieve a fairly challenging goal because it wasn’t. There were times when both of them had self-doubt and let their “fat mind” talk them into bad decisions around eating or not exercising. What set them apart was setting themselves up with a support team that consisted of a fitness coach to help build their physical ability. A mindset coach to help them build the life skills to limit the bad decisions. And most importantly a close friend or family member to help support and cheer them on.
You can do the same thing. While the examples I used were around the “fat mind” and fitness it can be anything. You can work on making your “fat mind” less noisy in other parts of your life like being confident in your new, smaller sized clothes! Adding in a support team around your weight loss journey will improve your overall success as well.
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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.