What I Was Scared to Tell My Dietitian as a Bariatric Patient

Article By: Tiffany Willis

Tiffany is a Bariatric Coach, Bariatric Patient Advocate, and Co-Host of the Life After Fat Pants Podcast. After losing 349 pounds in just 18 months following bariatric surgery in 2012, Tiffany has dedicated her life's work to helping those suffering from morbid obesity disease.

If you’re considering bariatric surgery, part of the process includes consultation with a dietitian. As someone who struggled with disordered eating for too many years to count, this appointment was intimidating and overwhelming. It’s the big reveal, before you reach your target weight and have your real reveal. In other words, this is where you need to dig deep and purge the whole truth (and nothing but the truth) regarding how much you actually eat and drink.

The questions are numerous, specific, and personal. Up until my consultation, I had never been totally honest with myself about my daily consumption. This pivotal appointment forced me to get real about my nutrition — or lack thereof.

  • How many ounces of water do you drink each day?
  • How many carbonated beverages do you consume daily?
  • Are you taking a multivitamin?
  • Do you snack?
  • How often do you eat out?

I remember walking out with the informational packet. The secret to correcting my entire lifetime of overeating could, evidently, be condensed into just 42 pages. The main takeaway, of course, was “follow these instructions — or fail!”

Frazzled is one of my favorite words, and frazzled is exactly how I felt as I thumbed through the information. It wasn’t like I had a long track record of success following nutritional guidelines, so the self-doubt thing was major! Needless to say, I sobbed after the initial appointment wondering if I should just cancel my surgery. I mean, who was I trying to fool?

At that point, I had been obese for most of my life. It was all I knew. The nutritional information felt like it applied to someone else altogether — some super disciplined person who could resist the impulse to have Taco Tuesdays seven days a week. That wasn’t me. If I did not have the discipline, motivation, or will power prior to surgery how could I possibly manage after?

It turns out, these kinds of feelings are very normal for people who are making such a monumental lifestyle change. It’s okay to cry. I gave myself permission to grieve the old me — even if I was happy to see her go. But after I let it all out, it was time to get really real!

For my second appointment with the dietitian, I asked most of the questions. I also allowed myself to be totally forthcoming about my anxieties, unloading 39 years’ worth of fast-food binges. I explained how sneaky I felt trying to eat birdlike portions around others, only to feast alone later.

But what I found out, is that when I let my guard down, and finally got honest about myself, my life, and my daily diet, that’s when I was able to face facts with the benefit of a trained professional riding shotgun with me all the way down the road. I had so much learning to do, so much retraining. My dietitian gave me a gift I was finally ready to receive — knowledge. For the first time, I felt empowered.

The bariatric surgery was just one step, but the real measure of my success would come by getting honest and holding myself accountable. My dietitian reminded me I was starting over with a clean slate, and she provided me with the tools I needed to visualize a healthier version of myself. At the time, I was over 500 pounds. I had reached a point in my life where it was “do or die” time and I’m so grateful I chose to embrace living! And she helped me simplify my approach to weight loss which, up until then, had always felt so complicated. Suffice it to say: my intake after surgery could be summed up like this: Protein! Protein! Protein! Water! Water! Water!

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