Melissa Bailey Arizpe, Psy.D.

Archive for January, 2009|Monthly archive page

Identifying your Hazard Zone

In support, weight loss surgery on January 15, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Recently I noticed that near the beach areas there are new signs posted stating “Entering Tsunami Hazard Zone” and when leaving the beach, “Leaving Tsunami Hazard Zone.”  I am not sure if these are new or if I am just now noticing them.  I guess like many others living near the beach I prefer to be in blissful denial that I actually live in a potential tsunami area.  Given what I have seen on the Discovery Channel, tsunamis do not look very pleasant.  However, realistically, I do need to give it some thought at least some time.  After all if one actually hit, I would need to have a plan of evacuation and safety.

This got me thinking.  There are a lot of areas in our lives where we could probably use signs reminding us of “Hazard zones,” particularly after weight loss surgery.  Take a minute to think about what areas for your are difficult to manage either your cravings, possible overeating or social pressures to eat.  Maybe a hazard zone might be when your work place has a potluck lunch.  Everyone is eating and overeating and wondering why you aren’t.  Another one might be the food court at the mall.  One woman in our support group described how the soft preztels in the mall seemed to call her name each time she walked past.  Maybe it is visiting your grandmother when undoubtedly she is going to serve you your favorite childhood dish and insist that you take several helpings.  A common hazard zone is mindless eating while watching television after work.

Much like the tsunami warning areas, you  have to identify the boundaries of your hazard area.  Once you have identified the warning zones, make a plan ahead of time.  Part of the reason for the “Tsunami Hazard Zone” signs are to prompt us to think about what we would do should we be faced with such a disaster.  It is all in the planning.  So let’s think of it this way:

1.  Identify your hazard zone–what areas are most difficult for you to stay on track with the post-operative lifestyle?  Actually sit down and make a list.  Write it out.  Writing things down even if we never look at them again can be a powerful way to get the information to really sink in.

2.  Plan your evacuation–Have a back-up plan in mind BEFORE you enter the hazard zone.  It doesn’t help to be in the middle of the disaster and not have a plan.  If you have a plan on how to handle the after work mindless eating danger zone before you walk through the front door, you will more likely be successful in not ingesting extra calories.  Can you go for a walk?  Can you meet with a friend instead of going right home?  How can you break up your routine?  We are creatures of habit even though we don’t like to think so.  Mix it up.  Before going to the mall knowing that the soft pretzels will wield power over you, load up on protein so you aren’t so hungry.  Walk on the other side of mall.

3.  Review your plan regularly.  Even when we live within the hazard zones, it is important to review our evacuation plans often.  Again, we are creatures of habit.  The more we go over something the more likely it is going to stick.  Remember how every time you are an on airplane they go over the safety features, yahdahyahdah….  even if you have flown thousands of times, in the event of a “true” emergency you will probably know what to do because you have heard it so many times.  The same goes for your hazard zones after surgery. Remind yourself regularly what your weak spots are and how you can overcome them.

If necessary, make a sign much like the “Entering Tsunami Hazard Zone.”  You can do this by putting it in one of your many electronic devices–your phone, Outlook, etc.  “Tuesday–Family Dinner–Hazard Zone–need plan.”  This gets your mind thinking and brings up the evacuation plan you already thought about.

Success after surgery is really about planning.  Taking one day–sometimes one meal at a time.    Blissful denial is no longer an option.

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It’s been a year and now what?

In support, weight loss surgery on January 8, 2009 at 3:31 pm

For those of you who had surgery a year ago or more, you may be noticing that you are starting to slide back to some of your old habits. Before you had surgery, some of you may recall the doctor or the psychologist telling you, “now remember 12 to 18 months after surgery, you will need to use all of those skills you learned in the beginning to keep things going.”   Unfortunately, in the excitement and the blur of assessments that are required prior to surgery, a lot of patients don’t remember everything that was told to them in the “pre-surgery” days.

Let’s review some of the basics.   Your decision to have surgery was not just to go on another diet–it was to make a lifesytle change.   It was to change how you managed your entire life.  For many of you, one of the thing we discuss before surgery is how part of being successful is focusing on yourself for the first time in your life.  Many people come to surgery after doing everything for everyone else and putting themselves at the bottom of the priority list.  When we rush around and take care of everyone but ourselves, we ultimately slip on healthy eating habits, exercise and overall life balance.  You are the priority.

For those of you who see this as selfish, if you are not healthy then you cannot fully be available to help others.  You will be too tired, overwhelmed and then tend to be resentful because you are “doing everything” and no one else is helping.   Helping yourself is not selfish.  It makes yourself more available to others.  The optimal you–not the tired and overwhelmed version.  So, this means that first thing in the morning you need to take a couple of moments for yourself to plan your day.  Plan your meals. Plan your exercise or activity for the day.   Where will I get my protein today?  How will I deal with that birthday lunch at work today?  What healthy snacks can I pack in case I have cravings?  Taking care of you, takes thought and planning.   You would do it for other people–why not yourself?

Being a year or more post-surgery can be more of a challenge because the weight might not be coming off quite as quickly as it did in the beginning.   The scale might not move everyday.  The solution–everyday–yes everyday–renew your decision to have surgery and your decision to take care of yourself!

New Year’s Resolutions! Make a CHOICE this year.

In Uncategorized on January 1, 2009 at 6:07 pm


Today is the first day of the rest of your life!  No time like the present!  This year will be the best ever!

Ah, the enthusiasm that we have at the start of the New Year.  It is a day to start over, begin again, to truly see the possibilities of our lives.  Then January 2 rolls around and half of that hope has been dashed as we break the first of many resolutions that we set on January 1. This is especially the case for people struggling with their weight. For those of you who have had weight loss surgery or are preparing for the surgery, the New Year probably has a lot of meanings for you.

Instead, this year, I invite you not to make any resolutions this year, except for one. Learn to use the word “choice” as an intricate part of your vocabulary on a daily and regular basis. Making New Year’s resolutions generally ends up with us saying, “I really should have done that.” “I really shouldn’t have done this.” Let’s face it, we are only human and we are going to do things that are not healthy for us. Yes, we are going to overeat on occasion. Yes, we are going to neglect exercising once in a while. Yes, we are not going to get out required protein every single day. Once we realize that we are NOT perfect then it is easier to deal with our transgressions—and thus, get started again.

Guilt is an unproductive emotion. When we feel guilty for whatever reason, it generally doesn’t help us move forward. We stay stuck. Guilt is like cement boots. We don’t move ahead, we tend to regress. Using words like should, would, could, have to, all keep us trapped. As an alternative, when you do not do something you feel like you should have done, like exercise, say, “I made a choice not to exercise today. I can make a different choice tomorrow or later or now.” Choice changes everything. We do have control over what we do when see it as a choice. For most of us, our parents or other past influences are not standing over us as we reach for that unhealthy food. They are not in the passenger seat as we turn into the drive-thru. It is just us. We have a choice.

So as you start the New Year instead of continuing a vicious cycle of beating yourself up for what you should have done—make a different choice.