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Avoiding High Risk Behaviors after Weight-Loss Surgery

This was going to be a Facebook post – but really, I felt it was more appropriate to share with a larger reader base.  The topic of taking pain medication after weight loss surgery is the buzz today thanks to a great article [ Weight-Loss Surgery May Add to Painkiller Dependence, Study Says ]

99c6dea8283811e3942f22000a9f140e_8Prior to my RNY in October of 2010 I was diagnosed with chronic back pain and muscle spasms as well as chronic stress and anxiety and I was on a mixture of pain killers, muscle relaxers and anti-anxiety medications. ( Vicodin, Soma and Ativan )

Let me interject a moment and say that I believe that often times the pitfalls we have the most experience with and are armed with the most education about, are often the ones we can avoid because we suspect that they might be coming.

I was very lucky to have had some exposure to the Online WLS Community before my surgery and I knew that I was very likely going to be the type of person that ended up with cross over addictions since I am indeed an addict. My addiction was food, but in my teens, it was other unhealthy substances, emotions and actions; because as an addict I can pretty much get addicted to anything that gives me a good feeling.  Thankfully I was able to prepare myself for fighting the temptation to allow myself things I felt could lead to dangerous places if I allowed my doing them to get out of hand.


That doesn’t mean I am not addicted to anything, I am. I’m addicted to the adrenalin rush I get when I exercise, to the emotional rush I get out of helping others. I’m addicted to video games and have to only allow myself to play them in moderation or I can suck entire weeks out of my life devoted to playing them.  These are just a couple of the more healthy behaviors I allow myself in order to make certain I stay on a path of wellness.

I come from a family with a long line of addicts.  I’ve been around heroin, meth, prescription drugs and sex addicts since I was four years old. I promised never to be THAT person and I have no doubt that keeping that promise to myself has been a fundamental part of my continuing to be able to find healthy addiction alternatives.

I can honestly say that I am probably an exception to the rule here – I tend to be a little … different? But education and preparation and communication have gone a long way in this journey for me. I have not had a script for painkillers or muscle relaxers since my RNY other than after Body Contouring and Reconstructive Plastics Surgery [ WLS Plastics from the Patient Perspective ] which was hundreds of times more painful than my Gastric Bypass was.The article brings out a very prevalent point of truth though;

“Narcotics may not be absorbed the same way after a gastric bypass as they are before a gastric bypass,” said Sabowitz, who practices in San Antonio, Texas, and serves as an adjunct assistant professor of medicine for the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. “Maybe one reason narcotic use increased is because people were getting less narcotics [in their system].”

I am not a doctor, but based on personal experience I would agree completely with this statement.  Medication tolerance issues and not getting enough delivered to your system can be a prevalent problem.  I’ve had two different plastic surgeons and in both cases their staff had “Concerns” about the type and amount of narcotics I seemed to need to be comfortable and I could see signs that they suspected drug seeking behavior. My actual doctors never displayed those reservations however,  because we had discussed it openly ahead of time and obviously here I am not quite three months out of surgery taking no pain medication… I was off pain medication by week 6-8 post op.

There are so many things we are not warned about going into weight loss surgery, especially when it comes to the emotional aspects of the journey, and let’s be honest, often times it is the emotional aspect that leads us to addictions.


I invite you to take a little personal inventory Slender Seekers, are you exhibiting addictive behaviors? If so perhaps it’s time to reach out and get help before these unhealthy behaviors become problematic for you.  If you’re not great! But if you are the type of person that has past addictions and you know a transfer addiction could be a risk, maybe it’s time to do a little “Me-Work” ( That is what I call homework I do for self-improvement ) and create a preventative list of things you realize you MIGHT be easily drawn too.

If we prepare for the obstacles ahead of us on our journey buy recognizing when there could be a problem, we are more likely to make emotionally and physically healthy decisions when those obstacles arise. An obstacle like understanding that we may be predisposed to an addiction to prescription medication is what I would consider a High Risk Situation, and overcoming a high risk situation can be a big challenge if you are not prepared and you don’t have a plan of action and a good support system in place just in case it happens.

I think when it comes the Wellness part of our weight loss journey, we have to understand that investing a little time in early preparation helps us live up to that old adage, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”  There is a page in my WLS Wellness Journal titled “Risks I won’t take”, it is an exercise I do when I feel like I might be facing some very big upcoming obstacles and I want to develop a strategy for how I might handle it physically and emotionally.  I’ll share it here just in case you want to develop your own “In Case of Emergency Plan.”

[ DSS – In Case of Emergency Worksheet ]


Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a  Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies and Motivational Speaker studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer.


Emotional Clarity in my Weight Loss Journey – “I Feel Weak”

I have had an epiphany. It happens. I have had that break through “ah-ha” moment when you FINALLY put your finger on a problem and go “Oh THAT’S it! THAT’S why this was bothering me.” The great thing about this moment is that once this clarity has arrived we have essentially arrived at the problem, knowing the problem allows us to start to map our destination, to plan for our imminent future; the solution. So here we go. Time to utilize some of the things I have learned along my journey.

69be1efe261e11e3b96122000a1fc5c9_7First step confess: Okay I have finally figured out what I am so scared of and what is holding me back. I’m scared because I feel weak. I’ve lost all my weight doing mainly cardio, and got this insane idea and dream that I wanted to become a trainer and help others reach their weight loss goals and I didn’t realize until I actually started to study this stuff how important resistance training, strength training and absolute and dynamic strength really are. With no medical background when the first thing my textbook started to cover was muscle structure and anatomy, plains of motion and joint action movements, I was lost. I started to realize that I was missing a huge piece of the equation when it came to my dream of being a trainer; anything that wasn’t cardio, nutrition or emotional wellness. Suddenly there I am at the Cooper Institute in a room full of people I feel are a hundred times more physically fit than I am, I don’t know the first thing about how to do a bench press and I can’t pass a sit and reach flexibility test, but I’ve got a passion, a dream and I want to be a  Transformation Specialist more than I have ever wanted to be anything in my entire life. But me feeling weak and being embarrassed because I can’t do a pull up or a proper push-up and because I have no upper body strength, that’s making me feel like I can’t walk the walk so I don’t fit the part, so I have no room trying to play it, so I actually … feel unworthy of studying for this certification I want so bad, because in my head, I haven’t earned the right to it yet because even though I can tell you what a Max RM is, mine is laughable.

71ada7a223cf11e39bdc22000a9f3c8f_7Reassess: Okay well I know the problem, and really I know the solution. The part I am not quite sure about is the journey to get there. Which of course, is exactly why I don’t feel worthy of this test, because if I can’t figure out how to get there myself, then how can I expect to help someone else? Can I motivate you? Oh yes I can, I can inspire you, but I need to be able to hold your hand and guide you, and that, I am not confident I can do yet because I can’t do it for myself. So what I need is to build confidence in my strength, and for me, doing that means, building my strength and since I have so much going on with this half marathon training schedule, it means doing it without compromising that cardio schedule at all. What I need is someone to help me understand exercise prescription and how to apply all the stuff I have learned about the principles of opposition, my muscles, my joint actions and stuff like the concept of volume overload and volume increase and how much weight to add when if my goal is to improve dynamic strength.  I need someone to help me figure out if I start with 3 sets of 12 reps at 30 lb. on that machine or if I start out at 3 sets of 8-10-12 and start at 50 lb. and decrease the weight by 10 lb. at each rep because I can lift 30 lb. without being at the brink of muscle fatigue by the end of my 12th rep.  – I just wanna cry, because I feel like I know this stuff, I feel like I would be so good at it, I just don’t know quite how to apply the knowledge. I just need someone to teach me how to be a good trainer. Because I want to be that, so bad, that the thought of NOT being that, breaks my heart and brings tears to my eyes.  This is the thing I need to work on for me right now. And that right there is the problem. For some reason I can’t explain, I think I need someone else to help me on this goal.

That’s right. I want someone else to help me and support me right now because I am feeling like this is the point of no return for me. Since the beginning of this entire journey, this is the first time I have ever truly been afraid of failure. When it comes to learning this stuff I need to learn, taking this test, passing it and being a trainer, and I’m looking for a little more than “Go get’em tiger” here.

I have realized that I am very upset with the people in my life who have not been 100% behind me and completely supporting this endeavor with more than just poms-poms –This part of the journey is so hard, the emotional honestly, but this is the part that I struggle with the most, the emotional stuff. I know what to put in my mouth, I know how to continue to improve my run times and build a cardio respiratory program and build up my cardio respiratory health, but when it comes to being honest about what I feel, that’s where I struggle, and because I am an ex-food addict who is used to stuffing her feelings with food, this becomes a problem.

If there is one thing I will tell you about openly and honestly about gastric bypass surgery. If you are a feed my feelings with fuel type of person rather than a fuel my fitness with feelings type of person, this will probably be a very hard journey for you. If I have one regret ever, it is that I can’t sit down with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and look at the person I love and offer them a spoon and say “Today sucked, can I whine about it.” Because there are just some days in life when sharing a container of Ben and Jerry’s should just be okay and something we can accommodate for with an extra 5 minutes in on the elliptical every day this week. But as a RNY patient who dumps, that is never an option to me and that is probably a good thing on most days, because it keeps me from feeling like turning to food is okay on a regular basis, and let’s face it, I’m an addict and there are few things that I have ever learned to do in true moderation.

Since the day I decided to make this transformation I have felt alone in this journey. Since the day I started I quoted a lesson that one of the few people I can claim to have loved in life taught me. I believe that in life we have two major responsibilities to ourselves; one is to understand that we are never better than anyone else; we are only farther along in our journey than they are at times.  In a time when that is obvious, we should take a moment to stop, hold our hand out with a smile and say, “Hi, let me give you a hand and try to help you get farther along in your path.” – Likewise, we are never better than anyone else, and there are people who are farther along in their journeys than we are, with more experience, and when that is obvious, or when we realize that we need help with something, we should stop, admit that we need help, and be responsible enough to reach out to those ahead of us in the journey for that guidance.

ea3d25f621ab11e3968922000a1fbe74_7One of my biggest problems in life is that I have never felt like when I reach out for help, anyone is truly there to take my hand. I have always felt, self-taught, alone, and like the poster child for, if at first you don’t succeed, keep trying because you’re the only one you can ever count on to help you. I’ve felt like that since I left home at 16 to build a life for myself outside the chain of abuse. I felt that way when I self-taught myself computers and learned to make a living for myself hiding behind it and I felt that way when I decided to get healthy and the people in my life decided not to. I have felt this way with this personal trainer thing every inch of the way give exception to how Mr. Bobby Whisnand has treated me. I really wish I wanted to live in Dallas or that I could spend more time there with Bobby, because I do believe that he has every intention of helping me make sure I am one of the best trainers I can be, but with me so far away the potential to do that is limited.

That is why my biggest dream right now is to be trained by my hero, Transformation Specialist Chris Powell and his lovely wife Heidi Powell, who really has become quite a role model to me. Because really in my head, Chris is the beginning of Transformation Specialists, he does exactly what I want to do for people, he has my dream job; heck he created my dream job, he is the visionary behind Transformation Specialists.

So now that I realize the two big things holding me back. It’s time to fix them. So it’s time to, you guessed it folks. Recommit.

Okay so now it is time to ask myself what things I can do to improve these two situations. First of all I need to reach my hand out to people I have that can help me when it comes to building strength and working on and learning more about strength and toning and RX prescription, I am NOT quite sure what that means just yet, but for some reason, I’m inclined to reach out to one of my Cooper Institute teachers and see what she has to say.

200e50d421ab11e3822f22000a9f09ca_7Step One: I feel alone in this part of my journey, I feel like I need more help guidance and support. Now what can I do to fix it?

  1. I will reach out to my teacher for help with the feeling lost when it comes to building a resistance program issue.
  2. I will reach out to my peeps and let them know what I need. – Hello peeps, because if you love me you read this blog right? With a hand few of exceptions to particular people in my life, that is true. Anyways hello, my dear friends, I love each and every one of you. But if you are reading this, maybe you could help me by doing just one thing this week that encourages me to study and reminds me that I am worthy of taking and passing this test? Sometimes we have a really hard time just coming out and asking for what we need. Today I am feeling exceptionally vulnerable.
  3.  My Trainer Friends if you are reading this; anything you can do to help me I would so appreciate. Some guidance in setting up a resistance program that starts to address this “I feel weak” feeling I have by helping me start to build some dynamic strength would be awesome.  Something that doesn’t interfere with the cardio I’m doing as I train for this half marathon. Some words of wisdom here would be amazing.

Step Two: I feel weak and I want to build dynamic strength. What can I do to work on this?

Okay so I need a couple of things, an exercise schedule I can stick too, which for me means about 90-120 minutes a day. I need stuff I can do at home and I want stuff that makes me feel like I am working within realistic goals. So here is the plan.

I’m going to go back for a refresher on Basic Anatomy in my book for the next couple of days.

After that I’m going to set the KSA’s aside, go back to the Resistance RX section and I’m going to study that section of the book until I understand exactly how to build a Resistance program using myself as a case study.

I’m going to stop depriving myself of reading time and actually take the time to read Chris Powell’s new book Choose More to Lose More for Life and see what pieces of wisdom I can glean from them in regards to a dynamic strength exercise program design.

I’m going to try to teach myself how to design a strength and resistance program just in case nobody else can help me and I have to do it on my own.  Because whether or not I find the support I am looking for in this, I still have to get it done and right now that is the promise I am working on keeping to myself. I will do whatever it takes to achieve this goal, so if what I have to do first is tackle this “I feel weak” thing, so be it. Project “Let’s find that strength” shall commence.


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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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