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Friday, March 04, 2005

Is WLS a Magic Carpet Ride to Happiness?

There is a belief common to pre-operative patients that guaranteed weight loss is a magic carpet ride to happiness. Many patients are shocked and disappointed when weight loss does not bring instant and immediate happiness. Weight loss surgery is not a cure for an unhappiness. Massive weight loss triggers a wide scope of emotion – from anger to joy, from strangeness to recognition, from self-loathing to self-love. Happiness is a big part of the weight loss experience, but so is unhappiness.

While massive weight loss does not give instant happiness, it will empower a person with a new self-respect that can buoy their confidence to change the things that make them unhappy. We each have a mental list, “if only I could change this, then I’d be happy.” That’s probably how our weight loss journey began, “if only I could lose weight, then I’d be happy.” Dr. Dan Baker, author of "What Happy People Know" says happiness depends to a significant degree upon expectations. Happy people keep their expectations in check.

Happy weight loss patients have realistic expectations about the impact massive weight loss will have on their lives. They do not hold weight loss surgery as the sole catalyst for a happier life, the cure-all for what is wrong. But they also don’t miss a beat when weight loss gives them an opportunity to celebrate themselves, to revel in their accomplishments. Happy weight loss patients view this as an opportunity for personal growth and enrichment and they understand it won’t always be wine and roses: there will be painful experiences along the way.

Certainly for most patients there will be a new sense of personal security, a better awareness of feeling secure in who we are. This is what we are hoping for, but even that doesn’t guarantee happiness. Dr. Baker says “No one feels totally secure, and no one should We’re all too vulnerable and life is to uncertain. We all age, we all become ill, we all lose people we love. We all die. These are real insecurities of life.”

Happy weight loss patients have realistic expectations. They understand that bariatric surgery is not a magic carpet ride to happiness. They understand that weight loss does empower them with the confidence they lacked to change the things that make them unhappy.

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