Excuses Verses Safety Nets
By: Dr. Steven C. Simper, MD, FACS
Eating better got easier when “I can’t have that” turned into “I don’t want that.”
When asked to talk at public gatherings, you are frequently given topics that you are not always comfortable with or don’t feel qualified to discuss. One thing you learn is to change the top, and sometimes that’s what I do. I’m a doctor and a scientist. I don’t always feel comfortable discussing subjects that are not scientific, topics that I can put hard facts to or design an exact experience to prove my point. The topic I came up with to discuss is a topic in which we are all experts, and that is “excuses.”
There are excuses defined as “reasons we give for not doing something we know we should do” and there are safety nets defined as “reasons we give for doing things we know we should not be doing.” I’m not sure Webster’s Dictionary will agree with my definitions, but believe me they are accurate. Almost everyone is an expert in giving excuses, especially doctors (after all, we are always giving excuses for why we are late for clinic).
At previous support groups, I have asked patients to give me examples of excuses and of safety nets pertaining to diet and exercise. I thought of a lot of excuses and safety nets, but I was amazed at some of the clever ones proposed by the audience. Here I will share a few with you and maybe shoot a few holes in them while I’m at it.
“I can’t exercises, I’m too busy.”
A tough one, but if it’s important, you need to make time.
“I can’t avoid carbohydrates, I travel and there is nothing else to eat.”
How about the old-fashioned sack lunch? After all, on your diet it should be small and easy to carry.
“I can’t drink water. I have never been a water drinker.”
Yes you are. Everyone is or you couldn’t live.
“I can’t avoid buying chips and sodas and always having them available for my family even if they are always tempting me.”
Those things are not good for you or your family either. You will be doing them a favor by insisting on a healthier life style for them as well.
These are just a few common excuses and if you notice, they all have something in common, that being the word can’t. When you say, “I can’t,” what you really mean is, “I won’t.” Every parent knows this and scolds their children when they make excuses in this way, but we adults do it all the time ourselves. What I do is simple. Replace the word can’t with won’t and the true nature of the situation is revealed. I find I’m ashamed to use won’t and more often than not this forces me into doing things I was trying to avoid. Try it next time you think, “I can’t (won’t) go to the gym today.” I suspect that more often than not you will make a special effort to get there.
“John at my office had a gastric bypass surgery and he eats anything he wants, so I can too.”
John will fail in the long run and so will you if you follow his advice.
“My calcium is chocolate covered so it must be alright. I’m just taking calcium.”
“The newspaper reports that chocolate is good for you, so I can have all I want, right?”
Do I need to say more?
“I can drink soda as long as I let it go flat first.”
How long will it be before you no longer let it go flat?
“I have been so good all week it will be alright to cheat a little on my diet over the weekend. After all, I deserve it.”
You may deserve it, but you’ll also pay the price.
The list of safety nets really goes on and on. This makes sense given that most of us can easily discern a good excuse from a bad excuse, but with safety nets we are aided by our family, neighbor, the news, media, and of course, the advertising industry. These groups give us many reasons to stray from the path that we know is right for the easier path that often got us into trouble in the first place. Deep down, we all know what is right even with the bombardment of misinformation that often clouds the issues. The only defense I have for safety nets is: “You have to be truly honest with yourself (the one-person you cannot really fool) and make the right choices.”
So how does all this pertain to self-determination? Well, no one said life is fair. It’s not fair that some people are lucky enough to be able to eat what they wish without worrying about their weight. It’s not fair that you were born with the genetics and metabolism that predisposes you to easy weight gain and to live in a society of such easy life styles with convenient stores on every corner filled with things you shouldn’t eat. But you have made the choice to do something about it. You decided to have weight loss surgery, and you know that surgery is not the solution, just a tool. Only you can decide to use your tool properly and decide daily that you do not stray from the path you have set for yourself. But the good news is if you do what you know is right, you will be the one that receives the benefit of a healthier, fuller, and longer life. Your family also benefits as well. Only you can do it, but I know you can. Just keep fighting. It’s worth it.
About the Author:
Dr. Steven Simper, MD, FACS, performed his first bariatric procedures in 1984 at Wilford Hall Medical Center, in Texas. Currently, he performs laparoscopic gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, duodenal switch, and revisional surgery. In addition to general surgery procedures. He joined Rocky Mountain Associated Physicians in 2001, and began performing laparoscopic gastric bypass. Since 2008, he has developed his skill and expertise with the powerful biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch (DS). He is among a handful of surgeons who perform this procedure. He both proctors other surgeons and is a speaker at bariatric conferences in regards to the duodenal switch procedure. In following his patients, and witnessing results, he has become a strong advocate for this procedure in the select individual who needs a powerful surgery.