Wow! Twice in one week - what an honor to be able to tell my story to so many people. Several weeks ago an Sarahlicious sent me an email asking for an interview about my blogging experience. Today I received the OH newsletter in my email inbox and followed the link to the story. My blog is profiled next to the likes of Eggface , Andrea , Melting Mama , Sarahlicious and a few others I haven't met yet. Head over and read the article . Below I'm copying my (long-winded) response to Sarah's questions.
How long have you had a blog? I started my blog on the day I officially decided to have WLS. August 5, 2006. It took me 15 months to navigate through the insurance approval process and I had my RNY in November 2007. I’ve documented every step of the way over the past 3.5 years - the good, the bad and the ugly.
Why do you blog?
Before I started my blog I had been keeping a scrapbook album documenting my weight loss attempts over the previous two years. I wanted to continue that documentation, but realized I wasn’t capturing the day- to-day life in a scrapbook album – only creating summary pages about once a month. I wanted something that was more immediate and easier to update on a regular basis, so the blog was born.
In the simplest terms, my blog is mostly a “dumping ground". (No, not that kind of "dumping".) It’s a place for me to dump my thoughts and feelings about whatever I happen to be facing in my life – related to WLS or anything else. It is a place for me to write down my goals and document my progress toward achieving those goals. A place for me to write down the recipes I create so I don't forget them next time I want to cook it. A place for me to capture the research I do about various WLS topics (I’m a research fanatic) and be able to refer back to that information when I need it again. And as I became more involved on the OH Forums, my blog became a place for me to keep some of the forum responses I wrote to other WLS’ers who ask questions or ask about experiences others have been through. Sometimes when we answer someone else’s questions on the forum, we discover new things about ourselves in the process – so forum posts often wiggle their way into my brain and demand more thought and exploration and the blog becomes a good dumping ground for that too.
In a recent blog post I announced my intention to build up the resource side of things on my blog. When I was a newbie, I received so much help and guidance from the veterans and I want to pay it forward to those coming after me. Before I had WLS, I had to go through the 12 month diet documentation for insurance. During those long 12 months, I had nothing else to do except research WLS and every aspect of my life after surgery. As I said, I’m a research fanatic and I have a lot of information that I’d like to get up on the blog for others to access. Also, as the leader of the peer-based WLS support group in my city for the past 18 months, I have amassed numerous lesson plans and presentations for our monthly meetings. I plan to organize that information in the coming months and create a series of blog posts that will become a resource to other support group leaders who need ideas for meeting topics of their own.
Having a blog that documents my WLS has been essential to me in the past several months while the scale hasn’t been moving. It’s easy to get discouraged when we can’t see huge progress being made every single day – but looking back at old blogs posts helps me realize how far I’ve come and how much I’ve achieved. Without my documentation along the way, I imagine I'd be mired in discouragement because my body is not doing what I expect it to do. But seeing my successes in writing makes me realize that even if the scale never moves again, I am already an amazing success story!
What type of response have you received from your readers?
First and foremost, the blog is for ME and a place where I can be honest with myself and be accountable to my own goals simply by saying things “out loud". Therefore, it often surprises me when I realize how many readers I actually have. And as a result of having readers, there are times when my blog is less about me and more about them. I’ll answer their questions or share information I have based on what they want to hear. And over time, I feel that my blog has become a balance of the two purposes. A place for me to be honest with myself and also a place for me to help guide others as they navigate the road through WLS.
Besides the support group I lead once a month, I also attend two other support groups for WLS patients. Word got around about my blog and the response has been tremendous. I was asked so many times to write down my website address that I eventually just had business cards printed to hand out. My readers inspire me to be a better person, to achieve my goals and to stay on track – they all think I’m the one giving up all the inspiration, but I don’t think they realize how much strength I draw from them.
One other response I’ve received (and am so flattered about) is from my surgeon’s office. The director of the bariatric clinic got her hands on a series of articles I wrote called “ The RNY Rules ” – and promptly distributed copies to the entire staff at the clinic; nurses, receptionist, nutritionists, PAs and surgeons alike. Talk about a Wow Moment! She also keeps copies of the articles in the waiting room for other patients to read.
What tips do you have for the WLS community interested in blogging about their journey?
The WLS journey is going to change your life. And those changes are going to be happening faster than you can comprehend it all. It’s the ride of your life and you want to remember every minute of it. But the only way to remember it all is to document it. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just be sure you’re doing it. It can be on a public blog like I’ve done, or you can make a private blog if you don’t want to share it with the world. Even a paper journal and pen will do the trick. But the process of documenting the journey, the changes, the milestones, the struggles, the triumphs – that’s what is so important. Some specific tips:
1. Be honest. Be real. Be yourself. WLS is not the “easy way” and those who live through it know it’s not easy. Don’t sugar-coat the process for those who are reading about it. If you have a bad day, write about it. If you’re struggling with following the rules or battling old habits and food demons or transfer addictions, write about it. Admit to yourself (and your readers) when you’re going through a rebellious phase and document what steps you’re going to take to dig yourself out. Writing about the good days and the goals achieved and shrinking sizes is easy and will flow naturally as we want to share our triumphs. Writing about the really hard stuff is more difficult (but necessary) as we learn from the struggles and become stronger in the process. Above all else, we have to be honest with ourselves. Who cares about our readers, we’re not writing this journal for them. We’re writing it for ourselves, so lying on your blog is just lying to yourself. Ok, we do care about our readers, but we have to first remember that this documentation is for ourselves. Being honest, open and real is essential as we transform our lives through WLS.
2. Start a Wow Moment List. Right after surgery when we’re losing weight rapidly we’ll experience little moments when we are wow’d by our success. By starting a list and adding to it as these things happen, we’ll be able to look back and remember how far we’ve come. That moment when we move the driver’s seat forward a notch in the car, that moment when we run into an old friend and they don’t recognize us, that moment when we cross our legs for the first time or bend over to tie our shoes, that moment when we ride a roller coaster or realize we don’t need to turn sideways to fit through a tight space. Those moments are going to be important to look back on when the scale stops moving as quickly or when we get discouraged along the way. We have to have a way to remember how much we have achieved.
3. Take Pictures. During my first year post-op I started a project where I took a photo of my face every day for a whole year. Watching the transformation through pictures was awesome. But more importantly, it has helped me with the mental adjustment of still seeing the fat girl in the mirror. We all struggle with “not seeing” the weight loss in ourselves and it takes a long time for our brain to catch up with the image in the mirror (my psych says it takes 5 years) … so photos help us see the real changes we’ve made. Plus, readers love photos!
4. Keep Writing. At the beginning of our WLS journey, we are enthusiastic about sharing every aspect of our new lives, then slowly real-life creeps in and we begin to neglect our blog posting. I’ve noticed that when people stop writing on their blogs, this is often when they begin to slip back into the old habits of the morbidly obese self and less accountability gives them the freedom to wiggle around the rules little by little. It’s understandable that people who are further out from surgery will post less than a newbie, but you have to keep writing. The WLS journey doesn’t end when we hit our goal weight or when the scale stops moving. This is a lifelong journey and sharing our day-to-day experiences as long-term veterans will continue to help the newbies coming behind us as well as keep our focus on the rules we follow for life. If you do decide to stop writing on the blog (for whatever reason) don’t just abandon it. The least you can do is say goodbye to your readers and let them know that you’ll leave your journal online for them to read.
5. Have fun! Be silly if that’s your personality. Ramble on about nonsense if that’s how you feel that day. Set fun goals and track your progress. Invite readers to get involved in your antics. Let your personality shine through. Enjoy the venue and most of all, have fun!