June 2021

Tracking Your Success After WLS

The journey towards your goal after weight loss surgery can be somewhat tricky to navigate. On the one hand, you have this fantastic new tool to finally get you moving towards the weight loss you have likely tried to achieve time and time again in the past. On the other hand, there is a lot to learn.

I think I can safely say, many of us grew up with a “dieting mentality” and have tried every diet known to man. With the frustrating result of weight loss, regain, and then some, before we finally seek medical intervention and take “the ultimate plunge”. It’s easy to continue to place the dieting mindset on to this stage of your mission as well, and some of it is helpful - but a lot of it is not.

The word “diet” in its literal sense is for describing the food you eat daily. I feel it has been generalised as a “doing word”. We are not on a diet; we have a diet, and it might be healthy, or it might be a diet of foods that are detrimental to health.

Let's look at THREE top things we can look at to measure our success after Weight Loss Surgery. It supports a healthy mindset, lifestyle and leads you away from the frustration of what I call the NUMBERS of perceived success. 1. Weight on th

1. Weight on the scale - Goal and Ideal Weight.

So we know the name of the journey is “weight loss”, and even the procedure to bring about weight loss is termed “weight loss surgery”. 

We tend to lead to the notion that we must weigh in at a certain amount for the procedure to be considered a success.

Maybe yes and maybe no! You definitely should expect to see your overall body weight reducing once you have heavily restricted food intake. But stepping on the scales is only one part of monitoring that.

Your team will likely set you a “goal weight” for your height and stature.
This number is something to work towards - but not always set in stone.
What if we entertained the idea of measuring body composition and not just total body weight. Using a scale that produces a range of results from:

  • Weight
  • Body Fat Percentage
  • BMI
  • Muscle Mass
  • Total Body Water
  • Bone Mass

We need to take muscle levels into account to avoid frustration. Once you establish some progress on your journey, you might find exercising is more enticing (this is fabulous!) - and you then need to consider that adding muscle to your frame (also fantastic!) will affect what you see on the scales.

Adding muscle to your body is a great thing for fat loss and bone density. It boosts the amount of energy you burn daily like autopilot. It’s much denser and heavier than fat is. So don’t be discouraged if you’re exercising regularly and see your weight loss start to slow down. Body composition scales will help you dissect the changes and reassure you that you’re on the right path.

Adding muscle tissue will also affect your “goal weight” and ideal weight, so it needs to be considered carefully. You don’t end up giving up on your efforts with your chosen exercise in the view that you are not “LOSING WEIGHT” - you might just be reforming.

2. Look in the mirror more often. Take more photos and reflect!

Many WLS patients point out that they hide from the camera, but in this case, it can be your friend. Set a time each month or two to stand in the same place and take a few snaps from every angle. Keep them in an album called “my success story” and make a collage every six months to remind you of how far you have come.

We tend to forget where we came from when we're busy heading in another direction, so reminding yourself is a great motivator. We also see people taking regular photos dressed in an outfit they would regularly have worn before their surgery. Some end up standing in one leg of their old pants and comment that they hadn't realised they had lost so much of their size!

3. Don't measure your success in kilos and smaller clothing sizes only.

Another great way of tracking your success is journaling.

Write about your feelings, frustrations, hurdles and WINS. Each month in your journal - record the things you notice have changed in your immediate circle, and record your waist, hip, shoulder and thigh measurement as well.

Note down any changes to your health - you would be surprised how quickly some things disappear, and we simply don't notice them unless we take time to introspect.

  • What are you doing each day now that you never thought you would do again before surgery?
  • How have your relationships changed?
  • Have you noticed you are doing things or showing up differently?

Many WLS patients I have spoken to say that they are still 10 kg over the suggested “goal/ideal weight”, but the way they live their lives to the fullest is their most enormous measure of success.
I feel like this can keep you motivated rather than looking at food and calories as the vehicle for measuring how successful your attempt at improving your life and health is.

Jacqui Lewis
BHSc Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine 

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