Have you ever felt great, physically and emotionally after bariatric surgery, only to be disappointed by the scale? Prior to stepping on the scale, you felt healthy, maybe accomplished things you had never tried before, and possibly came off multiple medications. Then the scale doesn’t say what you expected. Let me tell you, expectations are the root of all unhappiness. We often think we have “failed” if we lost 85 pounds, but not 95. There are so many more important measurements after bariatric surgery to determine success than just the scale. We need to start being happy with what we’ve accomplished and not use the scale as the only measure of success. It’s time to start measuring success beyond the scale. After all, in the words of Dr. Arya Sharma, “Health is not measured in pounds.” Weight cannot be the only way we measure success after surgery. Let’s explore some non-scale measurements:
I often recommend patients start taking monthly measurements of their chest, arms, waist, hips and thighs. Sometimes you can lose body fat, but not see the scale change much. You can lose 5 pounds of fat and gain 5 pounds of muscle, so the weight is back to where you started at, BUT, muscle takes up significantly less space, so you lose inches. If your weight doesn’t move significantly, but you go from a size 14 to a 12 to a 10, that is still SUCCESS!!! Take monthly pictures of yourself along your weight loss journey so you can compare the changes. It is hard to see the changes day to day, but monthly side by side pictures will show a big difference.
If you haven’t been taking measurements, you can usually use your clothes as a guide (except sweat pants, sweat shirts and sweaters!!!). Are your clothes fitting loser or not as snug as they did last month? Are you shopping in “regular” stores instead of plus size stores? Did you go down a pant or shirt size? These are all great measurements of success.
Getting rid of medications and comorbid conditions
Getting off of medications for diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure are huge measures of success after surgery. Are you off the insulin you used to inject? Are you down from 6 pills per day to just taking vitamins supplements? Have you gotten rid of your CPAP machine? Improving your health and getting off medications is one of the biggest measures of success!!!
Improved Self Esteem
Being overweight can make patients feel uncomfortable in certain public situations. One of my patients told me she didn’t want to go on play dates with her daughters friends for fear of embarrassment of meeting their mothers. This was her breaking point to decide to have surgery. Being overweight can limit some activities, like rides at an amusement park, flying in an airplane, or taking public transportation. When you lose weight and daily activities become “easier”, this is an “ah ha” moment that is definitely a huge measure of success. You no longer have to ask for a seat belt extender on the plane. You can tie your own shoes without feeling out of breath. You don’t have to worry if you will be able to fit in the booth at a diner. Feeling comfortable is so important for mental and emotional health.
Do your joints always bother you and prevent you from being active and moving around. Do you need to use a walker or wheel chair? Once you lose weight there is much less impact on your hips, knees, and ankles. Walking and getting around becomes much easier as you lose weight, yet another great measure of success!!
We often hear how patients have so much more energy after weight loss surgery. Patients are trying new activities and enjoying things they never had the energy for before. When patients have more energy, they accomplish more and feel better about themselves, what can be better than that!!
Next time you step on the scale, don’t use weight as a sole measurement of your success, but merely one small aspect of your healthy journey!!!