Why Does It Matter?
There is an expression that goes, “Shoot for the stars and you’ll hit the moon.” The idea is that if you set your sights high but fall short, you will still achieve something great. The theory may sound good, but it may neglect to consider reality.
The truth is that for many of us, another saying is truer: “Success breeds success.” That is, when you hit one goal, you are motivated to keep working towards your next one. You build momentum as you hit goal after goal, and those goals then act like stepping stones to those proverbial stars.
The Trap of “Too Much, Too Fast”
There is a common tendency overshoot when it comes to weight loss goals. These are some reasons why.
We want to lose weight so badly that we think only of the dream goal.
Most of us tend to think of ourselves as above average – so we set our weight loss goals at higher than average.
We set deadlines that are too short because we are so focused on getting there that we forget to recognize how wonderful the journey is.
We set our goals based on what someone else lost.
Classic Failure: “All or Nothing”
One of the surest ways to set yourself up for failure is to set your weight loss goal to be too many pounds within too little time. It is comparable to the “all-or-nothing” mentality that so often comes with dieting: you are doing fine until you eat a cookie, and then you figure that the day is wasted, so you might as well finish the bag of cookies, skip your workout, and order pizza and breadsticks for dinner.
The same mentality after weight loss surgery can get you into the same trouble. If you aim for an unrealistic 20 or 30 lb. in your first month and instead hit a respectable 5 to 10 lb., the “disappointment” can discourage you so you do not try as hard.
Realistic Weight Loss
The amount of weight you can realistically expect to lose depends on your procedure, how much you have to lose, and your own drive and other individual characteristics. An average gastric bypass or sleeve patient might lose about 50% of excess weight. For example, Someone who is 5’4” tall and weighs 245 lb. has about 100 lb. of “excess” body weight and might set a goal to lose about 50 lb.
Another way to look at it is to take a rough estimate of average weight loss with your procedure for your surgeon’s patients. You might use that number as the basis for your own weight loss goal. You could also look at your final goal – say, 100 lb. down – and divide that by 1 to 2 years – in this case, a seemingly modest 1 to 2 lb. per week.
Setting Realistic Goals
For weight loss or any other goal, you can follow certain guidelines for realistic goal-setting. Set your goal to:
Include a realistic amount of weight loss.
Leave yourself enough time to achieve that amount.
Include interim goals that you can celebrate and use as motivation.
Provide for rewards as you progress, so you stay motivated.
Allow enough time for plateaus and setbacks. They will come.
Keep It in Perspective
Strange but true…weight loss is only one of many reasons to get weight loss surgery and follow a healthier lifestyle. What about…?
Feeling more confident?
Participating in more of life?
Along with setting weight loss goals, you can set other goals for healthy eating, working out, and trying new things. You will always have something to chase after and you will be able to see more progress every day.
You’re Starving, or Not
For some WLS patients, hunger goes away. For others, hunger is reduced enough so that you can keep it in check, even if you were constantly hungry before WLS. Some patients, though, still need to fight hunger. It is still a struggle to pass up certain foods and to keep portions small.
Your Head Gets Hungry
“Head hunger” is when you think you are hungry, but you are really just bored, the food looks good, or you feel like eating for some other reason. It is important to learn to recognize head hunger so that you know when it is not time to eat, but it is also important to realize that it may not be time to eat every time you are physically hungry. That is because you are losing weight, which means you are eating less than you burn, which means…your body is hungry.
Pizza and Ice Cream Taste Great
Often, your sense of taste changes after weight loss surgery. You may be one of the lucky patients who stops loving junk food. Pizza and French fries may be too greasy and salty for your new taste buds, and ice cream and muffins may be too sweet.
On the other hand, your taste buds may be just as enamored with the food groups of sweet, salty, starchy, and greasy. You may need to work just as hard as you did pre-op to keep pizza, ice cream, fried chicken, and bagels from overwhelming your diet.
Salads May Not Work
Your game plan for weight loss may include a huge salad once or twice a day. It is filling, healthy, and low-calorie – the perfect weight loss combo. The problem is that many weight loss surgery patients can no longer stomach salads for months or longer after surgery. Instead of lettuce, a protein, and some dressing, consider building your meals with cooked vegetables, a protein, and a small amount of healthy fat such as avocado or peanut butter.
Creativity Is the Name of the Game
Many other healthy foods may be off-limits because your tastes change or they are too stringy or they make you sick. You will have to be flexible to find healthy substitutes for them. Here are some common trouble foods and some alternatives.
Popcorn: try Protein Cereal as a quick snack.
Celery: opt for Bean Crisps
Lean beef and poultry: try fish, veggie burgers and other soy and bean products, and lentils.
Cheese: try peanut butter or hummus.
The good news is that most WLS patients tend not to develop aversions to vegetables, so pile your plate high!
What Happened to Water?
Water is the one calorie-free and free from cost food that is actually a nutrient…and it may have tasted great before surgery. Afterwards, not so much. Some patients have trouble drinking plain water after surgery. It just does not taste good anymore. Now that diet soft drinks and carbonated flavored water are off limits, you have fewer choices for hydration – but they are there.
Flavored water without bubbles.
Decaffeinated low-acid coffee and tea.
Ice water with lemon or lime.
Malnourishment may be far from your mind when your goal is weight loss, but it happens quite often. It can be a deficiency of protein, but also of vitamins and minerals. You will have to get enough protein every day and take your nutritional supplements every day, probably for life.
Sit Near the Bathroom
You just never know when you may need one when you sit down to eat a meal. Dumping syndrome strikes fast and without warning. By the way, you also cannot predict how full you will get and when you will be able to finish your entire plate.
You can make your weight loss surgery journey a tad easier by aware of what to expect, and there may be a few things your doctor does not tell you about.