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BF Basics: The Weight Loss Numbers Game


Obligatory Disclaimer: The views expressed in this BF Basics post are OPINIONS of Bariatric Foodie blogger, Nikki Massie. This post should NOT be taken in place of medical advice. If you have concerns about your weight, weight loss or understanding any of the numbers outlined in this BF Basics series please consult your bariatric surgeon’s office or primary care physician. Ok…now carry on!


Your weight on the scale. The body mass index. Percentage
excess weight lost.

What the HELL do all these numbers mean?
Never fear, BF is here! I’m going to break down each of
these numbers, how they can be tools in your weight loss journey and why none of them should be the sole
narrator of your success story.
Ready? Let’s go!
Your Weight on the
Scale
What is it? It seems very obvious to most of us that the
weight on the scale is how much we weigh, right? But for us there’s just a
liiiiiittle bit more going on there. You see, when we get on the scale, somehow
we (erroneously) think that we should compare ourselves to a person who has
never been obese before. So when we see a higher number, we go through a chain
of thinking that can go like this:
“Yowza! I weigh a lot!” 
> “In fact, I weigh too much!” > “I must not be a success after
all! I need to lose more weight!” > (Insert whatever you do when you freak
out)
Yeah. That’s stinkin’ thinking. Stop that.
In reality there are several key ways we are different,
namely:
  • Your bones, from carrying around an obese OR morbidly obese
    person for so long, may be denser than a person who has never been overweight
    or obese. In short, you might actually be “big boned.”
  • Unless you are made completely of rubber, massive weight
    loss probably resulted in some excess skin. This skin weighs something and it’s
    going to show up on the scale.
  • If you are working out, there are a bunch of biological
    processes that can cause scale wonkiness. After workouts your body can retain
    fluids. It also saves fluids to metabolize the carbohydrates that your body
    needed to survive the workout. And of course there’s the matter of muscle.
    While it is NOT true that muscle weighs more than fat (a pound is a  pound is a pound), it IS true that muscle is
    more compact than fat, meaning in a given space you can fit more muscle than
    fat. So if you have a high muscle mass you may stay on the top of the weight
    curve. 
All this is to say that the number on the scale, while
helpful, only presents a partial picture. Here’s what I think the scale is good
for (take this with a grain of salt!):
  • Differentials: “I used to weigh this and now I weigh this.” This can go in both directions. Most post-ops have a “buffer zone” of how much the scale can go UP before they freak out. 
  • Trends: If you pay attention you probably have a weight loss trend. Maybe you lose only a few pounds in the first week of the month, stall for two weeks and then lose a big amount that fourth week. Or maybe (ladies) there are certain times of the month when you tend to “regain” a few pounds of water. The scale can show you these trends and put your mind at ease. It is my belief that knowing these trends would SIGNIFICANTLY cut down on stall freak-out posts on the internet. Just sayin’.
The Body Mass Index

So if you want to read all about the history, in’s and out’s of the body mass index, you can click here
The simplified version is this. It’s a calculation that is based on your weight divided by your height (there’s a bit more to it but let’s not muddle things). Based on that information you are given one of a few categories for your weight:
  • Underweight (>17.5)
  • Normal (17.5 – 24.9)
  • Overweight (25 – 39.9)
  • Obese (30 – 40)
  • Morbidly Obese (40+)
So, you hear a lot that the BMI is flawed. But why? Here’s my opinion.
  • The same way the scale can’t factor in skin and heavy bones, the BMI also cannot
  • The BMI also doesn’t account for muscle mass. If you are 5’5 and weigh 200 lbs. and are ripped, the BMI still assigns you a score of 33, which is still going to be considered obese. Which to said ripped person would probably seem laughable.
  • On a personal level, I think when your fitness and body size say healthy and your BMI says obese it messes with your head.
Given this information, what exactly is the BMI good for?
  • Showing you that you, as a 6’2 person are not meant to weigh the same thing as the 5’5 person over there. You are different and the BMI highlights that.
  • This system works better (not perfectly, but better) in my opinion in measuring the severity of obesity and morbid obesity. The higher the number, the more disproportionate your weight is to your height and we know for a fact that’s not healthy. 
Excess Body Weight Lost

Of all these numbers, I think this one has the most potential to show us our true progress. This is a number many surgeons use to determine if your weight loss is on track. Essentially this number is how much of the overall weight you needed to lose, that you’ve lost (I re-wrote that sentence three times and that’s about as clear as I can get it!). So if you had 100 lbs. to lose and you lost 50, you’ve lost 50% of your excess body weight. Got it?
If you’ve never figured this number out, it’s pretty simple, although it involves a few steps. Here’s how you do it. 
  • Subtract your starting weight from your goal weight (whatever that is, wherever it came from)
  • The resulting number is your excess body weight that you need to lose.
  • Now, go to this website. It’s a percentage calculator. Go to the second row. In the first box, plug in how much weight you have lost so far. In the second box, plug in your total excess body weight. Then click “calculate.” 
  • The result will by your excess body weight lost. Trust me, you’re going to have a moment. Have a box of Kleenex ready. (Psst..after you are done calculating, leave YOUR percentage in the comments so we can do the happy dance together!)
Many weight loss surgery patients lose 100% of their excess body weight but studies show us that 50 – 70% is more common, with around 50-60% in long-term maintenance. But still. This number is a good one because it only compares you to you! Where you came from. Where you are now. Nothing else. 
So these numbers can work together to help you along your journey. Here’s how:
  • The number on the scale can show you trends and warn you when something isn’t going right (excessively slow weight loss, regain, etc.). In those instances, you need to call your surgeon’s office. There is nothing I or any other post-op can really do that will effectively help. 
  • The Body Mass Index can help you put your weight in perspective. Even though I am against comparing yourself to others, if you must, ALWAYS ask a person how tall they are. That factors into what they should weigh vs. what you should weigh. It keeps your head on straight. Because we do wonky things when our heads are not on straight.
  • The Excess Body Weight Lost is a good indicator of how far you’ve come from your highest weight. It’s also the number that’s going to make you feel best about yourself. And if experience is any indicator, we tend to win when we feel we are winning. So pay attention to the winning number!
I hope this brief tutorial has given you all some insight. The numbers can drive you crazy (if you let them). But they can also be tools that propel you to phenomenal success!

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25 comments

  1. Okay…that calculator just made me feel freaking amazing!!!! I have lost well over 75% of my excess body weight. Yeah…I'm a champ!!! Thanks for sharing.

  2. 71.55% at 6 months out, I am happy, I am happy with the raw numbers too, 83 pounds lost out of 116. Yeah me.

  3. I am at 82% and counting!!!!

  4. 74.07%…guess I'm doing pretty good after all! Thanks!

  5. 66% gone! It's way too easy to forget where you started 🙂

  6. Thanks for sharing, I'm at 69%!! BOOM! I love the idea of having a metric to compare against yourself and not everyone else!! Today I went and bought a pair of shorts 20 inches smaller than what I was wearing last year!!

  7. Oh.my.goodness. 111% of excess weight lost. I am 5 foot 6, started 294, goal 154 (normal BMI) equals 140 to be lost. 156 lost. 138 currently. 1 year out from RNY. If I can maintain at no more than 154 I will be very happy. I keep getting the you need to stop losing weight comments. I never agreed until I did these calculations today. (touch of body dysmorphia) Thank you Nik for all you do!

  8. 63% excess weight loss so far – looking at it that way sure makes me proud of myself! sounds so much better than 74 lbs to go!

  9. 63% and counting at almost 5 months out! Woohoo!

  10. 69.77% at 7 years out. Grant it, I was at a higher percentage 5 years ago but that is still amazing

  11. I've lost 90% of my excess body weight. Far exceeds the 75% my surgeon wanted me to lose. I'll take it. 🙂

  12. thanks for the handy calculator!! yes, needed Kleenex – – – I had gastric sleeve done July 2011. my number is 82.9545% and hopefully the other percentage is the skin. YAY – celebrate (but not with food) thanks so much for the time you take for the info you put out in this site. love it!!

  13. I have lost 60% of my excess weight in 5.5 mos. This really made me feel a lot better when I have been stalled for a week and really have been (as always) down on myself……..

  14. I have lost 88 percent.I've been feeling down on myself lately because I haven't got to my goal weight yet at fifteen months out but when I look at it this way it seems so much better…and all the things I can do now! Truly living for the first time in thirteen years!

  15. Yay! I love the perspective from the percentage of excess weight lost. It's a good number to have when I'm feeling inadequate from not losing as much as others. No matter what, it's hard not to compare myself! 44% of excess weight lost in 9 weeks with VSG. 🙂

  16. 43.47% gone. I love it. I have been stalled for months and it was a great reminder to see how much I have done.

  17. Wow, that does make me feel good. I've lost 17 lbs more than my goal weight.

  18. Wow, I’ve lost 82%!! This makes me feel so much better!!

  19. Wow. Just found this site and after reading this I feel much better. Thank you

  20. I’ve lost 58.9% in the 4 months since surgery, very happy about that!!!

  21. I recently went for Dexa scan Body Fat testing. Considered very accurate. When I first had surgery I set a goal for myself based on the BMI chart. To be in the ‘normal’ range you need to be below a 25. So I chose 24. As I’ve gotten closer and still had 40lbs to lose to reach that, people kept saying to me that was crazy. My Doc won’t set a goal, and I needed to know what was reasonable for me. I didn’t want to be banging my head against an unrealistic wall/goal. Well it turns out for me to be a healthy 24% body fat, the number was actually 19 pounds heavier than the BMI charts said. I was told what my lean body mass was and then there is a formula for figuring out BF% from there. I was also told I had almost off the chart strong bones, and higher than average muscle mass. I believe both of those things are from carrying around an extra #200 for all those years. I have not been exercising but not weight training. I believe it is the ‘protein first’ mantra we are told that has kept my muscle.

  22. 92% , trying to get to goal. Had surgery 8/14. Thanks for this info.

  23. WOW I didn’t know I had gotten so close to my goal. 2.5 yrs out from VSG and had reached 96% to my goal. But glad to know I’m still at 68% after having gained 16lbs. I’m more encouraged by this knowledge thanks to this calculator. Thanks Nikki.

  24. 53.10%, but I am only 3 1/2 months post-surgery. Thank you so much for this article! I have been in a stall for the past month and have been feeling like a failure.