First off all let me say that I have made every mistake a person can make after weight loss surgery. I have:
- obsessed over food (to the point where I basically had an eating disorder)
- neglected my vitamins and follow-up care (and a few deficiencies resulted…lesson learned!)
- totally rebelled against healthy eating (and had both the little and big bounce-back weight as a result)
But you know what? I forgive myself for those mistakes. I learned from them and today I stand before you a wiser, more knowledgeable person because of those mistakes. But here’s the deal.
When I look back the only regret I have about making the many, many, many (did I mention many?) mistakes I’ve made is this. I let many of those mistakes ruin what was supposed to be the most exciting adventure of my life.
I mean…I was finally losing weight! I was fitting in clothes I never even dreamed I’d fit! My energy was off the charts! And yet none of those things mattered at the time. It wasn’t good enough for me. That is…until things started going in the opposite direction. Hindsight being 20/20, I realize there were some mistakes I made in my first few years post-op that not only stole my joy, but I’m pretty sure they wrecked my weight loss mojo by either slowing down my losses or throwing me off my “head game.”
I hope you guys aren’t making these mistakes, but if you are I want you to think long and hard about the effect they are having on your life and weight loss process. Is it healthy? And if not, then why do you continue to do unhealthy things when you are trying to live a healthy life?
Here are the top five mistakes that may be killing your weight loss mojo.
Weighing yourself multiple times a day
You’re going to argue me down on this one. I know it. I’m ready for you.
But I hear from many Foodies who are so frustrated that they seem to “gain” weight as the day wears on. And as they see the number on the scale (incrementally) go up, they start to counteract against their perceived “gain” by doing things like skipping out on meals or protein that they rightfully should be eating.
Let’s all take a collective breath. Ok. Now let’s discuss physics.
Not really (because I’m not even qualified to have that discussion) but I will say this. Of course you weigh more throughout the day! You know why? Off the top of my head, at least three reasons:
And while we’re at it, you drank water too! All of these things have mass. Which means they weigh something. And when they are still inside of you, they contribute to how much you weigh until such time as your body metabolizes the nutrients you took in and eliminates the waste.
So let’s stop this madness, shall we?
The best solution I’ve seen is to weigh only once a day (if you must weigh every day) and at the same time each day. Some folks swear by weighing first thing in the morning after they go to the bathroom. I got no problems with that. But this whole weighing several times a day thing? It causes far too many people to make unhealthy decisions in the name of “losing” weight when in reality you are fighting the wrong battle. The goal is to lose excess fat. While you do gain “weight” throughout the day, you may or may not be gaining excess fat. So stay consistent with your weighing times!
Letting the scale define your success
While we are on the subject of the scale, I would be remiss not to point out that it is not the sole narrator of your success story – nor should it be!
So let’s get a few counter-arguments out of the way here.
- YES it is true that carrying excess weight can lead to increased health risks
- YES it is true that losing weight can eliminate those risks
- YES it is true that the scale tells you whether or not you have gained or lost weight which, in turn, tells you whether you are contributing to or helping to eliminate those risks
But the scale doesn’t tell the entire story. You know how I know? I have three naturally thin friends who have had heart attacks! Yes, heart attacks.
You can be just as unhealthy at a so-called normal weight as you can when you suffer from obesity.
That’s why I am a big fan of looking at other lifestyle/bodily indicators along with the scale to determine your level of success. What does that mean? Here are a few:
- Your stamina (how long can you sustain activity without completely conking out)
- Your general energy (are you peppy or lethargic or somewhere in the middle?)
- Stress management (do you know how to healthfully manage your stress?)
- Sleep (are you getting enough of it and is it restful?)
- Bathroom tendencies (do you go often? is it healthy?)
- Your blood pressure (is it good? off the charts?)
Body weight is one of many important factors that tells us how your body is doing. There are many, many others. And when you practice healthy lifestyle behaviors (eating well, drinking water, moving your body, managing stress, getting your rest, taking your vitamins) you are improving many of those factors even when the scale isn’t moving.
I know it’s discouraging when the scale stalls, but think of it this way. Universe-willing you will be on this earth a good amount of time. You want that time to be in good health. By only focusing on the scale you are not only cheating yourself out of celebratory moments, you may also be downplaying or overlooking other healthy behaviors that can lead you to a longer, fuller life.
Comparing your progress to others
The internet. It’s a wonderful and a horrible thing.
When I had surgery in 2008 it was a full four months before I discovered the weight loss surgery community on the internet. In that time my weight loss was astounding. Wonderful. Better than I could have hoped for.
And then I began to see what other people were losing – how fast, how much, and what they looked like. That was the end of my peace for a long, long time.
For months I endeavored to eat less, exercise more…because if “they” could achieve skinny…I should be able to, right?
Fast forward eight years later and thank GOODNESS I have gotten past that mentality. The saying is true: comparison is the thief of joy. And I let it rob me of too many non-scale victories and celebratory moments. And it’s doing the same to you. So if you are one who constantly compares their success against other people’s, here’s what I have to say to you:
- SO WHAT if so-and-so lost 100 lbs. in 6 months and you didn’t. Are you being good to your body? Giving it enough calories, movement, water and nutrients? If so, it’ll keep working properly for you.
- SO WHAT if so-and-so wears a size 2 and you are in a size 10. Guess what? Not so long ago you were in a size 26 (or 24, or 30, or whatever you were in). So when you compare YOU against YOU…you’re doing pretty damn good.
- SO WHAT if so-and-so eats Cheetohs and drinks Pepsi all day and still lost the weight. Are you in this simply to be skinny or would you like to be healthy? We can’t speak to what makes so-and-so healthy but for you? It’s a balanced diet, regular exercise, plenty of water, taking your vitamins, managing your stress. That’s what makes YOU the best YOU that you can be.
Don’t compare yourself to other people. At the end of the day it comes back to you. If you are unhappy with your progress, DO something about it. See your doctor or your nutritionist. Seek out a support group. Find a walking buddy. Your happy doesn’t, and shouldn’t, be predicated on what anyone else is doing except YOU.
Not celebrating your success
I’ve seen the following conversation play out so many times I could recite it in my sleep.
Person A: Wow, you have done so well with your weight loss. I’m so proud of you!
Person B: Well I still have five more pounds to lose and all this skin. Ugh…
That. You know what that is? It’s downplaying your success. And it’s time for that to stop. Why?
Positive momentum is a powerful thing. Rosabeth Moss Kanter, author of Confidence: How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End, spoke to executives and industry heads and winning teams and you know what she found? Winning begats more winning. The more you win, the more you will win. The momentum is THAT powerful.
That being the case, it perplexes me why so many folks who are working so hard to get healthy want to downplay their success. Whenever I ask about it folks tell me, “I’ll celebrate when X happens” or “I’m waiting until I reach ____ and then the party can start!”
Moment of truth. You are cheating yourself out of a powerful resource for your success.
If winning begets winning, then acknowledging and celebrating the small successes can give you the momentum you need to tackle the larger challenges you face in life. Plus, if this process is truly about life-long and sustainable change? You’re going to be working toward one thing or another for the rest of your life. That’s how sustainably healthy lifestyles generally work.
So enjoy the moments. Celebrate the victories. Doing so won’t make you complacent (which is what I think the big concern is). It will build you up, give you confidence to take on something a tiny bit bigger, but most of all it allows you to see how far you truly have come.
Relying on Dr. Google (or Dr. Facebook) instead of your actual medical team
This one is rather serious, which is why I saved it for last.
Folks…if you have weird symptoms, call your doctor. If you can’t hold down any food, call your doctor. If you have stabby gut pains, call your doctor. If you feel dizzy or faint, can eat too much or nothing at all. Call. Your. Doctor.
I get that asking on the internet can tell you what’s normal and what’s not but what the internet does not know is your body. But you do. You know what’s normal and what’s not for your body. And you know what’s out of character for your body. Granted, after weight loss surgery your body changes a lot. And that’s what makes it especially important to be in contact with your medical team. This one can ruin your weight loss mojo in several ways.
- Not consulting your medical team that you can eat too much may lead to overeating, which can hamper your weight loss.
- Not consulting your doctor because you can’t hold anything down can result in dehydration or malnutrition, both of which can make you very sick and take you away from the lifestyle changes you are trying to make.
- Not consulting your team about feelings of light-headedness, dizziness, etc. can cause you to not be taking the appropriate supplements or nutrition to fuel your body, which can lead to worsening of symptoms and even illness.
Dr. Google and Dr. Facebook can tell you what has worked for other people. Your doctor, who knows you, operated on you, has data on you? They know what will work for you. So while I won’t tell you to never consult the internet, if something is truly concerning to you, call your doctor!