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Getting to your ideal weight after bariatric surgery won’t make you happy.

Over the past 10 years I have talked to 100’s of people about what their ideal weight after bariatric surgery should be. In those conversations there are a few ‘requests’ that come up more often than not. Two goals that people want after gastric sleeve surgery are:

  1. I want to weight XXX lbs
  2. I want to have well defined (arms, abs, chest, legs, butt, back, shoulders, etc.)

There is nothing wrong with wanting either of those goals (or both of them). Your doctor will probably tell you what your goal weight should be. I want to give you a different way to look at those goals to take some of the pressure off those being important goals. This new way of thinking can keep you from the success syndrome.

Looks and an ideal weight after bariatric surgery are important but not as much as your health.

This focus on looks and body shape is nothing new. As long as there has been some type of picture media there has been a focus on what an attractive body “should” look like. Yet recently it’s very easy to be overwhelmed with the message of what you “should” look like. Yet what isn’t mentioned or is only whispered is that these people that are being upheld as a pinnacle of fit and attractive isn’t something that most people can do. I’m not talking about the filters and photo editing that goes on. I’m talking about the amount of work that goes into these models having the body that they have.

It’s a lot of hard work to get to an Ideal weight after bariatric surgery.

When you see a photograph or video of someone that is very fit, what you are looking at is months and years of hard work and focused dedication. There are 100’s of hours at the gym slowly building the muscles that you see. then there are 100’s of hours that go into how to eat, when to eat and what to eat. This is a job for these models. This is what they do to make money, you do something else to make a living. Of course there are those people that don’t do this as a job but still look like they could. Yet they still have put in tons of hours to get to a place of strength and health.

Too many people put too much emphasis on surface looks and an ideal weight after bariatric surgery at the expense of health. People don’t really know what health is and will take someone like a model as the pinnacle of health. That’s a lie. That attractive fit model has spent the last 3 months in a cutting phase. That is, they have been reducing their diet and restricting their food in order to gain muscle definition. I’ve never heard of a person in a cutting phase really enjoying it. What they are doing is no different than what you would have to do to get that level of definition.

Age matters.

If you’re a 50 year old woman with a busy life mixed getting to a certain weight may not be easy for you. At 25 it’s not too difficult, at 50, this goal even with gastric sleeve it can be difficult.

If you are a 45 year old male that keeps seeing all these guys that drop 50 lbs of fat and now look shredded it can get to you. You’re 45, you don’t have the testosterone of a male half your age. I’m not saying you can’t get that body, you definitely can. It’s just that the amount of time and commitment to get to that ideal weight after your bariatric surgery isn’t realistic for many people. Like the example of the 50 year old woman above – you have a life with stress and friends and chores. 

I’m not arguing against these goals. Instead I’m advocating for you to have healthy goals both with your activity and your nutrition.

Let me give you two options that are synonymous with the goals listed above but have a little more depth and usefulness to them. 

Activity is more important than what your ideal weight

Change the goal statement from “I want to weigh xxx lbs” to “I want to be able to be active without the limitations that my current weight puts on me”. The first goal statement sets you up for a false success and a difficult journey. If you hit your goal weight what does that tell you? That you are good at sticking to a diet and exercise but nothing else. What if you don’t hit that goal weight? That can set you down a path of worry and feelings of failure. This can spiral out of control and put you back at an unhealthy weight again. 

The second goal statement doesn’t put an arbitrary number to your goal. You may think this may make knowing when you achieve your goal more difficult or impossible. But I’ll argue that’s not the case. This statement gives you the opportunity to open up what you want to do. It opens up your life to decide what activities you want to work towards. It could be anything that makes you happy. Playing with your children or grandchildren, going on more hikes, being able to ride a bike, run a race, anything. The list is as long as you want it to be.

This then changes your focus on your workouts and nutrition. They have more meaning. And you start to see the workouts and eating right not as a detriment just so you can reach an arbitrary weight, but as part of the preparation for what you want to do. Then achieving your goal is not a number but a sense of accomplishment and lack of fear around doing things. It may not be as obvious as a number on a scale but you will know when you reach that goal. 

How you look is less important than what you can do.

“I want well defined ____________ (enter body part here)” is very much in the same world as “I want to weigh xxx lbs”. And the improved goal statement is similar as well. Instead of looking for defined body parts change your goal statement to “I want to be strong in order to do <activity>”  Two things happen with that change – you’ve adjusted your mindset to be less about having a certain look and the stress that goes with it never being what you want to the mindset around being more active. Second you’ve collapsed two goals into one. This statement now becomes just a sub-statement of the one mentioned above. Your focus is now on doing the work to improve and build confidence in the activity(activities) that you want to do. 

Yet I hear it over and over again from many potential clients that one of the top 3 goals is to have a certain body or an ideal weight after bariatric surgery. You actually may achieve your goal of a well defined body that weighs a certain number.  Yet if you change your mindset around your goals an ideal weight will not be as important anymore.

If you are someone that has put a lot of emphasis on reaching an ideal weight after bariatric surgery and/or having a certain look shape, I challenge you to adjust your thinking around those goals. Use the phrasing that I mentioned above to reorient your goals.  Don’t stop at the re-phrasing, use it to re-frame your mind around it, understand the deeper meaning that goes with the new focus.

Read next: Being all in

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