Shhh......It's a secret

By Adam Glasgow - 4/5/2016

Secrets of the Trade: How to Use Weight Loss Surgery as an Effective Tool

As you’ve probably heard me say many times before, “weight loss surgery is just a tool.”  While it would be nice if surgery alone resulted in significant and sustained weight loss, we all know that surgery is just one piece of the puzzle. Each individual needs to find the optimal way to use surgery as a tool in order to achieve his or her weight loss goals.  So what are the secrets? What can you do to increase the likelihood that you will achieve your personal goals?  Looking back now over more than 10 years of practice, I see consistent behaviors among people that make best use of their weight loss surgery. Of course everyone is an individual and what works for one person, might not for another. But with that in mind, I thought I would share with you some common themes I have seen among patients who have been successful and achieved their goals. And remember, no matter where you are in this process – just starting out or many years in -- it is never too late to start using these tools:

Create a Plan – Successful patients are often excited to tell me about their “plans” for eating healthier. Some patients like to plan their meals days or even a week in advance. They often prepare meals or at least shop for ingredients well ahead of the need, so when mealtime comes there is no question about what they will be eating. With a healthy meal plan in place, there is less temptation to improvise when you are tired or impatient. Often our weakest food moments are when we are unprepared and just need immediate gratification. With a plan in place, there is less stress surrounding mealtimes and less anxiety in advance of them. This planning applies to snacks as well. If you know you get hungry at a certain time of day, keep a healthy snack in your bag or at your desk so it is ready when the time comes.  Never be at the mercy of vending machine choices.  Remember one of my favorite quips: “nobody plans to fail, they just fail to plan.” Said another way: failing to plan is planning to fail.

Stick with the Plan – As important as it is to create a plan, it is even more important to stick with it. Once you have made your plan, you must take the needed steps to execute it. If you are having trouble doing so, ask for help from family members or friends. Put a structure in place that makes it easier for you to stick with your plan. Make sure the plan itself is doable and realistic, and works with your schedule and your family’s schedule.

Eliminate Temptations – Getting off track is often a crime of opportunity. When you open the cabinet and see a bag of chips or box of cookies, the temptation can be overwhelming. The easiest way to avoid that temptation is by not letting it be there in the first place. Empty your kitchen of all foods you know present a challenge for you. If that is not possible because of other people in your house, then try to place all of the tempting foods in a single drawer or cabinet that you will not go into.  And of course, resist buying these foods at the grocery store, replacing them instead with healthier choices that you still enjoy.

Create a Support Network – This is so important! It is well established that people are more successful with weight loss when they have some accountability to another individual or group. Some patients find this structure by attending our support groups twice each month. It gives them a forum to meet other weight loss surgery patients and share successes and struggles. Others create their own support networks through family and friends, or with a therapist. Assemble your personal team and then let them know they can be most helpful. If you live with a family or roommates, let them know what type of “support” you hope they can give you. What role, if any, do you want them to play at mealtime or during the regular course of the day? Do you prefer they offer help or just be there when asked? Talking in advance with these support people can help clarify what you need and increase the likelihood that you will get it. However you choose to find support, making sure you have your team in place is key.

Ask for Help – Having a support network is meaningless if you can’t ask for help when you need it. I always say asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. When you find yourself wandering off the path you hoped to be on, ask your support network (including me!) for help getting back on track.

Hold Yourself Accountable – Find a way to hold yourself accountable for your weight loss. If you know you have to “check in” with someone about your weight loss, you are more likely to stay on course. Patients who have frequent follow up care are typically more successful than those who don’t. Coming for follow up care also allows your “professional team” to make recommendations about adjustments you could make to impact your weight loss. In addition, some patients find it helpful to be accountable to others for weight checks, like coaches, trainers or weight loss groups. The more structure you have in place for yourself, the better you are likely to do.

Forgive Yourself – When you have a day, or a week, or even longer, when you make poor choices, forgive yourself and move on. Like most everything in life, weight loss is not a straight path. There are always bumps in the road and detours off the path. But they are only as meaningful as you let them be. Use them as motivation to get back on track. It is never too late to start fresh.

Get Some Exercise – Ain’t nothing to it, but to do it. Whether it is a walk, a hike, or a marathon, find something you enjoy (or can at least live with), and, as NIKE says: Just Do It.  Exercise burns calories, reduces stress, for many actually reduces appetite, and of course is great for heart, lung and general health.  You don’t need a gym membership, expensive equipment or a famous trainer.  You just need to be more active and move more than you are currently doing.  My favorite workout spot: the outdoors.  It’s free.  It’s always open.  And there is never any wait for equipment.

Be Open to Change – Believe that change is possible and believe in your self. If you remain convinced that you will never succeed, it will be harder to do so. Be open to new ways of eating, new ways of exercising, and new ways of approaching your life. Don’t let old patterns and behaviors hold you back.  Remember: nothing changes if nothing changes.


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