“Weight Loss Surgery is just a tool.” We have all heard this statement many times, but it is absolutely true – Weight Loss Surgery (WLS) does not work, unless you adopt the healthy eating and exercise habits required to lose and sustain your weight loss. Changing habits is hard work and takes a lot of effort. Old habits are always waiting in the wings to jump back in and take over, which can slow down weight loss or cause weight regain. Falling off track can happen to anyone, but there is a way to get back on track. Below are 7 tips to help you get back on a path to success!
1. Are you truly aware of what you eat and drink?
A lot of what we eat and drink can be done mindlessly, which means we are not paying attention to how much and what we put in our mouths. If you are not losing or are regaining – you need to take an honest look at what you are consuming on a daily basis. The best way to do this would be to start logging everything you eat and drink. I recommend using smart phone apps (such as My Fitness Pal, FitDay, LoseIt, Baritastic, etc.) to log what you eat and drink. These types of apps give you the nutrition information for everything you eat, so you know right away how many calories and how much protein you get in each day. When you know what you take in – you can make better choices. Research has shown when people record what they eat- they are more effective at losing and maintaining weight. Most people underestimate how much they eat, which makes logging foods very important.
2. You might be eating too many calories.
Since most people underestimate how much they eat, it is possible to eat too many calories even after WLS. Most bariatric patients need to keep their calorie levels low and get in their required amount of protein each day. As part of logging your foods – you need to weigh and measure the foods and drinks you take in to accurately assess your calorie intake. You will need a food scale and measuring cups and spoons. You can purchase a food scale and measuring cups/spoons in most stores that sell kitchen items. Meat, poultry, fish/seafood are weighed after cooking and hard cheeses are weighed before cooking. Other foods are usually measured using measuring cups and spoons.
3. Are you drinking your calories?
Sugary beverages do not satisfy the appetite and can contribute a lot of calories to your diet. For example, a 16 ounce regular sweetened iced tea can have 250 calories, 16 ounces of 100% fruit juice or fruit drinks can also have 250 calories and coffee drinks that have swirled in flavorings or “shots” can have over 1000 calories for the larger sizes! Anything you drink (except for approved protein drinks) should not exceed 10 calories per serving. WLS patients who drink too many of their calories often lose weight poorly and will regain! Take a look at what you drink and make healthier, low calorie or calorie free choices. Water is always best!
4. Are you getting in enough protein?
Most WLS patients know getting your daily requirement of protein is important. Protein is the centerpiece of the WLS meal plan. Protein does several important jobs: it helps maintain muscle as you lose body fat. Protein has a high satiety, so it gets you full and keeps you full longer than any other food group and protein is an essential part of weight loss and weight maintenance. For these reasons, we are always telling our patients to eat protein at each meal and always eat protein foods first. Protein foods are: meat, eggs, low fat cheese, low fat or fat free yogurt, beans, fish/seafood and poultry. If you have strayed away from protein based meals – get back to your bariatric meal plan!
5. Are you getting in your physical activity?
Most people know exercise is an important part of losing weight, but it is more important in helping you maintain your weight loss. If you aren’t exercising regularly or your exercise has dropped off – you want to set up a plan to start or get back to an exercise program. At our office we offer many opportunities to be active. We have a Bariatric Wellness Program at the CentraState Fitness and Wellness Center that is designed to get people active in a small group setting. We also have a biking, jogging and walking group that meets monthly during the warmer months for fresh air and exercise. It is important to engage in both cardiovascular exercise (aerobic) and resistance exercises so you are burning fat and maintaining muscle. Exercise helps preserve or build muscle and prevents your metabolism from slowing down. Loss of muscle and a slower metabolism leads to poor weight loss and weight regain. Always get your doctor’s approval before you start any type of exercise program.
6. Have you hit a weight loss stall?
Remember the number on the scale only tells you how heavy you are – it does not tell you if you are losing fat or muscle. Not all weight loss is healthy – if you are losing too much muscle – you can get weak, look unhealthy and slow down your metabolism. On the other hand, not all weight gain is unhealthy. If you are exercising regularly you might be building muscle – muscle is heathy weight and burns calories. The more muscle you have – the more calories you burn, thus making weight loss and maintenance easier. Your weight should be used in conjunction with your body composition analysis (how much of your weight is body fat, muscle and water) and inches (measure your waist, chest, hips, thighs and arms) to truly determine your progress. Remember: You can lose inches, but the scale might not show a weight loss.
7. Are you “dieting?” Diets do not work!
Dieting usually means you are eating a certain way until you reach a goal or in some cases give up. If you think you are on a “Bariatric Diet” you might not have fully accepted the lifestyle of healthy eating needed to lose and sustain weight loss. The lifestyle habits used for weight loss are generally the same for weight maintenance. Embrace your new lifestyle with the idea that you are nourishing your body for better health, quality of life and overall wellness. The bariatric eating plan does not have to be boring or tasteless and is healthy for your whole family.
If you are not losing or if you are regaining weight, it is worth time and effort to re-evaluate eating and exercise habits to get back on track to success and better health. For further assistance, make an appointment with the dietitian to evaluate your habits and find out more about our exercise programs. We are here to help and are invested in your success!
Dietitian’s Corner is a monthly column for post-op and pre-op patients of bariatric surgery in NJ written by Prime Surgicare’s Lori Skurbe. Lori has been a dietitian for over 20 years with an extensive background in weight management, bariatric nutrition and diabetes education.