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Race to the Finish – Bariatric Edition

Why oh Why are we in such a rush to get to some magical finish line post-bariatric surgery? 
I spend a good part of my Monday to Friday’s chatting with pre-op and post-op bariatric clients. We review the surgery itinerary. We discuss a bit of “what to expect” as well as the pre-op and post-op guidelines. I try my best to make sure my clients are mentally and physically prepared for their journey.
One question that comes up a lot is, “how long will it take me to lose the weight”? This is an important question but the answer is very different for each person. It’s not a cookie-cutter answer.
The weight-loss timeline is going to depend on a lot of different situations. Some of the questions are: Are you male or female? How old are you? What is your starting weight? What is your goal weight? Are you taking any medications? Do you have a metabolic disease? Are you physically healthy? Are you able to exercise? What are your stress levels like? How are your sleep patterns? Are you experiencing hormonal fluctuations? 
It’s not as easy as saying, “you need to lose 100 pounds and it will take 6 months”. I wish I had a crystal ball and I was able to share this information with you but it’s not so easy. There is also the matter of your post-op diet and are you following all the recommendations? Are you eating your protein first? Are you restricting processed carbohydrates? Are you getting in all your fluids?
If only it was a “surgery and be done” with being overweight, but it’s not. 
Surgery is the starting line. From there we need to recover and allow the stomach to heal. Next up we introduce pureed foods, working up to soft foods over a month. Finally at the one-month stage, if all is well and progression has been on target, we can add a solid protein like red meat, etc. 
Once we are cleared for a “full diet”, we need to be sure that we are eating in the correct way to promote weight-loss. Weight loss doesn’t magically happen. We need to work for it by feeding our new stomachs the correct types of foods. 
Prioritize Protein – Fill with Fat – Reduce Carbohydrates – Drink Your Water
Weight loss takes time. We all know somebody who lost 100 pounds in 3 months but that is not your average weight loss surgery patient. How long did it take you to gain weight? 6 months? I don’t think so. It took a lot longer than that. Most of my clients have lived with being overweight or obese for YEARS. They didn’t just wake up like that. 
Why do we believe that there is some “finish line” waiting for us? 
We need to be thinking “long term” and not “short term” with regards to weight loss and our tools. 
If we cross that finish line and get to the goal weight quickly, sometimes I fear that the bad habits will resurface quickly. I think that if we need to fight a bit to get to our goal, then we will appreciate it more and take care of it with a good maintenance plan. 
There is no need to be in a big rush, as long as the scale is moving in the right direction. One to two pounds a week is a perfect number. If “Karen” is losing weight quicker than “Katherine”, who cares? Maybe Karen had more to lose? Maybe Katherine is older than Karen. Maybe Karen has more muscle mass. Maybe Katherine is having hormonal issues like menopause.
What matters is that both Karen and Katherine have their scale moving in the right direction.
Please do not be in a rush to see some magic number on the scale. I want you to enjoy your journey to health and wellness. I want you to see not only the numbers on the scale getting smaller. I want you to rejoice from the numbers on your lab reports improving. I want you to feel better. I want you to sleep better. I want you to feel what great energy you get when you eat the right foods. I want you to spend less money on clothes because you can now shop in regular clothing departments. I want you to do a happy dance when you need to buy new shoes because your current shoes are too big. That’s right, even your shoe size AND your ring size will change when you lose weight.
With all these wonderful things happening, why are we in a rush ONLY to see the numbers on the scale. You are BIGGER than the number on the scale and as long as it is moving in the right direction, decide to focus on the other amazing things occurring in your body. It is these changes and improvements that will solidify your reasons for having bariatric surgery. 
If the journey takes a bit longer, that only means that the changes we made to get there are more likely to stick with us for the long haul. 
Let’s look at our bariatric surgery as the “first step” to a very long and happy journey to continued health and wellness. Once we reach our goal weight, it doesn’t just end there. We continuously strive to get better and better. We get to learn more about food and exercise. We get to educate ourselves about supplements. We get to work on sleep-hygiene. We find ways to lower our stress levels. It goes on and on. 
Enjoy your bariatric journey. Embrace it. Don’t be in a hurry.

About the Author: Sheri Burke is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Bariatric Surgery Coordinator at International Patient Facilitators in Tijuana and Cancun, Mexico. She has worked with bariatric surgery clients for over 10 years and especially enjoys providing nutritional guidance to pre and post bariatric clients.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two teens and cooking up a nutritional storm in the kitchen.

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