Setting Realistic Weight Loss Goals

You know that you want bariatric surgery, but you’re not sure how to set weight loss goals after surgery. How do you set realistic goals so that you can lose weight consistently and get down to your ideal weight, without setting goals that are unrealistic and getting discouraged?

In this blog post, we’ll walk through how to set realistic weight loss goals. Most of our patients lose 60-100% of their excess weight within the first year. Imagine how that would feel.

Collaborative Goal-Setting

The first key to setting realistic weight loss goals is to meet with our dietitian both before and after surgery. They will get to know your body, your individual health conditions, your baseline weight and physical fitness levels, and what your ideal life and body after surgery look like; in order to help you set weight loss goals that work for you.

What is a realistic weight loss goal? Most of our patients lose 1-2 pounds per week for the first year. This may not sound like much, but over the year this translates to 50-100 pounds of excess weight shed and in many cases even more, as well as a substantial change in their body fat composition. Imagine how that would feel.

Planning for Long-Term Success

Weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint; so when you’re setting goals for weight loss surgery, it’s important to plan for long-term success. Many people who undergo weight loss surgery without proper care and follow-up are excited to see the scale going downwards for the first few weeks, but then get discouraged at setbacks or bumps in the road. At the BMCC, our goal is to help you lose weight and keep it off in the long-term so that you can get your life back, which is why we ask that you meet with our dietitian multiple times both before and after surgery, and have frequent check-ins after surgery. We also recommend the following two principles to help you pursue your goals.

1) Make Habits

While we provide a complete tool kit for you at the BMCC designed to maximize your weight loss, it’s not enough to simply learn these principles. Patients who succeed at long-term weight loss begin to do what they are learning in classes and do these behaviors more and more consistently over time. Repeating the desired weight loss behaviors with consistency over time forms habits out of the correct choices. Adding a full complement of the correct weight loss habits changes baseline behaviors and works with your surgery to maximize your initial weight loss and builds a solid foundation for enduring long-term success. Even though many of these behaviors may be difficult to sustain without a surgical tool, after adding the powerful tool of bariatric surgery, the right habits will feel natural to continue afterwards if you have invested the effort to form them before surgery.

2) Reward Yourself For Small Milestones

Weight loss is a marathon, and in a marathon it’s easy to get discouraged. Most patients know intellectually that they won’t drop 3 sizes or lose 50 pounds overnight, but even the best of us can get discouraged when our goals take longer to achieve than we would like. In order to address this, it’s important to reward yourself when you hit frequent small milestones.

It’s important to note that these rewards should generally not be food. Some dieters reward themselves with a “cheat day,” but this is counterproductive; because a soda or slice of cheesecake is only going to set back your weight loss progress. Instead, come up with other rewards that you can offer yourself when you hit small goals. Did you drop down a clothing size? Reward yourself with a trip to the mall to buy a nice new shirt. Did you lose 10 pounds? Reward yourself with a day off work and an activity that you’ve always wanted to try. These small milestones can help you break the weight-loss marathon into bite-size pieces, and each reward can motivate you to get after the next one.

3) Prepare for Setbacks

It’s uncomfortable to say, but there will be some weeks when the scale doesn’t budge. That’s okay. The important thing is to focus on the process. If you’re eating healthy, following your dietitian’s advice, and working out regularly, than you will see results, even if the scale doesn’t go down for a few days.

It’s also important to reflect on how you feel. Your body fat composition may go down even if the scale pauses. Are you losing inches, feeling fitter, and losing some of the pain associated with obesity (for instance, joint pain and difficulty moving)? That’s sometimes a bigger indicator of improving health than the scale. You want to continue losing weight, and most weeks you should see consistent weight loss. But when you do face occasional setbacks, remind yourself that you’ve still come a long way and that some bumps in the road are inevitable. You can do this.

Taking the Next Step: Scheduling Your Bariatric Surgery

Setting realistic bariatric surgery weight loss goals can be difficult, but our team is here to help. If you’re considering bariatric surgery and want to learn more about weight loss goal setting, then we encourage you to schedule a bariatric assessment with us or visit our Getting Started page.

Our patients routinely say that surgery was the best decision they ever made.

“I feel like I have won the lottery and have been given a second chance in life! March 25, 2014 was the first day of the rest of my new life and I can’t even start to express in words how grateful I am.”–Rochelle Goforth, patient

If you’re suffering, don’t wait. Contact our Denver office today.

Dr. Joshua Long headshot

This page was medically reviewed by Dr. Joshua Long, MD, MBA, FACS, FASMBS. Dr. Long is a double-board-certified bariatric surgeon and bariatric medical director for Parker Adventist Hospital.
Full Bio: Dr. Joshua Long, MD, MBA, FACS, FASMBS
Page Updated: September 13th, 2023

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