A Healthy Journey is the Ultimate Destination
By Collin E. M. Brathwaite, MD FASMBS
Every year thousands of people decide to take their first tentative steps towards their final destination of weight loss success. Their fledgling journeys, marked by jubilation and some setbacks, unfold as they embark on an ambitious plan to reshape their bodies and their lives. People who may have spent decades as overweight, or even obese, get the chance to live a happier, healthier and more fit existence. Additionally, patients should take steps so that they do not come full circle and end up back in their previous unhealthy condition.
These are wise words that we often hear in our lives, and we should take heed. The journey for weight loss is not what we 'get to'. It is about taking a lifetime to travel through and maintain a healthy weight. Bariatric professionals often talk to their patients about measurable and attainable number goals. We measure waist circumference, calculate BMI and discuss excess weight percentages. I find this to be a bit misleading for the patient. I think it is better to look at the weight loss as a continuum of care, rather than a finite number patients need to attain.
Patients are excited at the initial consultation to discuss how much weight they can potentially lose, which is appropriate, but keeping the proper perspective is vital. For example, we do anticipate that a patient can lose between 50-70% of their excess weight with weight loss surgery, but the focus should not be on the numbers. It also neglects the concept of weight loss as a way to improve health such as metabolic syndrome. Resolution of co-morbid conditions and a healthy lifestyle are the ultimate goal. For instance, is there really much difference between losing 100 pounds versus 105? No, there isn’t, especially if health conditions such as diabetes or obstructive sleep apnea are resolved.
I have found that many patients have a specific number goal that they are striving to attain. They often become aggravated when they find themselves leveling out at 5 pounds more than that goal. Does this mean that they are not successful? Again, the answer is no, as long as the patient has lost a significant amount of weight and is leading a healthier lifestyle by exercising and eating right. After all, changing the behaviors that originally led to the morbid obesity ensures that the patient will never again have to endure a journey filled with frustration and weight regain.