5 Habits That Successful Bariatric Patients HaveMarch 13, 2023
There are consistently 5 habits that successful bariatric patients have.
Consistency and Motivation
For many of us, our goals serve as a beacon shining in the distance, keeping us focused on what we want to achieve. That’s why it's important to make sure these objectives are well thought out. Are my goals impractical in the long term or do they involve habits that easily fit into my everyday schedule? Experience has taught me that goals without an intentional and consistent plan of action are nothing more than dreams. It’s super easy to say "I want to lose 20 lbs." The question becomes what are we willing to do to get to our goal, and equally what are we willing to sacrifice?
Ultimately, no one in our lives can motivate us better than ourselves. When I see patients who want to lose their diabetes or their sleep apnea, they are committed to change because they truly understand the long-term medical consequences of those diseases. Being healthy takes effort, not for one day, or two years, or even ten years - it’s for life. We have to make a conscious decision multiple times a day for life to become healthy and stay healthy. Of course, it’s natural to have stressful moments that cause us to make poor choices - that's OK. What’s not OK is allowing mistakes to totally derail you. It is critical to recognize poor choices you’ve made, understand why you made them, and as successful bariatric patients, get back on track by being prepared to do something differently the next time.
I personally maintain long term relationships with my patients to help them stay on track for the long run. To help with consistency, I tell my successful bariatric patients not to weigh themselves, and to not focus on the number on the scale - instead, focus on being persistent with the right habits. Did I drink enough water? Did I get adequate sleep? Did I make healthy choices? Did I get in some movement/exercise? The successful bariatric patients who really take pleasure in the small wins they make each day are the ones who ultimately stay consistent and have the most success with achieving their goals.
Healthy Nutrition Choices
We all have lives that sometimes stress us out, don't give us the time to prepare our meals, eat slowly, and make good choices. In fact, most of us are juggling work, school and family responsibilities, causing us to neglect "Self Care." I stress to patients that if you don’t take care of yourself, you cannot truly take care of others in the long-term.
Often, I hear Moms saying that the chips, pretzels and pizzas are for the kids, not them. In reality, we shouldn't be serving our children these types of foods - they have very poor nutritional quality and tend to be full of processed sugar. This exposure from childhood then causes this craving for sugar and making these poor choices in adulthood. My top foods to avoid include: rice, pasta, bread, and snacks (such as peanuts, pretzels, popcorn, chips, cookies, etc...) In my opinion and my practice, this is the number one culprit explaining why people either don't hit their goals, or over time regain weight. Instead, let's replace those poor choices with protein, vegetables, and healthy snacks that are high in fiber, such as apples, pears, berries, and Greek yogurt. Try to plan what you eat. For example, when you do groceries, think about which meal the food you're getting fits into. Am I going to eat this for breakfast, lunch, or dinner? Is this filling enough for the number of calories it is? What kind of nutritional content does it provide me and what foods can I pair it with to make a complete meal?
As you keep questions like this in mind daily and switch your diet to more nutrient dense foods, you’ll find yourself having more energy for your kids, your workout, and your job. You’ll feel great about the self-control you exhibited and the choices you made today that will progress you towards your goals tomorrow. You’ll experiment with finding creative ways to make these foods more appealing. And overall, you’ll be healthier than before.
Exercise is key for managing long term health. Cardiovascular exercise especially is critical towards cardiac fitness, building muscle and burning calories. Studies have also demonstrated exercise to improve the immune system, allowing your body to fight off common ailments better. Exercise even stimulates the release of hormones like cortisol, which improve mood, give you energy and perpetuate behaviors that drive weight loss. I often advise patients to find a class or activity that they genuinely love, be it golf, Zumba with your partner, spin, or even just walking the dog. Finding something that actually engages you is going to make it much easier for you to do it with effort and with frequency, which can only bolster your weight loss journey.
Having an adequate night of sleep is also very important to maintaining a healthy weight. There are hunger hormones in our body called Ghrelin and Leptin that drive our hunger and induce the feeling of fullness. When we don't get enough sleep, the production of these hormones are affected, causing us to be more hungry, crave excess carbohydrates, and make poorer choices. On the other hand, people who go to bed early consume fewer late-night calories, have less stress and maintain a healthier weight.
Water is essential to the body, playing a role in nutrient transport, waste removal, and regulation of body temperature. Drinking water can also help you feel more satiated between meals, curbing your hunger and helping you lose weight. Unfortunately, our bodies are always losing water, either through sweat or in our breath - that’s why it's important to always stay hydrated. After typical bariatric surgery, the size of the stomach has been reduced. As a result, patients may find it harder to take in a large amount of water at one time. It is important to drink slowly and consistently over the course of a day. Like anything, drinking water is a habit you have to work towards incorporating into your life. Try scheduling alarms to drink water, or setting goals to have consumed a certain amount by a certain time. Staying properly hydrated as a bariatric patient can help improve your recovery in the weeks after surgery, and long term can be crucial to helping you experience long term success with your health.
Naveen Ballem MD, FACS, joined New York Bariatric Group in 2020.
ABOUT THE AUTHORNaveen Ballem MD, FACS, is an active member of the ASMBS (American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery). He serves on the clinical consensus committee and has collaboratively published national guidelines for Bariatric Surgery. Dr. Ballem also serves as Director of Bariatric Surgery for Hunterdon Medical Center and Jersey City Medical Center. Dr. Ballem joins New York Bariatric Group in 2020.
ABOUT THE AUTHORPranav Kadiyala is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles earning his B.S. in Neuroscience. In the future, he plans to pursue a career in the medical field and become a physician.