weight loss

Weight Loss Success and NSVs

May 22, 2013

Success with weight loss surgery is less about the numbers on the scale and more about the lifestyle and health of the patient. Unfortunately, many weight loss surgery patients do not measure their success beyond the numbers on the scale and this can lead to negative self-image.

Why are patients so fixated on the numbers? The answer may be as simple as that it is accepted norm as the way society measures success. Doctors measure a patient’s height and weight to determine their BMI (body mass index). Insurance companies use the same criteria. Magazines and television utilize the same methods that are limited to the numbers. Success in weight loss isn’t limited by numbers alone, and should be measured in other ways. The other ways to mark your success are Non-Scale Victories (NSVs).

The NSVs are the reward of your commitment to living a healthy lifestyle. NSVs don't have to be huge. Actually, they are mostly routine things of your life. It is important to acknowledge your progress and success beyond the scale.

A general definition of NSVs are those things that you could not do before your WLS or things that you had to do before WLS. An example of each are (1) that you can buy clothes off the rack instead of in a larger size store; and, (2) not needing to wear a seatbelt extender on a plane any longer.

Here are some other examples of NSVs that deserve celebrating:

Nine non-scale ways to measure success with weight loss

1. Reduction in prescription medications.
2. Reduction or resolution of co-morbidities.
3. Reduction or resolution of other medical problems.  (i.e. joint pain)
4. Decreased clothing sizes (increased ability to fit into clothes)
5. Increased self-confidence.
6. Increased earning potential. (Job opportunities)
7. Increased lifestyle.
8. Improved social and family relationships.
9. Improved sexual behavior (desire increased)

When you review the list above, you wonder how it is that success has been reduced to setting such high value to the numbers on the scale only.  The truth is that the more weight you lose, the better and more fuller the success however; many patients report success without ever having reached a normal range BMI.

Generally speaking any patient that loses and keeps 50% or more of their excess body weight off should consider their surgery a success.  However, that is not to say that someone who comes under 50% has failed.  Success and failure are very subjective terms.  In weight loss there are many degrees of success (as the nine ways above can attest).

Some goals and measurements of success mean more to patients than numbers on a scale.  You have to decide what your goals may be.  What is more important, the numbers on the scale or the lifestyle and freedom they represent?   The best way to succeed in your weight loss journey is to define success before you begin the journey.   Be realistic, be fair, and be prepared to work for success.

Track your weight loss success

  • Determine your current weight and your goal. (Write it down.)
  • List any non-weight measurements that you want to improve through
    weight loss.  (Example:  I want to wear size five clothes.) You could use any
    (or all) of the nine ways listed above to help determine your non-weight goals.
  • Choose your support persons. (Support group leader, family members,
    surgeon, other.)
  • Choose a method to record your weight, activities, and lifestyle. [ObesityHelp provides a free Health Tracker module on your profile for this purpose.  Health Tracker was created for use by anyone but especially anyone having weight loss surgery.]
  • Begin your tracking plan.
  • Use your plan daily to track your progress (first 18 months).
  • When you reach a goal reward yourself with an activity. (See goal setting below.)[ObesityHelp has a Goal System (located on your profile) that you can use for your own goals and see the goals set by other members.]
  • Enjoy your new life and don’t measure your success with or against others.

If you do not reach your weight loss goal, measure your other goals.  If you are succeeding in your other goals but your weight is not ideal, do not allow yourself to become depressed because you are still doing well. If you have not reached your weight goal or your other goals (within 12 –18 months) then consult your surgeon or support group leader.

There may be physiological reasons for not reaching your goals.  No matter what happens, you’ve taken exceptional steps to take control of your life.  Keep looking at the accomplishments and work with your support persons to help you reach your goals.