Celebrating Non-Scale Victories After Bariatric Surgery

As my patients progress through their weight loss journey, the one metric they tend to focus on is the all-important number of pounds lost. We all think about our weight, sure, but there are other ways to measure success after weight loss surgery, and I like to call these “non-scale victories.” These are the improvements in your quality of life that cannot be measured on the scale.

When patients come to see me for weight loss surgery, the conversation inevitably turns to goals and expectations. This is where I find out what the patient’s motivation for surgery entails. As often as I hear “I want to lose weight,” I will hear about other motivations as well–goals and aspirations that are more difficult to measure but are far more endearing.

From a medical perspective, the best non-scale victories are the resolution of medical problems. When a patient realizes that they have been cured of diabetes and no longer need medicine to help maintain a normal blood sugar, or a patient no longer needs a CPAP mask to sleep well at night, signifying a cure of obstructive sleep apnea, those stories make me feel great. In curing those medical problems, the patient’s quality of life has improved substantially.

From a social perspective, there are several examples patients give me of non-scale victories. A patient of mine recently came in and told me about her family vacation to Disney World, and listed several improvements in her quality of life that were just not possible before she lost weight. She was able to comfortably sit in an airplane seat without worrying about encroaching on the passengers next to her. She was able to walk around the resort with her children without getting fatigued. And most importantly, she was able to participate in the fun with her children, ride roller coasters, and truly enjoy the vacation as a family.

Her husband and children were worried about her undergoing weight loss surgery beforehand, as they saw the operation as a drastic measure full of risk. But one year after surgery, they fully understand how important it was for her to make that lifestyle change, lest she spend more of her life as a non-participant in family activities.

There are other non-scale victories that patients experience on a daily basis. Little things that add up to a happier life. Being able to sit on the floor and play with kids, going for a walk without pain or becoming short of breath, being able to wear more fashionable clothing, and having the energy to complete all of these activities without becoming fatigued. These are all non-scale victories; they cannot be measured by standing on a scale, and they are the stories that I love to hear when I come to work.

What “non-scale victories” have you had since losing weight? Let us know in the comments below!

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Daniel McCullough, MD, has been a bariatric surgeon for the past 10 years. Prior to joining ProMedica Physicians in July 2016, Dr. McCullough practiced in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. He completed a Bariatric Surgery fellowship at The University of Virginia, residency in General Surgery at The University of Toledo Medical Center, and medical school at the Medical College of Ohio (UTCOM). He is a native of Toledo, Ohio.

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