A Word About Goal-Setting After Gastric Sleeve Surgery

Immediately following vertical sleeve gastrectomy, your initial goals are pretty simple: get the recommended amount of water each day, find ways to sip protein until your stomach is ready for more solid food, and walk a bit even if you don’t feel like it. But after you’ve had the sleeve for a while, goals take on a new shape and a different kind of importance. Today, I’d like to address some common mistakes when it comes to goal-setting after VSG.

Mistake #1: Setting a goal without an action plan to get there. If your goal is simply to “lose 50 pounds,” then it’s more of a dream than a goal. To call something a goal, it needs to have a solid plan behind it, with action steps that will help you reach it. So if your goal is to drop a bunch of weight, but you haven’t made the effort to plan out how to make it happen for your unique body and lifestyle, well, good luck with that. And yes, bariatric surgery in our Mexico hospital is certainly step one. But step two onward has to be more than “rely on the sleeve.” Do you know the right eating plan for you? The majority of my patients do well with a high-protein, low-carb plan. So have you studied the materials we provide—or are you winging it with food choices you think are healthy? Long-term success with weight loss almost always involves a consistent exercise plan. Do you plan your workouts for the week and then stick to them? The old cliché is true: Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Mistake #2: Creating a goal that does more harm than good. I just told you that consistent exercise is a must. And it is. But if your goal is to get to the gym every single day, you’re going to miss that goal pretty often. And when you miss that goal often enough, exercise as a whole might become unrealistic in your mind. Notice how “I’m going to go to the gym every day” feels much different than “I’m going to schedule five active periods every week.” The first one seems like a life sentence with no parole, while the second one seems like something that’s do-able over the long haul. Come down with a chest cold? Even if you take two days off to shake it, you’ll still make your goal for the week. Another goal that sets you up for difficulty is anything that has to do with a specific number or size. Maybe you want to wear a size four dress, but your body is happiest—and still very healthy—at a size eight. Do you plan to be unhappy at a size eight for the rest of your life? You probably won’t, actually, that’s a recipe for giving up altogether and eating your way back up to a size 22.

Mistake #3: Failing to reevaluate your goals during your journey. So maybe you started off with that size four goal in the beginning. Two years later, you’re not there. And you’re mad, sad, frustrated, all those things. Why isn’t it happening?! If you’re at a healthy weight, then chances are your original goal simply isn’t a good one for you. On the other side of trying too hard is not trying hard enough as your journey progresses. In the beginning, some patients may set a goal of walking 30 minutes, four times a week, especially if they weren’t exercisers before VSG. But months later, that’s probably not enough movement to keep the scale going in the right direction. You need to keep re-setting fitness goals by increasing the intensity, upping the amount of weight you lift, etc., as your body adapts to your workouts. If you’re not pushing yourself here, the scale will show it.

Mistake #4: Stubbornly sticking to a goal that isn’t really important to you. You always said that when you lost some weight, you’d run a 5K. Now you’ve lost some weight and have started running. And you hate it. You’re finding reason after reason to avoid going out for a run. But you promised yourself you would become a runner! I say, “Who cares?!” If you refuse to release a random goal like this, you’ll make yourself hate exercise. So make like Elsa and “let it go.” Pick a new goal that’s more in line with your current interests. Maybe you want to become a yoga instructor or take the ballet class you felt too chubby to enjoy as a kid. Find a goal that is important to you—and then go for it!

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“Changing lives…one sleeve at a time”.