Your Health…By the Numbers
The scale is one way to measure your success after weight loss surgery, but it certainly isn’t the only way. Weight loss surgery brings about so many positive changes to health and well-being and can be measured in many ways.
Biomarkers are measurements used to get insight into your overall health. It’s important to take an active role in your health and know your numbers as you work to improve it.
During the first year after surgery, it’s hard not to compare your weight loss with others who have had surgery. Keep in mind, a person who has 200 lbs. of excess weight is going to lose more pounds in a given period of time than someone who has 100 lbs. of excess weight. Rather than measuring pounds lost, a more meaningful way to use the scale is to look at the percentage of excess weight lost. On average, an expected weight loss at 6 weeks is 10-15% of excess weight, 20-25% at 3 months, and 50-65% at one year. Since the expected weight lost numbers are averages, some will lose more at these milestones and some less.
After your weight has stabilized, it’s important to step on a scale regularly. To keep yourself on track, have an upper weight that is acceptable. If you see a number higher than that upper number, it’s time to take a good hard look at your food and exercise behaviors and see if there have been any changes. You can always check in with your Barix Nutritionist for some insight.
Body mass index uses both height and weight to gauge if your weight puts you at risk for weight-related health problems. The easiest way to get your BMI is to search “BMI calculator” and then simply input your height and weight. BMI ranges indicate if you are underweight, normal weight, overweight, obese, or morbidly obese. This can give you a general indication if your weight is or isn’t where is should be.
The BMI measurement has some drawbacks. It does not take into account age, gender, ethnicity, or body composition (amount of muscle, bone, and fat).
Waist circumference is an indicator of visceral fat–the fat that surrounds the heart, liver, kidneys and other internal organs. The amount of fat in your midsection is a more accurate predictor of obesity-related disease risk than overall body fat. A higher amount of visceral fat increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, and colorectal cancer.
A waist measurement that is 50% or less than height is ideal. For example, a 6 ft (72 inch) man should aim to keep his waist less than 36 inches, while a 5 ft 4 in (64 inch) woman should keep her waist under 32 inches.
To accurately measure your waist, use a cloth tape measure on bare skin. Place the measuring tape at your natural waistline, above your belly button and below your rib cage—at the spot where a crease forms when you bend to the side. Stand relaxed without holding your stomach in or pushing it out.
Blood pressure is another number to pay close attention to. It often has no symptoms, yet high blood pressure can damage blood vessels and lead to heart attack or stroke and cause problems with your kidneys and eyes. Numbers should be below 120 for the upper systolic reading and 80 or below for the lower diastolic reading. Numbers over 130 and 80 indicate high blood pressure.
If your blood pressure is under 120/80, that’s a great sign that your heart is not over-exerting itself to pump blood. Weight loss surgery effectively lowers blood pressure in the majority of patients.
Resting Heart Rate
A normal resting heart rate, the number of times your heart beats per minute while completely at rest, is around 60-100 beats per minute. Within this range, your cardiovascular system is working efficiently. Check your resting heart rate first thing in the morning by placing your fingers over your wrist or the carotid artery of your neck to get your pulse. Count the number of times your heart beats in 10 seconds and then multiply that number by six.
To keep your resting heart rate within a healthy range, be sure to get regular exercise; stay hydrated; limit caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol; and eat a healthy varied diet rich in lean protein, vegetable, fruit, nuts and legumes.
Typically, when you eat, your blood sugar rises. With the help of insulin, excess sugar moves out of the bloodstream and into cells where it is converted to energy. If your body doesn’t create enough insulin or it isn’t used effectively, too much sugar is left in the blood.
Keeping blood sugar levels within normal ranges is important since elevated levels can cause damage to the eyes, kidney, nerves and heart. A fasting blood sugar, after not eating for 8 hours, should be under 100 mg/dl. A random blood sugar level, taken anytime, should be less than 140 mg/dl. An A1C, or glycated hemoglobin, reflects blood sugar levels over the last 3 months and should be less than 5.7.
Weight loss surgery has been shown to be more effective than medications at treating type 2 diabetes in obese individuals. Many will find their type 2 diabetes significantly improved or resolved after surgery.
This set of tests measures different kinds of fats in your blood. If they are elevated, they can lead to narrow or blocked arteries, heart attack, and stroke. LDL (bad) cholesterol should be less than 100 mg/dl, HDL (good) cholesterol should be 60 mg/dl or higher. Triglycerides should be under 150 mg/dl. Weight loss surgery improves lipid profiles, most are able to stop medications.
Biomarkers are important because they provide insight into your health status, but even more important may be the lifestyle habits that help you to reach normal biomarker values.
Staying hydrated is essential for overall health. Sixty-four ounces a day is a good amount to shoot for, although the amount needed to stay hydrated varies based on variables such as age, gender, activity level, climate, and food consumed. Another way to monitor hydration status is to check the color of your urine. Anything darker than a pale yellow color is a good indication that you’re not drinking enough water.
The type and amount of food intake is key to optimal health, especially after weight loss surgery, when volume is limited.
- Build your diet on lean protein options after weight loss surgery–just enough to meet your individual goal.
- Add in a good variety of vegetables; 3-6 ¼ cup servings per day. A higher intake of vegetables is associated with a lower risk of many health problems.
- Fresh fruits provide vitamin, minerals and fibers. Eat 2-4 ¼ cup servings each day.
- Whole grains round out your diet. Eat 4-6 ¼ cup or ½ slice servings.
- Limit higher fat foods and avoid foods with more than 2 grams of added sugar.
- Eat fresh, unprocessed food as much as possible.
- Shoot for 25 to 35 grams of fiber daily. If you’re not able to eat enough fruit or vegetables to reach this number, add flaxseed, wheat bran, or a fiber supplement.
- Limit alcohol or don’t drink at all.
The amount of time that you spend sitting throughout the day has an enormous impact on your health. After just 2 hours of sitting, metabolism slows by 25-50%, blood sugar levels increase, good cholesterol decreases and circulation slows. Body pain and stiffness, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, some types of cancer and even early death can be a result of this sedentary lifestyle. How can you add more movement to your day?
- Pace while talking on the phone or while watching TV.
- Build more movement into your daily activities—park further away, take the steps, walk during kids practices, and stand whenever possible.
- Cut back on sedentary activities to 2 hours or less per day—computer use, TV time, and reading.
- Make time for 30 minutes of exercise daily.
- Build up to at least 10,000 steps a day.
Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. The body needs that amount of time to fix tissue, make hormones, grow muscle, and process the information and learning of the day into memories. A lack of sleep can make you hungrier — and make junk food more appealing. Adequate sleep is linked to a lower risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Power down your electronics and get the rest you need.
Putting healthful lifestyle habits in place and nailing healthy biomarker numbers is awesome. Your body will let you know that it is healthy and reward you with a higher quality and enjoyment of life. Here are just a few rewards you’ll most likely experience for your efforts.
- You can reach down and tie your shoe effortlessly.
- Your mood and confidence improve. You’re ready to live life to the fullest.
- You feel stronger and have more energy.
- You have fewer aches and pains. It’s much easier to move your body.
- You clothes will fit better and you’ll be able to shop in a “regular” store.
- You will be more motivated to go places and do things.
- You are more likely to try new things.
- You’ll take fewer medications.
- Your skin may look younger.
- You can tackle that treadmill, 5K run, spinning class or whatever your heart desires—weight no longer hinders you.
- Vacations are more fun—starting with the flight.
1/2 cup butter melted
2/3 cup erythritol
3 large eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup almond flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tbsp gelatin (optional)
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
Preheat the oven to 350F and grease an 8×8 inch baking pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, sweetener, eggs, and vanilla extract.
Add the almond flour, cocoa powder, gelatin (if using), baking powder, and salt. Whisk until well combined. Stir in the water to thin the batter.
Spread the batter in the prepared baking pan. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until the edges are set but the center still seems a tiny bit wet. Remove and let cool completely in the pan. Makes 12 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 120 calories, 4 grams protein, 12 grams fat, 3 grams carbohydrate, 129 mg sodium.
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup minced cilantro
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon erythritol or other sweetener
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (14 ounce) can organic black beans, drained and rinsed
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 avocado, diced
1 rotisserie chicken, light meat only shredded
Place the lime juice, cilantro, olive oil, garlic, erythritol and salt in a shaker cup and set aside.
Divide the chicken between 6 bowls and top each with black beans, tomatoes and avocado. Shake the dressing and pour over right before serving. Makes 6 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 257 calories, 21 grams protein, 12 grams fat, 15 grams carbohydrate, 352 mg sodium.