One of the common concerns for patients months after weight loss surgery is “will I be able to maintain this weight loss?” and “what if I gain all my weight back?”. If you are considering having bariatric surgery or have previously had the surgery, these question themes may have crossed your mind, and you may even be milling over these questions in your weight loss phase today. After bariatric surgery, many patients achieve great success. They are able to lose a significant amount of their excess weight and are able to maintain their weight loss through the years.
What is weight loss "success"?
We consider a patient to be successful in their weight loss when they are able to lose and keep off at least 50 percent of their excess body weight.
According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery more than 50 percent of patients regain 5 percent of their body weight within 2 years of undergoing the procedure. Yet, we still consider these patients "successful" in their weight loss. Especially when you measure success based on their quality of life and health improvements.
However, there are a handful of patients who end up regaining most of their weight. So what can you do to optimize your weight loss success over the years?
Weight loss surgery, is a tool in your tool box.
What some patients do not recognize is Bariatric Surgery is only one component of the entire process. Yes, you will lose weight within a few weeks of leaving the operating room, but you will not maintain that weight loss unless you put in the effort—everyday.
Weight loss surgery does not come without its challenges and efforts. It is a significant lifestyle change that patients must be mentally, emotionally, and physically prepared for. So for all those people who claim "weight loss surgery is the easy way out", they have no clue how much effort it takes everyday!
The key to long term, sustained weight loss success is lifestyle changes that become a habit. Here are my five tips that I tell my patients at the start of their journey to avoid regain and to live their most healthy life.
1. Be sure you have a good support system
Finding support after weight loss surgery is critical! It will be hard to adhere to your goals when you have people around you that are judgmental of your efforts or are always tempting you with unhealthy treats.
Unfortunately, sometimes those unsupportive individuals can be family members. If that is the case, I recommend you reach outside of your family to find support. Look to your friends or even seek out a small group in your community.
If you are a Live Healthy MD patient, you can attend our monthly support group meetings or request to join our private Facebook support group page. The key is to surround yourself with people who will celebrate your victories and encourage you when you are struggling to stay on track.
2. Follow up frequently
Some of our most successful patients are the ones who frequently attend their follow up visits after weight loss surgery. Patients who attend their post op visits have the chance to meet one-on-one with their surgeon and dietitian to evaluate their eating and exercise habits.
It has been proven that when patients are held accountable, they are more likely to succeed. So be sure you are scheduling your visits to stay on track and avoid significant weight regain.
3. Adhere to your dietitian's instructions
The majority of patients who experience regain after weight loss surgery are those individuals who no longer follow their dietitian's recommendations. There is a reason your dietitian will recommend you keep your protein intake high and your carbs low.
Aside from weight gain, not sticking to your recommended nutrition plan can lead to sickness, including dumping syndrome. Dumping syndrome occurs when a patient eats high sugar foods that pass through the intestines too fast—resulting in nausea and abdominal cramping.
4. Recognize that obesity is more than an "eating problem"
As the prevalence of obesity continues to rise, doctors and society alike have begun to look at it more as a metabolic problem than a social problem. In many cases, obesity is not a sole result of eating too much food but is also a result of a hormonal imbalance.
With that being said, you may need to look outside your bariatric office to seek treatment. This may include following up your GYN (ladies) or even visiting an endocrinologist to get your thyroid tested.
If you are experiencing weight gain and you have been adhering to a healthy diet and exercise regimen, I suggest you schedule an appointment with you bariatric surgeon so they can help you get to the root of the problem.
Life after bariatric surgery takes continued effort to avoid regain
A little bit of regain after bariatric surgery is normal. Just beware of falling too far off the wagon and regaining a significant amount of your weight back. If you follow the four tips listed above as well as the other recommendations given by your bariatric surgeon, you are pretty much guaranteed to achieve long term weight loss success.
For more information about how to stay healthy after Bariatric Surgery, check out our YouTube channel where we post weekly videos related to living your healthiest life.