The obesity epidemic in America continues to grow and more people are turning to weight loss surgery as an option to help them lose weight and keep it off.
One misconception for many people considering bariatric surgery is that most people who undergo weight loss surgery will eventually gain back the weight lost, perhaps even more. This is often also a real fear for patients who have had bariatric surgery as any weight gain after surgery can be discouraging.
It is important to remember that weight loss surgery is not designed to work alone. Bariatric patients must make a commitment to healthy lifestyle changes including adopting a diet and sticking to a regular exercise plan. Patients who are unable to maintain these recommended lifestyle changes may struggle to lose weight after surgery, or they may experience weight regain after bariatric surgery.
First, let’s address the misconception that most bariatric patients regain weight after surgery. While it is true that about half of all weight loss surgery patients do regain a small amount of weight (on average, about five percent) in the years following weight loss surgery, long-term post-op studies of bariatric patients show the majority of these patients are able to maintain long-term weight loss.
According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), “successful” weight loss surgery is considered weight loss equal to or greater than 50 percent of excess body weight. Although some bariatric patients may regain a small percentage of weight, very few will regain all or more weight. The results of weight loss surgery are far more effective than a cycle of yo-yo dieting and fad fitness plans most bariatric patients have attempted prior to choosing surgery.
Bottom line: a small amount of weight gain after bariatric surgery is normal, but most patients are able to maintain the majority (at least 60 percent) of their weight loss after five years.
While weight loss surgery is a proven effective tool to help patients lose weight, it should not be considered a “cure” for obesity, as it requires patients to maintain a strict diet and healthy lifestyle with regular exercise after surgery. Patients who approach bariatric surgery as a tool to help them achieve their goals or expectations, rather than a “quick fix” are more likely to be successful in achieving their weight loss goals after surgery.
Here are some of the common reasons bariatric patients experience weight gain after surgery:
Medical or anatomical problems can arise in the months or years after surgery, causing the patient to regain weight. However, in most cases of weight gain after gastric bypass surgery, the patient has fallen back into old lifestyle habits. Patient education, early intervention and long-term support services following weight loss surgery are key in helping patients prevent weight regain and quickly addressing it if it does occur.
When patients receive nutritional counseling, personal fitness training and psychological support to address the patterns of behavior that may have contributed to the patient becoming overweight, they are better prepared to maintain the necessary healthy lifestyle changes in the years following bariatric surgery.
Here are some tips to help bariatric patients avoid weight regain, or to get back on track if you have experienced weight gain after bariatric surgery.
Keep all of your post-op appointments. Post-op appointments are essential in helping patients stay on track with their weight loss. During post-op appointments, the patient’s health is evaluated to ensure they are getting all essential nutrients after surgery.
Take advantage of all post-op support opportunities. Surgical support services, such as nutritional counseling, psychological support and fitness training are available to help bariatric patients reach and maintain their weight loss goals. Patients who surround themselves with a positive support system, including family and professionals, are better able to maintain their weight loss over time.
Consider a reset diet. If you have experienced some weight regain after weight loss surgery, talk to your doctor or nutritionist about a reset diet to help shrink your stomach pouch and again restrict the amount of food you are able to consume. A reset diet typically lasts a week to 10 days and takes the patient back to the liquid post-op diet in order to give the stomach time to contract back down to its smaller size. Many patients who experience a weight loss plateau or weight gain after surgery have found great success with a reset diet.
Talk to your doctor about bariatric revisional surgery. There are limitations to every weight loss procedure and weight regain can occur for a variety of reasons after bariatric surgery. Sometimes patients experience weight regain due to a treatable medical condition. In cases where weight regain may be due to a treatable medical condition or complication from the original surgery, bariatric revisional surgery, such as bypass-to-sleeve, band-to-sleeve revision or the duodenal switch procedure may be a viable option to help the patient get back on track with weight loss.
If you are a bariatric surgery patient who has regained some weight after bariatric surgery, do not be discouraged. Weight loss and weight regain do not happen overnight. Although it can be frustrating, be diligent with your diet, focusing on getting plenty of protein and increase your level of daily physical activity. Contact the First Baptist Medical Center bariatric surgeon to help you get back on track and lose with your weight loss, or to learn more about bariatric revisional surgery.