Weight loss surgery is a good option for those who are significantly overweight or obese, but it isn’t a quick fix, and many patients find it difficult to keep the weight off in the years after bariatric surgery. According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, upwards of 50 percent of patients regain five percent of their body weight within two years after undergoing a weight loss procedure.
Patients who want to see the weight lost stay off will need to develop strategies to help them avoid rebound gains down the road.
“Many people think bariatric surgery itself is a diet that enables them to eat whatever they want, when they want,” explains Dr. Nick Nicholson, founder and lead surgeon at Nicholson Clinic. “That is a complete fallacy. Weight loss surgery enables diets to be more effective, but patients must do their part to see the results they desire and maintain the losses down the road.”
If you have had weight loss surgery, here are some tips to help you keep the weight off for years to come.
Get support for long-term success. Setting up a support network is key to your success. Family and friends can help encourage you and hold you accountable, and attending a formal post-surgical support group, can help answer questions and guide you as you strive to make healthy choices months and years after surgery.
Assemble a medical team. Post-surgical follow-ups with medical professionals should likely continue for quite a while after surgery. Your weight loss surgeon, clinical staff, a therapist specializing in emotional eating, a fitness expert and a nutritionist can prove valuable members to have on your weight loss team.
Learn to think differently about food. The relationship with food is often a complicated one. When food dependencies or abuse are the root cause of obesity, getting help to address the root problem is a must, as is learning to develop healthier eating habits overall. Addressing issues may take time, but once good habits are developed they can prove as difficult to break as bad ones and can help prevent weight regain.
Create new habits. Immediately following weight loss surgery, most patients lose weight very rapidly. With time, weight loss will begin to slow and it can become easy to return to old habits. Develop new eating habits early on, including focusing on nutrient-dense food and lean protein. Eating low-calorie, filling foods like vegetables can help you avoid weight gain but keep satisfied when your appetite returns.
Get active. Take advantage of your new, slimmer physique and greater energy levels and develop strong exercise habits. You should be physically active most days of the week (at least five days a week). The American Heart Association recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise weekly. Regular exercise can make a big difference in preventing weight gain after bariatric surgery.
“Weight loss is a journey that doesn’t end with surgery,” says Dr. Nicholson. ”Avoiding rebound gains months and years down the road takes dedication, support and a desire to develop and stick with a post-surgical plan.”
Most importantly, remember that we all face setbacks. Don’t let a little slipup throw you off course. If you have a bad day, week or month, get up, dust yourself off, and get back on track.