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What To Do About Gaining Weight After Bariatric Surgery

Gaining weight after bariatric surgery can be a frustrating. While bariatric surgery is an effective tool for rapid weight loss and can help you lose at least 50% of your excess body weight, it doesn’t mean you will effortlessly keep the weight off forever. 

Many people experience some degree of weight regain after gastric bypass particularly as eating habits normalize. One study found that the average weight regained after 60 months post-surgery was 8%. Understandably, this is a concern if you’ve had weight loss surgery. A common fear is to gain all the weight back that you worked so hard to lose. 

But rest assured that there are steps you can take if you do experience weight regain. Just because you’ve gained some weight back does not mean you can’t feel good again or attain your goals. Here are some steps to take if you experience weight regain.

Focus on Protein

Your protein intake is one the first things to look at if you’re gaining weight. 

I know. I know. You’re probably tired of hearing about the importance of protein but it’s vital for your health and weight maintenance after bariatric surgery. 

In preparing for surgery, you were probably hammered about the importance of protein. Right after surgery, protein is critical in the healing process. 

But, now that you’ve healed, protein is still important. Protein makes you feel full and satisfied after meals. It’s a tool to help you manage your overall calorie intake. Incorporating protein is an excellent way to maximize the use of your new tool. 

Aim to eat a high protein food at every meal or snack. Most people need between 3-4 ounces per meal. Choose a variety of high protein foods, such as chicken, fish, eggs, tofu, or protein powder to help you stay full. 

Develop a Plan

Have a plan in place to help you incorporate healthful habits. Start with just one thing to work on and begin including it in your schedule. This could be to track your protein, bariatric meal prep or begin exercising to help give you some ideas. 

The point is to schedule times to do this each week. Look at your calendar and write in when you’re going to make the time to focus on this one goal. Having a plan in place will help ease your stress and provide you with a path going forward. Continually reassess your plan and see if its working. 

If you need help with menu planning ideas and want something easy to start with, you can check out my “done for you” meal plans here. 

Get Support 

It can be isolating to go through bariatric surgery, especially if you’re the only one in your immediate circle changing your lifestyle. It’s critical to surround yourself with caring people who understand your post-surgical challenges.

One of the best things you can do to stay accountable with your healthy lifestyle is to get support from family, close friends, or a post-bariatric support group. Ideally, you should meet in person, but an online support group can be helpful as well. If you’re looking for support, check out the Facebook group for my community,  Bariatric Meal Prep and Recipes

If you see the scale starting to go up, reach out to a trusted friend or support group member immediately. Have that person remind you how far you’ve come and how much you’ve already accomplished. Brainstorm some ideas to get back on track or identify possible reasons why you’re gaining weight.

Ask for Professional Help

Not only do you need support from friends and family, you also need support from medical professionals. A doctor, dietitian, or therapist may all be able to help you get back on track. 

Your primary care doctor or bariatric surgeon can evaluate you physically and order lab tests to see if there are any underlying issues that may be causing weight gain. A bariatric dietitian can provide support and nutritional guidance to help you create a routine and habits that work for you. They can also provide accountability to help you reach your goals. 

A therapist or other mental health professional can help you work through underlying issues, like stress or anxiety, that can contribute to weight gain. In order to keep the weight off long-term, it is critical to create a team of professionals around you who can provide expert guidance to help you stay on track. 

Your primary care doctor can review your medications to identify if there are any that may be contributing to weight gain or increased appetite. They may also decide to check your labs such as different hormone levels, to make sure everything is operating correctly.

Drink Fluids Between Meals

After surgery your doctor likely told you not to drink fluids with your meals and to wait at least 30 minutes after you finished eating. This is still important to incorporate into your routine years after bariatric surgery. 

Drinking with your meals may lead to weight regain. It’s believed that fluids push food through your digestive system faster, so you’re hungrier sooner. This may lead you to eat more. The best thing to do is to wait at least 20-30 minutes after your meal before you drink water or other calorie-free beverages.

Exercise 

Are you keeping up with your exercise routine? 

Sometimes when life gets busy, regular exercise is one of the first things to go. But, exercise is one of the best ways to keep weight off long-term. Exercise not only burns calories, it also boosts metabolism, increases energy, and helps you deal with stress. 

The goal is to exercise at least 30 minutes daily, but even 5-10 minutes is better than nothing.

Movement throughout the day is key!

Try adding more movement into your daily routine by parking further away from your destination or taking the stairs. Aim to gradually increase your steps each week until you reach your goal.

Sleep

It’s easy to forget about the importance of sleep. But when you don’t get enough sleep your body is more prone to gaining weight.

When you don’t get enough sleep, this increases two hormones called cortisol and ghrelin. Cortisol is a stress hormone that tells your body to hold on to excess weight. Ghrelin increases hunger, particularly for sugar or high carbohydrate foods. When these hormones are elevated due to lack of sleep it makes it very difficult to maintain your weight. 

Plus, let’s be honest…. When you stay up late at night, the munchies can kick in. Just simply going to bed thirty minutes earlier may save you from mindless eating at night time.

Ideally, aim to sleep at least 7-9 hours a night. A solid bedtime routine can help you get the rest you need and may help regulate your hormone levels. 

Getting the sleep you need will help you feel more energized to workout and make better food choices, slowing weight regain.

Remember How Far You Have Come. 

A weight loss journey is never simple or easy.

There are ups and downs for everyone trying to lose weight and live a healthier life. It’s important to not just focus on the negative or difficult parts of your weight loss journey. Remember to honor your successes as well. 

Consider taking a look at old pictures to see how far you’ve come. Remember old habits and how many you’ve changed. Even if you do regain some weight, you’re still a success. The key is to continue your progress and not aim for perfection.

If you need extra help along your journey please check out my meal plans or sign up to be notified when my course “How to Eat Confidently After Weight Loss Surgery” opens up again. 

If you found this info helpful please share with others. 

Kristin Willard, RDN

I am Bariatric Dietitian that teaches you how to eat before and after weight loss surgery to help you feel and look your best.

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