How to Lose Weight after Bariatric Surgery and Keep It Off
Weight Loss and Management after Bariatric Surgery
Many patients are able to reach their weight loss goals within a year after bariatric surgery. However, establishing healthy habits to maintain that ideal weight is often a challenge.
But with the team at Tijuana Bariatrics℠ to support you, successful weight loss and management is within your grasp.*
Learn more about reaching your weight loss goals...
Reaching Your Weight Goals
Reaching your initial weight goals alone is a difficult task. Patients must learn the limitations of their adjusted stomach capacity and develop healthy habits to accommodate the change.
In terms of what to eat after bariatric surgery, patients must decrease the size of their portions and the number of times they eat each day. Not only does this prevent overeating and intestinal discomfort, smaller and healthier meals can help patients lose a considerable amount of weight.
Exercise is also integral to losing weight. Gentle routines immediately after surgery can help ease patients into regular exercise. As they recover, they can begin building more intensive regimens by incorporating cardiovascular exercises and strength training, as well. With gradually more comprehensive exercise, patients typically experience noticeable weight loss.
Post-Bariatric Surgery Diet
What to Eat after Bariatric Surgery
Bariatric surgery can provide a foundation for weight loss and renewed health. However, the actions you take and routines you follow after surgery will ultimately determine the success of your procedure. One of the most important considerations is your diet.
Basic Dietary Guidelines for Bariatric Surgery Patients
Soon after your weight loss procedure, you will meet with your nutritionist to discuss your diet. He or she will provide specific instructions regarding what type and what amount of food you will be able to eat. Following a diet is not only important in helping you lose weight, but it will also help you avoid complications, such as stomach stretching. Although the details of your nutritional regimen will depend on the type of bariatric surgery you undergo and your individual needs; a post-bariatric diet typically progresses through four stages:
Stage 1 — Immediately after Surgery
For the first few days after your procedure, you will be limited to clear liquids, including water, decaffeinated teas, and fat-free broths. Because the digestive system will still be highly sensitive at this time, it is important to sip slowly, taking in no more than two to three ounces at a time. If your system is able to handle clear liquids for several days, you can graduate to a wider range: skim and low-fat milk, unsweetened juice, and sugar-free gelatin or popsicles.
Stage 2 — The First Two Weeks
After several days of success with liquids, patients can move on to pureed and strained foods. All food must be the consistency of a smooth paste or thick liquid, without any solid pieces. Your nutritionist can recommend specific foods, but lean ground meats, beans, fish, eggs, and cottage cheese mixed with liquid often blend best.
You should be able to return to a normal diet after three to four months, though you will need to eat smaller portions than before your procedure.
Stage 3 — Three to Four Weeks after Surgery
Most patients are ready to move on to soft foods after about three weeks on the puree diet, but you will need your doctor’s approval before proceeding. Food should be tender and consumed in small, easily chewable pieces. Patients can usually expand their diet to include ground or finely diced meats, canned or soft fresh fruit without seeds or skin, and skinless, cooked vegetables.
Stage 4 — The Coming Months
Patients can begin eating solid food after about eight to twelve weeks, but it must be thoroughly chopped and diced. To avoid overeating, it is important to start slowly and see what your stomach can safely and comfortably tolerate. Eating tough to digest foods, such as nuts, popcorn, or stringy vegetables can cause considerable gastrointestinal pain if attempted too quickly.
You should be able to return to a normal diet after three to four months, though you will need to eat smaller portions than before your procedure.
How you eat is just as important as what you eat, particularly during your post-bariatric diet. As general guidelines, bariatric surgery patients should:
- Avoid eating and drinking at the same time
- Eat meals slowly and chew thoroughly
- Keep meals small
- Focus on high-protein foods
- Try new foods one at a time so that any problematic foods can be caught quickly
- Take recommended vitamin and mineral supplements
- Stay hydrated
Many patients find that keeping a food journal allows them to better keep track of what foods they can and cannot handle. We will provide more specific advice and discuss various strategies during your initial consultation.
Understanding the Risks of Overeating
Overeating is one of the biggest causes of complications after bariatric surgery. While patients will initially experience substantial weight loss, they often lose motivation over time and begin falling back into old habits. Fortunately, the professional team at Tijuana Bariatrics will explain the risks of overeating after bariatric surgery and provide strategies to help you avoid it.
Potential Complications Caused by Overeating
Overeating after bariatric surgery often has immediate negative effects, with many patients experiencing considerable discomfort and nausea. Often, overeating can also lead to vomiting or diarrhea. If the food consumed is high in sugar or fat, overeating can cause dumping syndrome. With this condition, food travels too fast through the stomach and is dumped directly into the intestine, causing dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Although physical discomfort may lessen over time as you consistently overeat, it will eventually stretch your stomach and likely compromise the results of your weight loss procedure.
How to Avoid Stomach Stretching
To help patients avoid overeating, we will provide detailed guidelines and advice. Some of the general steps you can follow include:
- Snacking between meals: Sitting down to breakfast, lunch, or dinner with a big appetite often makes it much easier to overeat. By eating healthy snacks between meals, you can curb excessive hunger and make it easier to keep portions small.
- Focusing on moderation: Most patients find it extremely difficult to eliminate treats completely from their diet. Instead, we recommend practicing moderation by allowing yourself a treat here and there and avoiding binging.
- Not drinking fluids during and immediately after meals: Separating out solids and liquids reduces the strain put on the stomach at meal times. Many patients drink an hour or two before their meal to ensure that they stay hydrated without filling up. Avoiding carbonated drinks is especially important, since the carbonation can mix with food and create gas, substantially increasing pressure within the stomach.
- Not making exceptions: It can be tempting to allow yourself to eat a large meal as a treat, especially around the holidays. Although one big meal will likely not stretch out your stomach, this can often make it very difficult to return to smaller portions afterward. We strongly urge patients to avoid these exceptions and instead enjoy only a small helping of their favorite side dish.
The stomach is a highly flexible organ, so it can shrink over time by consistently eating smaller portions.
Countering the Effects of Stomach Stretching
Fortunately, a stretched stomach is not necessarily unfixable. The stomach is a highly flexible organ, so it can shrink over time by consistently eating smaller portions. Many patients find that getting in touch with their nutritionist or joining a post-bariatric surgery support group helps them get back on track and remain there. In some cases, however, eating less will not be enough. For those patients who still struggle with overeating, Tijuana Bariatrics’ doctors offer revision bariatric surgery to correct an expanded stomach pouch.
Weight Gain After Bariatric Surgery
Many bariatric patients worry over the possibility of weight gain after bariatric surgery. Tijuana Bariatrics can ease your fears. Dr. Fernando Garcia and the team of bariatric professionals that works alongside him can coordinate your care before and after your procedure to minimize complications and maximize your results.
Is Weight Gain Normal?
Patients typically experience dramatic weight loss after bariatric surgery, often losing between 75 to 85 percent of their excess weight. However, your body is always trying to absorb as much energy as possible from the food you eat. As you adjust to your new lifestyle, your body will learn how to maximize energy absorption, as well. This can lead to some weight regain overtime.
Oftentimes, patients find it is easier to adjust to life after bariatric surgery if they begin to change their habits before the procedure.
Consequently, some weight gain following bariatric surgery is expected. How much weight gain a patient should expect depends on whether their procedure was restrictive or malabsorptive.
Restrictive surgeries, such as LAP-BAND® or gastric sleeve surgery, reduce your stomach capacity to help you feel fuller faster and for longer amounts of time. If you undergo a restrictive surgery, regaining 8 to 10 percent of your prior weight is normal. Malabsorptive procedures, like gastric bypass or duodenal switch surgery, restrict your ability to absorb calories and typically result in even more dramatic weight loss than procedures that are only restrictive. These patients typically experience less weight regain in the long-term.
Prevention and Non-surgical Solutions
While some weight gain is normal, you can work to prevent substantial gain long before your procedure:
- Seek treatment for any eating disorders: If you have been diagnosed with binge-eating disorder or any other condition that may be directly or indirectly contributing to weight gain, seek treatment first. Patients struggling with these types of disorders often lose less weight after surgery than those who are not.
- Address alcohol or drug abuse problems: Both alcoholism and drug addiction are associated with an increased risk of post-procedural weight gain and surgical complications.
- Lose as much weight as possible: In general, the lower a patient’s BMI (body mass index) before surgery, the more likely it is that they will be able to keep excess weight off in the future.
Oftentimes, patients find it is easier to adjust to life after bariatric surgery if they begin to change their habits before the procedure. Sticking to a diet or exercise routine is less challenging if you have already been following one for some time.
If you still struggle with weight gain, external sources of support can have a huge impact. Seeking the help of a nutritional counselor who can help monitor and modify your diet can improve your focus. Joining a weight loss surgery support group can help enormously, as well. Even if they cannot offer advice, speaking to people who are going through (or have overcome) the same experience can be a relief.
While your doctors will recommend non-surgical treatments whenever possible, sometimes these solutions are not enough. In this case, Dr. Garcia offers revision bariatric surgery to refine your results. Although your doctor may recommend performing the same procedure over again, some patients undergo a different surgery. For example, if you received a LAP-BAND® during your first procedure, a gastric bypass surgery may offer longer-lasting results the second time around.
Ensuring Your Long-term Success After Bariatric Surgery
For many people, the excitement of shedding weight makes reaching their goals that much easier. It is when they hit that ideal weight that motivation becomes a problem. While some weight gain is normal, some patients experience significant weight regain. This is where habit steps in: when motivation falters, the familiarity of routine can pick up the slack until it returns. Doctors can recommend a variety of tips to help you regain motivation instead of weight.
In order to lose weight, bariatric patients must decide to exercise and eat healthier – not just once, but every single day. The best way to commit to that decision is to engage in activities and behaviors that remind you of your goals and encourage your new lifestyle.
Oftentimes, when patients decide to lose weight, they focus on the impact exercise will have on their daily activities. However, diet can have a greater impact on weight loss and be much more challenging to adhere to. Consequently, it is important to understand both what and how to eat before your procedure so you are well prepared during and after your recovery.
Our culture often positions exorbitant meals as treats, whether as part of a holiday celebration or just as part of the weekend wind-down. But such irregular splurges can easily derail your routine.
Thus doctors highly recommend keeping a consistent eating pattern across weekdays, weekends, and holidays. Writing a food journal can help you monitor your consumption versus weight loss and set your routine more firmly, as well as create a sense of accountability. For people who are not consistent writers, regular support groups or nutritional therapy can serve a similar purpose through social interaction. Some clinics also offer diet classes to teach patients good eating habits.
Writing down a record of what you plan to eat versus what you actually eat can help you keep track of your daily intake and potentially problematic foods. This habit can also help you prepare for discussions with your nutritionist or support group.
Additionally, it can be tempting to skip certain meals when trying to lose weight. Breakfast, in particular, is often passed over because of the inconvenience of eating early in the morning. Yet this can lead to increased hunger later in the day, which can make overfilling more likely. Many patients have found that eating breakfast everyday actually helps keep their eating habits more regular and in check.
Although the content of your diet is important and will require significant adjustments, how you eat is just as important as what you eat. Most people are used to eating in a very specific way. Changing that routine even slightly can be the hardest part of losing weight. However, certain techniques can ease the transition, including:
- Keeping a diet journal: Writing down a record of what you plan to eat versus what you actually eat can help you keep track of your daily intake and potentially problematic foods. This habit can also help you prepare for discussions with your nutritionist or support group. It also holds you accountable when you stray from planned meals. It is much harder to dismiss a written record than a mental outline.
- Measuring portions: Measuring ingredients and portion sizes with a scale is important to prevent nutrient deficiencies, but also makes it more difficult to overindulge during meals.
- Using smaller serving dishes: A large plate can underline the difference between what you used to eat and what you eat now. Using smaller plates and bowls can help you adjust to smaller portions and feel more satisfied.
- Eating slowly: Chewing food slowly and thoroughly gives your stomach more time to register that it is full and breaks down meals thoroughly, minimizing the chance of discomfort and digestive issues.
The motivation to stick with your exercise routine is often tied to the type of exercise you do. Most patients find that choosing exercise they enjoy helps them keep up the routine even after reaching their weight loss goals. Most doctors recommend a minimum of 30 minutes per day. It is important to start with light activities, especially in the first stages of your recovery. Start with easy walking for five minutes in the early morning and late afternoon, then increase in intervals until you reach about 15 minutes twice a day.
Patients can keep up a minimum of 30-minute exercise routines 5 times a week with any number of exercise routines. Popular options include biking, swimming, hiking, and community sports teams. A huge array of exercise classes is also available, with selections like kickboxing, yoga, Pilates, and various types of dance. The ideal form depends entirely on your interests and schedule.
After reaching their weight loss goals, many patients lose motivation to exercise. Keeping your exercise routine regular without becoming dull can take considerable effort. If you feel you are losing motivation or plateauing, try adding in a variety of exercises like light jogging, swimming, or stationary biking. Add more challenging activities or increase the duration of each exercise to push yourself a little harder.
Dedicated weight loss can take a heavy emotional toll. Dramatic changes in your lifestyle, even positive ones, may prove difficult. This makes having a support system all the more important. Whether you enlist the help of a professional nutritionist, an online weight loss support group, or a close friend, find someone who you can comfortably discuss your experiences with.
Internalizing urges to overeat, depression, or other emotional issues connected to your weight loss often exacerbates the problem and can even lead to greater weight gain. Finding a place where you can understand your successes and setbacks can go a long way toward supporting long-term weight loss.