How to Stop Weight Gain after Bariatric Surgery?

Many patients struggle with weight gain after bariatric surgery. Weight gain following bariatric surgery is more common than you think. Sometimes even successful patients struggle. According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, about 50% of bariatric patients regain 5% of their excess body weight within two years after surgery. Some gain even more. Not letting gradual weight gain overtake your life is crucial. At Tijuana Bariatric Center, our medical and nutritional staff stand ready to help patients frustrated with unexpected weight gain after bariatric surgery at our Tijuana, Mexico, hospital. Whether you need professional advice or are considering revision surgery, our team can help get you back on track. We will separate facts from myths and misconceptions and help you maintain a positive outlook and healthy habits.

Why Am I Gaining Weight Back?

Bariatric surgery produces dramatic weight loss: patients often report losing up to 60% to 75% of their starting weight. However, despite these staggering statistics, just as many patients experience a weight plateau or see their weight begin to creep up again months or years after their bariatric procedure.

Common Causes

Several reasons can lead to weight gain. Sometimes, the cause is as simple as a patient slipping in their eating habits or exercise routine. Other times, it may signal post-surgical complications. But weight gain is often just the result of normal physiology. The human body is designed to store energy reserves in case of periods of starvation. Once your body adjusts to its new digestive system, it will begin to maximize energy absorption. As a result, patients often start regaining weight.

Patients may regain as much as eight to ten percent of their original weight.

Factors That Affect How Much Weight You Gain

The amount of weight gain a patient will experience depends mainly on the type of bariatric surgery performed. With purely restrictive surgeries, such as Lap-Band® or gastric sleeve surgery, which reduce intake by reducing stomach capacity, patients may regain as much as 8% to 10% eight of their original weight. In addition to restricting the size of the stomach, malabsorptive surgeries like gastric bypass or duodenal switch surgery change how your system digests the foods you eat. As a result, patients undergoing these types of procedures often regain less excess weight.

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Preventing Weight Gain

Patients can take several measures to limit weight regain even before surgery. One of the most important steps you can take is to change your diet and exercise habits. By starting a restricted diet early, you can ease the stress of change on your body and begin to lose weight before undergoing weight loss surgery. Research shows that the lower a patient’s BMI (body mass index) when they undergo surgery, the less weight they will need to lose and keep off afterward.

If you struggle with addiction or an eating disorder, it is vital that you pursue treatment before bariatric surgery.

Eating disorders, alcoholism, and drug addiction can also complicate your results. All three conditions can interfere with your metabolism, affecting your weight loss and overall health. If you struggle with addiction, it is vital that you pursue treatment before bariatric surgery. Many people fall back into old habits to cope with stress after bariatric surgery, and recovery is stressful enough without other complications.

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Getting Back on Track

It is important to understand that even these precautions cannot always prevent weight regain.

Non-Surgical Methods

If you have noticed weight gain despite your best efforts, several methods can help you get back on track:

  • Food journal: Keeping a written record of how much you eat each day can give you a more concrete sense of your diet. It also makes it much easier to identify potential problems.
  • Nutritional counseling: While the nutritionist working alongside the Tijuana Bariatric Center will follow up with you in the weeks after your surgery, many patients find it helpful to meet with a nutritional counselor on a more regular basis. Like a food journal, routine discussions with a professional can help solidify your diet and highlight problem areas.
  • Support group: Joining a weight loss surgery support group can provide invaluable resources. Working with this type of group, patients can receive advice from others who are sharing the same experiences. And as former patients themselves, members of these groups can often offer a perspective that professionals alone may not be able to provide.

Revisional Surgery

Unfortunately, the root of the problem cannot always be dealt with through nonsurgical means. In some cases, revisional bariatric surgery may be necessary.

However, these routes are only recommended as a last resort. For example, your surgeon may perform another procedure if a LAP-BAND® has slipped or if the stomach has stretched out after a gastric sleeve procedure.

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Help with Overeating after Surgery

The goal of weight loss surgery is to help those suffering from obesity reduce the amount of food they eat to steadily lose weight and achieve a healthier life. Although procedures such as gastric bypass and gastric sleeve surgery significantly lose the amount of food patients can eat by creating a smaller stomach, it is still possible to eat too much food once the digestive system has healed from the procedures. The doctors and nutritional counselors working through the Tijuana Bariatric Center can help frustrated patients undo the effects of overeating after bariatric surgery at a Tijuana, Mexico, hospital. In addition to getting you back on track, we can help patients learn healthy habits and lay the foundations for a fitter lifestyle.

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Why Do I Keep Overeating?

Eating more food than necessary is frustratingly easy. Many factors can contribute to the problem, but two are particularly common: poor adjustment and long-established overeating behaviors.

While it might seem counterintuitive, snacking can be an effective way to curb overeating.

Adjusting to the bariatric diet can be difficult for several reasons, ranging from frustration over restrictions on what you can eat to simply misjudging whether or not you are full. Further complicating this problem is a tendency to overeat. Many bariatric patients struggle with limiting their portions, and this habit often contributes to any existing weight issues.  In addition to following tips and guidelines, many patients join support groups or online forums to help with binge eating and learning how to eat small portions.

The Complications of Overeating

Bariatric surgery dramatically changes the digestive system by creating a small stomach pouch and sometimes altering the small intestine so that the body absorbs fewer calories. Because of these alterations, overeating can result in substantial repercussions. The stomach is physically limited in its capacity, resulting in immediate physical consequences of overeating, including:

  • Nausea
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Dumping syndrome

Severe discomfort from abdominal cramps is the body's most common response to overeating after weight loss surgery. This side effect can make recovering from surgery difficult. Not only will you not be able to eat as much, you won't want to after you suffer severe abdominal pain.

Sometimes after gastric sleeve surgery, the body will reject food outright, resulting in vomiting. However, it can also occur if you eat the wrong foods at the wrong times. Diarrhea can also occur after gastric bypass surgery due to malabsorption as your digestive system trie to process the food you eat.

Dumping syndrome involves severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. This condition, also known as rapid gastric emptying, is triggered by foods, particularly those high in sugar, that move too quickly from the stomach to the duodenum of the small intestine.

These physical side effects can both deter and motivate patients. While highly unpleasant, they give patients a concrete reason for sticking to their diet. However, if you overeat regularly, this discomfort will fade because of the stomach stretching to accommodate more food. Ultimately, sticking to the prescribed diet is up to the patient.

How to Avoid Overeating

Avoiding the tendency to overeat mainly relies on improving old eating habits. While revisional surgery may be necessary in rare cases, your nutritionist is more likely to recommend the following tips for limiting your caloric intake:

  • Snacking between meals: While it may seem counterintuitive, snacking can effectively curb overeating after gastric bypass. The urge to overeat is often strongest at large meals like breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But by snacking in between these meals, you can reduce your appetite – and if you are not as hungry, the urge to overeat lessens.
  • Eating small portions: By shrinking the size of your plate, the difference between your portions before and after surgery becomes less noticeable. Even when you theoretically know that the difference remains, it is easier to overlook without a constant visual reminder. Keep in mind that your smaller stomach can only hold about a half cup of food.
  • No fluids during or immediately after meals: One of the essential elements of post-bariatric recovery is staying hydrated. However, liquids occupy more space in the stomach, providing fewer nutrients than solid foods. When attempting to consume sufficient calories, many patients accidentally eat more food than necessary. Consequently, it is important to drink liquids throughout the day rather than during meals to remain adequately hydrated but not lose critical stomach capacity.
  • Moderation: Many patients default to one extreme or another: overindulging or extreme deprivation. However, neither is a good solution. Overeating has apparent consequences, but not allowing yourself a treat occasionally can make sticking to a diet more difficult – and make the temptation to overeat even more attractive.
  • No exceptions: While a small treat now and then is a good idea, expanding the size of your meal is not, even around the holidays. This can make returning to small portions that much more difficult. Try switching out another part of your meal for a favorite indulgent food rather than eating large portions.
  • Eating slowly: One of the most critical aspects of your new healthy diet is to chew your food thoroughly and eat slowly. This practice gives your stomach time to signal to the brain that you are full to avoid weight gain, side effects and other more serious complications following weight loss surgery.
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Reach Out Today

The doctors and counselors coordinating with the Tijuana Bariatric Center are dedicated to ensuring the best possible results for every patient who undergoes gastric bypass, gastric sleeve, or one of our other bariatric procedures. Contact the network today at 1-800-970-0577 to take advantage of our post-surgical support and counseling.

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