If you’ve been wondering if it is common to regain weight after bariatric surgery, you are not alone! After surgery, it is estimated that 20-35% of patients will have significant weight regain depending on the specific procedure performed and how far out you are from surgery. If you are struggling with weight plateaus or regain, this can be very distressing. You may be feeling anxious, guilty, ashamed, and/or reluctant to attend your follow-up appointments. However, before you throw in the towel, there are a few things worth considering when it comes to weight plateaus or weight regain after surgery.
Weight Regain After Surgery Is Common!
Phew! We got that out of the way, right away! When it comes to the question of; “Where do I start?” I suggest first circling back to the basic bariatric guidelines:
- Are you prioritizing protein? Aim for > 60g / day
- Are you drinking enough water? Aim for > 64oz / day
- Are you getting regular exercise? Aim for up to 200-300 minutes / week of moderate to vigorous intensity
Weight Loss Is Most Significant Early On
Weight loss after bariatric surgery is most noticeable- and most significant- early on. This is typically due to your body adapting to a lower calorie diet and adjusting to finding alternative energy sources to find fuel to run off of.
At first, your body will turn to your muscles and liver to use up the energy stores found there. Then, it will eventually turn to your fat stores and lean muscle mass for fuel.
As your body burns muscle, your metabolism will begin to slow down. This is typically reflected on the scale when you begin noticing a stall in your weight.
Weight stalls can sometimes happen when you’re UNDER-eating and not consuming enough calories. If you’re a few months out from surgery and have started to build in more exercise into your daily routine, but are consuming < 1,000 calories / day, you may not be providing your body with enough energy to focus on losing weight.
Try increasing your caloric intake to 1,000+ calories to see if this helps to move the scale.
Weight Plateaus Can Linger The First Year
Weight plateaus can last 2 – 6 weeks (or longer) during your first year of surgery.
If you are doing regular strength training exercises, this can cause your body to temporarily hold onto water, slowing your weight loss and the number on the scale to budge. Don’t fret! Building muscles is important for your metabolism, so be patient with the process and keep up your efforts.
There are other reasons for why you may experience weight plateaus or weight regain right after surgery.
- Surgical reasons
- Your hormones are recalibrating
- You may be pregnant
- You may be menopausal
- You may have high sugar levels and are off of your diabetic medications
- Some of your medications may cause weight gain as a side effect
- You may have stopped smoking
- You may have a hormone disorder such as Cushing’s disease or severe low thyroid function (hypothyroidism)
Focus On These Measurements Instead Of The Scale
Rather than focusing on the number on the scale that doesn’t seem to budge, try measuring your waist circumference with a soft tape measure and pay attention to your body composition and inches lost versus the number on the scale.
In addition, be sure to check in with your eating and movement patterns. Sometimes, old unhealthy habits find ways of sneaking back into your new bariatric lifestyle, such as:
- You’ve been grazing, nibbling, and mindlessly munching more often
- You’re consuming high energy foods (fast food / processed foods) and sugar-sweetened beverages
- You no longer have symptoms related to dumping syndrome
- You feel like you’ve lost control over your urges and are binging more often
- You are less consistent with your healthy eating behaviors after weight loss surgery
- You’re drinking more alcohol
- You’re less active during the day and are more sedentary
- When you exercise, you aren’t doing enough moderate-and vigorous- intensity exercise
- You may have an injury limiting your exercise
If any of these ring true with you, try focusing on one at a time and work on it consistently until you feel like you’ve mastered it before moving onto the next habit.
When it doubt- discuss with your bariatric team and dietitian. It is SO important to reconnect with your Team and let them know that you’re struggling. Please do not struggle in solitude. They’re there to help you and they WANT to; no judgement, no embarrassment. Weight stalls and weight regain are common and they’re there to help you back on your feet and to re-motivate you to keep you the hard work.
You’ve got this!
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Looking To Continue Losing Weight?
We have an online support community called Banana Bariatrics! At Banana Bariatrics, we’ll help you kickstart that “fresh bariatric mindset” again in order to feel re-motivated, confident, and successful with your tool…regardless of how far out from surgery you are.