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5 Surefire Ways to Derail Your Postop Bariatric Success

Woman with head on her knees wrapped in arms next to scale

Bariatric surgery, as a specialty, is unique, and bariatric practices work with patients on both the physical and psychological levels. Many bariatric surgeons claim they can predict whether a patient will be successful, and to some degree, they can. They’re not looking to see a patient fail; rather, it helps them manage patient selection and expectations before surgery. It also helps them identify and help their patients avoid the most common pitfalls that make bariatric surgery unsuccessful. Today, bariatric surgery performed by an experienced and knowledgeable weight loss surgeon is very successful, with historically low complication rates. As such, it often remains up to the patient whether they will take full advantage of the tool they have been given.

We often discuss the many diet and exercise tips to help you lose weight. It’s also important to discuss the attitudes and habits that can quickly derail your progress, especially a couple of years after surgery when you have reached your goal weight and now need to maintain it. This article discusses how patients may sabotage their progress and how to avoid these problems.

Taking Weight Loss for Granted

This often starts before surgery, with people thinking that weight loss surgery is more than a tool. It is not. It is a way to give you a head start and make the complex lifestyle changes much easier to implement and maintain. Some patients get led into a false sense of security in the first several months after their bariatric procedure. This is because weight loss during this time feels virtually effortless. The patient will lose 2 to 3 pounds weekly, sometimes more, without much difficulty. Of course, during this time, the hormonal and mechanical mechanisms for weight loss are in full swing. Eventually, both weight loss aids will subside, usually around the two-year mark. To avoid this common pitfall, patients should take this opportunity to understand and prepare themselves for a future of moderation. If they don’t, there’s a good chance they will begin to regain weight once the bariatric procedure no longer offers what it once did.

Thinking They No Longer Need Help Once Reaching Their Goals

Bariatric surgery remains a challenge in all stages, and anyone successful during this time has worked hard to get there. However, once reaching their goals, it’s easy to say, “I don’t need any more help.” You’ve reached the end of your journey. Why would you need support groups, your surgeon, family, friends, and online resources? This is a dangerous way to think, however, because obesity is a disease that a bariatric patient will always have to fight, regardless of where they are in their journey. Be sure you understand that reinforcing your good habits regularly through support groups and speaking to your surgeon is one of the keys to long-term success and maintaining weight loss. Some patients get sick and tired of hearing the same thing month in and month out, and we certainly understand how that could be the case. So, consider being a bigger part of the support community by leading some yourself. Many patients keep themselves on track by advocating for bariatric surgery and bariatric patients. This could mean running a support group or being a spokesperson for a bariatric practice to give others knowledge about the ins and outs. This advocacy reminds you of what you must do to maintain weight loss and keeps you interested even if you have hit your goals.

Always Looking Forward to Cheat Days

The key to a successful postoperative bariatric life is consistency, which means ensuring that every day, you wake up thinking about how you will take one step forward in maintaining your weight loss goals. While overindulgence is a sure thing, some patients look forward to those days by telling themselves that they’ve done well during the week and can, therefore, go on to cheat on the weekends. But, looking forward to cheating goes against the basic principle of post-bariatric surgery life. Patients are not expected to eliminate everything they enjoy from their diets. They’re not going to be perfect every day of the week. Most practices encourage patients to avoid depriving themselves of everything they enjoy. Instead, patients should understand that most foods and drinks (with exceptions) are OK in small quantities – think moderation. Always looking forward to a cheat day means that the non-cheat days are somehow punishment or miserable.

Stressing Out

Stress is a diet buster, no matter how you cut it. When stressed out, we are less likely to work out, care about our goals, celebrate our victories, and follow our diets. Stress is not only a mental state but also a physical one. Stress increases the production of cortisol in the body – a hormone that makes us want to eat more. This stems from a primary human protection mechanism: fight or flight. Our ancestors who were plagued by threats would use this appropriately, and stress often saved their lives from danger. Today, however, with so few actual risks in our lives, we have replaced this occasional stress with a constant, underlying stress revolving around family, work, or social issues. Social media and the ever-connected life have only worsened the problem. We all deal with stress differently, but no matter your coping mechanism, eliminating stress will be a critical factor in your continued weight loss and weight maintenance.

Always in a Rush

Rushing to work, rushing to eat, rushing with friends and family. Rushing means that, especially during mealtimes, we chew too quickly, don’t spend enough time enjoying our meal, and ultimately suffer. Taking time – call it mindfulness if you will – to enjoy the foods we eat, eat them in moderation, and savor every bite is an excellent way to ensure that you don’t overdo it and give food its proper due. This is especially important for patients who enjoy what they eat and don’t just eat to live.

The Bottom Line

We are constantly reminded of how to lose or maintain that weight loss. Still, many of us have counterproductive habits that keep us from losing weight. Knowing what to do and what not to do is important and can be the difference between good and excellent results after your bariatric procedure. Remind yourself that you are human and will make mistakes, but learning from those mistakes and understanding how best to mitigate the effects of those mistakes will put you on the next level of success.

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