Weight loss surgery has become fairly widespread so that almost all of us know someone who has had surgery. You might cheer them on initially marveling at their progress. But a couple of years later, you start to notice a bit of weight coming back on. Suddenly, they’re even heavier than prior to surgery.
Depending on the timing, patients have moved away from their surgery centers, or these centers no longer care for them. Gone are the support systems, the checks and balances that should be helping them down the treacherous path of weight regain.
A Bypass surgeon once said to me “people who don’t listen to me and change their lives after surgery will regain their weight, but those that listen are very successful.” That’s funny, I said half-jokingly, I have that exact same experience with my medical weight loss clients without the need to divert their stomachs.
But it’s no joke. As a large portion of my practice has become supporting the patients well after surgery, helping them actually change their lives, lose the weight yet again and keep it off this time around, we all wonder if the time, money , effort and risk of surgery should have been avoided altogether.
Whether the weight regain follows medical or surgical weight loss, it can be devastating. The guilt and self-blame only compound the problem. To shed some light on this problem, I want to share my experience with my clients as they approach their goal weight. This moment that should be full of happiness, pride and relief, is instead fraught with fear. Fear that they will regain, fear that the weight loss is somehow not real, fear that it’s not enough. As the continuous positive re-enforcement of constantly reaching a lower weight gives way to the boring, hard work of weight loss maintenance, the depth of changes made during the process start to show.
My best advice for someone on a significant weight loss journey is to prepare for that moment from day one. To do this we must first understand the driving force behind the eating patterns. Do you stress eat? Are there food addictions? Are these addictions a substitute for other old addictions? Do you medicate depression with food? Are any medications to blame? Is it mindless eating or just habit? Because habits die hard. If the answer to any of these questions is yes, reach out for support and structure. Adding new behaviors that change how you cope with stress makes a difference. Add yoga, meditation, walking, swimming, support groups, sweating, massage, etc. These alternate behaviors and a daily practice of self love should be firmly in place well before you reach that desired weight.
The journey is not easy but it is definitely possible. Every day I see the ones that are never going back to their old lives. The alternative is to stay on the path of more and more weight gain and all the suffering involved, and that is no alternative at all.