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When Is Weight Regain Normal and When Is It a Problem After Bariatric Surgery?

Woman steps on bathroom scale to check weight after bariatric surgery

Weight regain after bariatric surgery is probably the most worrisome part of the post-op process. You’ve spent a year or two losing weight and progressively getting closer to your goal. You may have even reached your goal weight. It’s an exciting time, but that little voice in the back of your head asks” “What if I regain my weight?” or “What if all the work I’ve done is for nothing?” Fortunately, during this weight loss period, you have likely changed many of the habits that caused you to gain weight in the first place. Simply maintaining your newly learned habits will keep you on track.

However, the most problematic emotion after bariatric surgery is frustration, which can often lead to giving up. Once you are off track and in despair, getting back to your good habits becomes much more challenging. Your weight will inevitably fluctuate in the months and years after surgery. Part of the trick to managing fluctuations is staying positive and knowing what weight gain is acceptable and what is problematic.

Normal Weight Regain

You will regain some of the weight you lost after surgery simply because it is virtually impossible to maintain a perfect day-to-day exercise routine for years. There will be times when you don’t follow your diet, or you do not exercise as you should. During those times, you will surely gain weight. The goal is to get back to basics and remember the tips and tricks you’ve been following up to that point. Again, frustration is your worst enemy, so don’t beat yourself up. Just look forward to getting back on track and re-achieving some of those goals.

When to Dig Deeper

There isn’t much to worry about if you regain five or 10% of the excess body weight you previously lost. So, if you’ve lost 100 pounds and regained 10, that is not cause for concern. However, if you gain a significant amount of weight quickly, or if your weight fluctuates significantly, up and down, something may be wrong.

Journaling is one of the best ways to understand if your lifestyle may be causing weight regain, and the first step is to examine your diet and exercise log closely. For example, you will need to change your mindset if you are “cheating” on the weekends. There should be no such thing as a cheat day. It gives you too much wiggle room to stumble and fall. Instead, give yourself the leeway to enjoy many foods you like, with some notable exceptions (like sodas and highly processed foods) in moderation. Giving yourself the ability to enjoy what you eat in moderation makes your diet far more sustainable over the long term.

If you see significant fluctuation and do not have a follow-up appointment on the books, we encourage you to contact our office to speak to our team. Getting that professional help can give you a plan to moderate the fluctuations and get back on track. Remember, we have seen it all. Nothing you’re experiencing hasn’t been seen and overcome by patients before you. There is no reason to worry in silence and not seek help. You sought help to lose weight in the first place, and seeking help is not a failure now.

Don’t Obsess Over the Scale

Ultimately, weight fluctuations and weight regain are a very normal part of the weight loss process, bariatric surgery or not. So, use other markers to remind yourself that you’re making significant progress. Take out an old picture from a few months ago, and you may find that while you’ve gained a bit of weight, it may have been muscle mass, and your body looks more toned. In this case, the weight gain was not reflective of a failure; quite the opposite. You can also use blood tests and waist measurements to see your progress. If you’re still fitting into your new clothes, you probably haven’t gained size, even if you have put on a few pounds. The bottom line: weight is not the only marker of success, and you should not be concerned exclusively about the number on the scale,

Weight loss is, in theory, a simple “calories in versus calories out” equation, but in practice, there are physical and psychological considerations that make it so much more complex. Giving yourself a break and educating yourself on the weight loss process will allow you to achieve and maintain your goals more easily and remove the frustration and worry that comes with normal weight fluctuations. Again, don’t hesitate to reach out and seek help. We are here for you.