Weight gains after gastric surgery

September 6, 2019 10:48 am

Weight gain - when the weight comes on after gastric surgery

What to do if you start putting on weight after gastric surgery

If you have started to regain weight after gastric surgery and by regaining weight, we actually mean a significant sustained level of gain (confirmed by tape measure and clothes fit not just the scales) it may be time to think about your journey.  This is NOT a time to come down on yourself – it is not a time to beat yourself up as this doesn’t help at all.  Look at this as a wake-up call and if you view it positively, you can get yourself back on the journey.  Tape measures, clothes and scales are just like the GPS telling you that you are not on the right pathway.  But let’s look at some factors that get us off-track.

Why do people put weight on after surgery?

There could be many factors at play however there are usually three things that contribute

  • Medical
  • Psychological
  • Lifestyle

 

Medical

It can happen that changes to the body over time including hormonal changes can affect weight loss.  It should be said that specific metabolic issues such as thyroid problems are quite rare. Not getting enough nutrients through food and supplements could also be a factor.  There are certain medications you may be taking that are not helping – these medications may have been introduced after surgery and weren’t a factor before.  A good first step is to see your GP to have a blood test to determine if there are any underlying issues.  Your GP should know that you have had gastric surgery and that you are off-track.  Your GP will be able to give you direction if there are any underlying issues and once you have taken this first step, you will be able to either remove it as a factor or fix the issues and move forward again.

Psychological

Our minds play a huge part in the journey. Our mental health can be a huge contributor to how our bodies respond to everyday life.  If you are consistently stressed, the body responds to protect you. If you don’t sleep due to that stress, you could have negative effects occurring in your systems.  Depression and anxiety can have a trickle down effect in everything we do from not exercising, social withdrawal, to making the wrong food choices to drug use, even alcohol dependency.

You may have come into the surgery with the wrong mindset – not used the tool of surgery to provide a platform for change and over time.  If ‘looking good’ is your only motivation, once you have reached a certain weight or size, your determination may begin to wane as complacency sets in.  Remember, even with surgery, sustained weight loss is a battle that must continue to be fought.  The long-term health benefits (looking good is just one) should be the main focus to keep your head in the game.  Having goals like “being there for your children” or “improving your quality of life” are good central goals to keep front and centre.

Speak to a counsellor or a psychologist about any mental health issues you are facing.  Working through these issues will again allow you to cross them off the factor list and potentially get you back on track.

Find a friend or like-minded group you can confide in, being honest about what’s happening is important.  If you are facing mental health issues, don’t wait until it’s too late – speak to a professional as soon as possible.

Lifestyle

This is the predominant factor.  Your one cup of food at mealtime may have turned into two. The cup of food may have started out healthy, but has deteriorated into an empty calorie junk food fest.  Your ‘cheat’ day or meal may have turned into multiple days or even become the norm once again.  You may have stopped or never have started exercising.  Alcohol may have been introduced and now is an ongoing factor.

There is no alternative but to get focused again, stop the gain in its tracks by taking a good hard long look at your lifestyle choices.  Only you can determine whether this is a factor because only you (and potentially close loved ones) really know what you are doing.

The first step we would recommend is to begin to religiously track your food intake.  Actually see what you are taking in.  Apps like MyFitnessPal are great for this as it is simple and easy to track every mouthful.  But you have to STOP making excuses (if you have ruled out medical and psychological factors) and start being honest with yourself.

Remember, it’s NOT that the surgery hasn’t worked, because you lost weight – the surgery has done its job – but did you take advantage of the time it gave you to change your lifestyle?  Or have you become complacent and allowed old habits to form or creep back in?

Now you know

Once you know in your heart of hearts which is the biggest contributing factor, it’s time to take action.  Go back and start to set some goals. Write down those goals, share them with those around you being honest about what is happening.  Having that support network is important.  If you are faced with a negative response – remove that person from your support network and find someone or a group who will support you.  This is your life, not theirs!

Can I have revision surgery?

In some cases a second surgery to ‘redo’ a gastric sleeve or bypass may be appropriate – this is especially true if the stomach or intestine anatomy has changed due to overeating.  A second surgery, however, has an increased risk of complications.  Also, a surgeon is going to be less likely to agree to operate if your weight gain is due to poor eating or exercise habits.   In the case of lap band surgery which has a lower success rate than sleeve or bypass surgery, it may be a viable option, but unless you fix the issues that led to the weight gain, you will come full circle even after revision surgery.

Brutal honesty

A final word – gastric surgery is NOT a silver bullet.  It is only as effective as you allow it to be.  Unless you make the changes that the surgery gives you space to make – it will be like having a hammer without a handle, and eventually, you will not even have the hammer head.

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This article contains the opinions of the writer. You should seek professional medical advice.

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