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Regain and Emotional Eating After Bariatric Surgery

Just say NO to Regain and Emotional Eating after Bariatric Surgery

It is very common for bariatric patients to fear regain after having bariatric surgery. Having the surgery to begin with is a courageous step towards reaching their health goals. For many, bariatric surgery is a tool that individuals see as their last-ditch effort to lose the weight and keep it off long term. However, it is important to remember that surgery is a tool that kick starts the weight loss process, and post-op patient accountability is required.

Bariatric surgery plays a significant role in transforming lives. However, it is crucial to understand that it is just a part of the weight loss journey. Weight regain often occurs when bariatric patients revert to their old eating habits or struggle to cope with various life challenges that lead to stress, sleep disturbances, and inadequate planning. These factors ultimately contribute to weight regain.

Therefore, it is important that every bariatric patient take small steps to ensure they do not return to their pre-surgery habits so they can keep the weight off for good.

Saying NO to regain

NO to regain begins in the mind of the patient and moves through their household. It begins with simple steps of making conscious choices about the foods you eat, the decision to move your body daily, and asking for help in getting back on track when struggling. This is what I refer to as a mindset shift.

Additionally, many individuals struggle with emotional eating after surgery because they might have never noticed they had underlying depression or anxiety. The surgery helps individuals lose the weight quickly, however it does not create psychological change. This is the responsibility of the patient.

If you notice that you are grazing, overeating, or stress eating, or eating off track, it may be a sign that you need additional help. No one wants to regain.

In helping thousands of people through the years keep the weight off, there are small daily steps you can take to help you take back control over your brain and behavior.

Steps to help you avoid regain and emotional eating:

1. Meal Plan and Prep

When you plan ahead and prepare your food, you have control over what you are eating. Also, you have the opportunity to create meals that are both tasty and nutritious. This helps you keep both your new pouch and your taste buds satiated. If you do not like your food, you may look elsewhere and overeat. Meal plan and meal prep is important for both proper planning and nutrition. This also helps you avoid impulsive eats and the dangers of drive-thru.

Another prep hack is to plan your non-negotiable foods when you need to stop for a fast bite. Keep a list of non-negotiable foods that are healthy options for you to pick up on the go. This way you are not tempted to eat off plan if you have your go-to food already chosen ahead of time.

2. Track your food intake

No matter where you are in your weight loss surgery journey, tracking your food intake is essential. If you are two months or nine years post-op, tracking will always help you see what you are eating. The purpose of this is to keep you on track and focused. This also helps you see if there is a correlation between your emotions and eating off track, which can help you refocus your mind and behavior.

Additionally, I’ve created a meal/food tracker that integrates meal planning with grocery shopping and tracking your fitness and food with how to practice awareness of your emotions.

3. Practice awareness of your feelings

Even after surgery, everyone experiences bad days, including feelings of anger, frustration, disappointment, and anxiety. Post-op patients often face challenges in managing their emotions, leading them to realize the presence of anxiety or depression they may not have been aware of before. Pre-surgery, emotional eating might have been a common coping mechanism. However, it is crucial to develop emotional awareness and avoid turning to food during times of negative emotions. If you’re struggling with this, seeking additional help can provide you with effective tools to cope and redirect your behaviors.

4. Move your body to avoid regain

Some people call it exercise; I like the phrase ‘move your body’. This is because so many people are psychologically programmed to think that ‘exercise’ happens in a gym or must be painful or unpleasant. The truth is you can move your body at anytime and anywhere. You can have a dance party in your living room and burn calories. Also, go for a walk, do some squats, etc. You can go for a swim, or jog in the park. Sure you can do yoga at a fancy studio, or you can pull up YouTube and do a yoga video in your bedroom. The point is not WHAT you do, or WHERE you do it, it’s only that YOU DO IT.

Of course you’ve heard that movement increases endorphins, the feel good hormone in your brain, so why don’t people do it more? It’s because most people have been programmed to think it is ‘work’ or that it is ‘hard’. When we reprogram our minds to find the FUN in movement everything changes. This once again, is a mindset shift.

So, no matter what, no matter where, start to move your body. Start small and work your way up. Have fun with it and pace yourself. Once you get going, you’ll see the difference in how you feel, and you will also notice how much you grow to like it. This will help you retain healthy amounts of muscle mass which will help you to continue to burn fat, and will keep your cardiovascular system in shape.

5. Ask for help when you are struggling

When it comes to the weight loss surgery community, there is a prevalent issue of shame, blame, and guilt. Individuals tend to conceal their emotions, struggles, and setbacks, afraid of potential judgment and criticism. This often leads to patients contemplating whether or not to postpone their follow-up appointments due to the fear of gaining weight and facing potential chastisement. However, surgical centers aim to re-ignite motivation, guide individuals back on track, and help them overcome weight regain, encouraging further weight loss. Nevertheless, the overwhelming shame often prevents individuals from seeking help, causing them to isolate themselves at home.

It is crucial for patients to reach out for assistance and guidance whenever they experience challenges, regardless of the timing. By informing the surgical center, a therapist, or another professional about their struggles, individuals increase the likelihood of receiving the necessary intervention to regain control.

Therefore, if you find yourself struggling, do not hesitate to contact your surgical center. They can provide you with the necessary guidance, tools, and resources to support your long-term post-operative lifestyle changes.

Use these strategies in your post-op process to lead you to success and to avoid regain. Start small and work this system step by step and you will be sure to see results.

by Kristin Lloyd

Explore our website and learn more about weight regain

For expert guidance on post-op lifestyle changes, IBI Healthcare Institute is your go-to destination. Explore our website for informative blogs, self-study courses, and group coaching programs designed to assist individuals in conquering emotional eating. Acquire essential life skills such as time management, overcoming procrastination, meal planning, and boundary setting, ensuring long-term weight maintenance. Visit us today for invaluable support and resources.

Picture of Dr. A. Christopher Ibikunle MD FACS
Dr. A. Christopher Ibikunle MD FACS
Dr A. Christopher Ibikunle (MD, FACS) is a distinguished surgeon with a rich academic and clinical background. After completing his residency at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, he served as an Active Staff and Assistant Professor of Surgery. Currently, he is a Professor of Surgery at Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership and a Lead Preceptor for several institutions, including Morehouse University and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr. Chris is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a member of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, committed to advancing surgery and patient care.
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