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Maintaining Excess Weight Loss

Bariatric surgery is meant to help you keep off excess body weight for life. Maintaining weight loss means a dedicated lifestyle—finding new ways to deal with food, get exercise, and even relate to other people.

Bariatric surgery is not an immediate fix. It’s a positive, ongoing process of change. Following surgery, your body will give you signals to stop eating before you take in extra calories that would return your excess body weight. It’s what you do with those signals that counts. When you take on new habits and truly stick to them, you can achieve lasting weight loss without dangerous weight loss/weight gain cycles. At least two-thirds of patients who have gastric bypass surgery are able to keep off at least 50 percent of their excess weight for 10 years or longer.

Your surgeon, nutritionist, and psychologist are each involved in providing you with ongoing support. Also, surgical centers will help you locate and take part in a support group with other patients, where you can share experiences, insights, and concerns. The goal is to adopt lifestyle changes, lose fat, gain muscle, and keep the weight off for good.

For a personal perspective on maintaining weight loss, click here.

Here are some questions patients have asked about maintaining excess weight loss:

Lifestyle Changes Following Surgery

Why is exercise so important?

When you have bariatric surgery , you lose weight as the amount of food energy (calories) you can eat becomes much less than your body needs. Your body has to make up the difference by burning unused fat or muscle tissue. Your body will tend to burn any unused muscle before it begins to burn the fat it has saved up. Without daily exercise, your body will burn unused muscle, and you will lose muscle mass and strength. Daily aerobic exercise for 20 minutes will tell your body to use your muscles and force it to burn the fat.

How much exercise is needed after bariatric surgery?

Exercise is an important part of success after surgery. Exercise actually begins on the afternoon of bariatric surgery––the patient must be out of bed and walking. The goal is to walk further every day after that, including the first few weeks at home. You may be encouraged to begin exercising, limited only by discomfort, about two weeks after surgery. The type of exercise depends on your overall condition. Some patients who have severe knee problems can't walk well, but may be able to swim or bicycle. Many patients begin with low-stress forms of exercise and move on to more demanding activity when they are able.

Why is it so important to drink so much water?

When you are losing weight, there are many waste products to eliminate, mostly in the urine. Some of these substances tend to form crystals, which can cause kidney stones. A high water intake protects you and helps your body rid itself of waste efficiently, promoting better weight loss. Water also fills your stomach and helps create a feeling of fullness. If you feel a desire to eat between meals, it may be because you did not drink enough water in the hour before.

What is dumping syndrome?

Eating simple sugars (such as sugar, honey, and corn syrup), high-fat foods, or other small-particle foods can cause dumping syndrome in those patients who have had gastric bypass surgery. This occurs when these products, which have a small particle size, are “dumped” from the stomach into the intestine at a rapid rate. Water then is pulled into the intestine from the bloodstream to dilute the sugar load. This flush of water causes symptoms that can include diarrhea, rapid heart rate, hot flashes or sweating and clammy skin, dizziness, or the feeling of needing to lie down. Some individuals experience some or all of these symptoms after eating more than 3 to 5 grams of sugar, alcohol sugar, or greasy foods, while others can handle greater amounts.

Though the symptoms are unpleasant, dumping syndrome is a helpful condition. Some patients will avoid sugar because of the very unpleasant symptoms it can cause. Dumping syndrome generally occurs 10 to 30 minutes after eating and the symptoms can last for 30 minutes to two hours.

The best treatment is prevention by avoiding foods that cause dumping syndrome. If you have dumping syndrome, lie down for a short while to lessen the symptoms. Dumping syndrome is a positive side effect of the surgery; it helps you learn to eat healthy!

Results of Surgery

Is there a difference in the outcome of bariatric surgery between men and women?
Both men and women generally respond well to this surgery. In general, men lose weight slightly faster than women do.

Support Following Surgery

Do I meet with a nutritionist after surgery?

Personal nutrition counseling after surgery is available as needed or as required by your physician.

What is the long-term follow-up schedule?

Although the short-term effects of bariatric surgery are well-understood, there are still questions about the long-term effects on nutrition and body systems. Over time, you will need regular checks for anemia (low red blood cell count) and vitamin B12, folate, and iron levels.

To ensure success, it is recommended that you make several visits to your bariatric surgeon within the first year and then a yearly visit for life.

How can I find a support group?

Support groups give patients an excellent chance to talk about personal and professional issues. Most patients learn, for example, that bariatric surgery will not fix existing emotional issues right away or heal the years of damage that morbid obesity might have caused to their emotional well-being. Surgeons found through the Find a Surgeon tool have support groups in place to assist you with short-term and long-term questions and needs. Most bariatric surgeons who frequently perform bariatric surgery will tell you that ongoing support after surgery helps to achieve the greatest level of success for their patients.

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