Bariatric Surgery Phases

Bariatric Surgery Phases from New Post-Op to Long-Term Post-Op

January 21, 2021

Bariatric Surgery Phases

Bariatric New-Bees are the BEST!  They are at the beginning of the bariatric surgery phases. They are so full of excitement and joy. It’s THEIR turn. They are going to do things “by the book.”  

They have their food-logs ready to go. Their vitamins are lined up. The diet sodas will be a thing of the past. Walking is the best exercise, and they post daily pics showing the miles they have completed. They see pictures on social media of average size plates of food, and they comment on how they couldn’t finish even a quarter of that plate.

Life is good.

Bariatric Surgery Phases: Getting Back To Real Life

The next bariatric surgery phases are when life gets back to well... “regular life.”  That lovely, fluffy, pink cloud disappears, and the regular sky appears. The “keto” pizza crust is no longer so interesting.  Pass me a slice of regular pizza, please.  And so it begins … the dreaded carb-creep.  “But Hey,  it’s okay” I wasn’t planning on eating the whole slice.

You see, all the bariatric new-bees are lovely and fun to watch, and we all can remember being there. No matter what we did, we lost weight!  YAY, what a fun time. How lucky are we? Life is so good, and we are so happy that we have this special tool to help us stay healthy. What took us so long? We wish we would have done it sooner.

5 years go by, and the tool we were so excited about is still there, but it no longer is the main event in our life.  We have school, jobs, work, kids, houses to clean, meals to prepare, health issues to deal with, relatives to worry about. The list goes on and on.  

We made the promise to ourselves to “never go back” to our starting weight, but the scale at one point starts to move in the WRONG direction. What the heck is happening? Things were so perfect for the first few years. Why is it getting harder and harder to keep the weight off? What went wrong?

What Changed Was The Motivation

I’m here to tell you that nothing went wrong. What changed was the motivation you had in the early days when you had a TON of restriction. That restriction was great to help you feel full very quickly, but it wasn’t meant to be that way for the rest of your life.  The truth is, “we cannot stay healthy and only eat 800 calories a day”.  We would experience a lot of nutrient deficiencies.  

I don’t know about you, but I like my bones, and I want to keep them healthy.  I wouldn’t want to be 100 pounds using a walker to get around because my bones are so frail.  I also like my teeth, and I plan on keeping them.

This miraculous bariatric tool that we have was not meant to be the size of an egg for the rest of your life. It was meant to help you get the weight off during the first year to two years and then to maintain that weight for the long haul.  

The Maintenance Stage

Now maintenance is a different story.  Many of us reached our goal, but many of us never got to experience “the maintenance stage.”  I would say that 50% of my clients reach the goal and 50% do not.  Why do 100% of my clients never get to their goal weight?  

It’s easy.  I call it the “elevator analogy.”  We all get on the elevator on the ground floor. We have the BEST intentions in the world to take the bariatric elevator to the 10th floor. That’s where all the winners are hanging out.

Some time into our journey, as we are riding the elevator, we decide to get off on the 7th floor. We need a little break and on the 7th floor are A LOT of bariatric cool cats!  They are fun and happy, and they are getting close to their goal. They are chillin’, and they have a fancy Starbucks coffee in their hand.  They may have even added a shot of protein to that coffee.  They are some awesome people - but …. they get stuck on the 7th floor, and they decide that they are tired and want to stay with the cool cats there.

That’s what I see with a lot of my clients 5 years post-op.  They are happy. They are healthy.  They never made it to the 10th floor, and they settled on the 7th floor.  That’s fine, and if that is where they want to be, then more power to them.  

What I fear for the 7th floor cool cats is that they allow their food choices to slip a bit.  They start to add back some of the foods they SWORE never to eat again.  The soda creeps back into their lives, and their exercise habits start to relax even more.

Time has a way of getting away from us.  

What Can We Do 5 Years Post-Op to Prevent Regain?  

I say “get back on the elevator” and take it to the 10th floor.

It won’t be easy, and we will need to work hard. We need to give up those foods again that we added back.  I’ve never seen a client of mine gain weight eating chicken and broccoli.  The regain happens for a reason.  That reason is due to the food choices that we are making.  There is no magic “liquid diet” that will get us back on track. We need to do the hard work through good food choices with some exercise sprinkled in.

So, for all the bariatric new-bees out there…. we love you, and we love watching your journey, but we also know that the journey changes 5 years later, and 10 years later, and 15 years later.  It is a different journey, and we need to take all the really important information that we learned during that first year and put it back into place again.

  • Prioritize Protein
  • Healthy Fats
  • Reduce Processed Carbohydrates
  • Stay Active
  • Drink Your Water

All you who are reading this and are 5 years post-op or more, drop a line and let us know where you are currently in your journey.  What mistakes have you made? What encouragement can you give to our beautiful bariatric new-bees?

We can all learn from each other. 

Bariatric Surgery Phases
Sheri Burke RHN


Sheri Burke is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Bariatric Coordinator at International Patient Facilitators in Tijuana & Cancun, Mexico. She has worked with bariatric surgery patients for 10 years & provides nutritional guidance to pre and post bariatric patients. Sheri is passionate about supporting patients so she created a VSG Blanket & a VSG Plush.

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