weight regain cathy

No One Is Bulletproof For Weight Regain After WLS

September 27, 2013

Weight Regain Can And Does Happen, You're Not Alone!

“Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” is a quote that is well-known. “Yes, we can regain weight from weight loss surgery” is not so well-known. Actually, the fact of weight regain after weight loss surgery is a reality and a source of guilt and shame for many of us.

Some of us enter the operating room believing that this time is for sure; that we are taking the step to lose our excess weight forever. For some, that is true, however, for more of us, it is not.

Surprised? Don’t be. If you are surprised then you need to be aware of the possibility for weight regain after weight loss surgery. No one has surgery expecting to regain weight. However, it happens to many post-ops.

It can happen and it does happen. It happens to many committed and dedicated weight loss surgery post-ops. The circumstances vary but it can happen to any single one of us. Just because it can happen, doesn’t mean it has to. By staying aware of the possibility and denying “it won’t happen to me” you can maintain your weight loss.

None of us are bulletproof from the habit of turning to food after we’ve had surgery. The importance of staying on track by developing healthy habits that you practice for the rest of your life can never be stressed too much.

We choose to use our surgical tool. The surgery doesn’t do the work but WE DO THE WORK. The work is in the food choices we make, the activity we do, and the other healthy habits of drinking water, no grazing, taking vitamins daily and dealing with emotions and our life without the crutch of abusing food.

If you have regained some weight, please know that you are not alone. When you read the message boards you will see that many members struggle with weight regain. If you are one of us that have experienced a weight regain, it is a hit in our confidence of feeling successful from our surgery and possibly self-esteem.

For many of us, we think once we’ve lost the weight that we are finished.

There are many reasons for weight regain. Whether you have regained weight or want to be proactive to not gain weight, awareness is important. We can regress to old habits of turning to food for comfort and coping with emotions or situations that are bothersome. Losing weight from our surgery and maintaining it is an ongoing process. It isn’t a slam-dunk that once we’ve lost our weight that we can take it for granted. It is a choice we make every day to use the tool given to us by our surgery.

Other reasons for weight gain after surgery are our new bodies were uncomfortable to us so we put on weight to feel more like ourselves and protected by the excess weight. After all, being overweight is what we know. Our new slimmer, healthier bodies can feel quite foreign.

If you have regained weight, reach out. Common emotions experienced when post-ops gain weight after surgery are guilt, feeling out of control, shame, a sense of failure, isolation, and loss of confidence and a negative impact to our self-esteem. We don’t know how to rewind our lives and get back on track.

Weight gain after surgery is an emotional and physical setback, but it doesn’t have to be your destiny. You lost it once, you can do it again!

You can, and with commitment, you will do it again! Getting support and using creative ways to renew the commitment to losing weight can successfully get you back on the track to losing those gained pounds.

7 Tips For Getting Back On Track After Weight Regain

1. Get to the bottom of the cause:  Analyze and identify what is triggering the weight gain. WLS is the first step in attaining control over weight. Weight gain after surgery is often triggered by factors that contributed to the original weight gain before you had surgery.

2. Reach out...now: Contact your bariatric surgeon or bariatric center to obtain their assistance. Most surgery centers have staff that can provide help and guidance with weight regain. Consider reaching out to a mental health professional that can support you and assist you to create strategies to combat the issues underneath causing you to turn to food.

3. Return to basics: Go back to what made you lose weight after you had surgery. Reflect back to how your life was before surgery. Write a list of the reasons you wanted to have surgery in the first place and refer to it often. Of course, eat your protein first with healthy food choices, regular exercise, 64 ounces of water daily and vitamin supplementation.

4. Make your own list of distractions: Devise a system to recognize weight gain triggers and plan to deal with the triggers when they occur. Have a list of alternative behaviors and responses to choose from can help minimize or eliminate emotional and excessive eating that leads to weight gain.

5. Nix emotional eating: Emotional eating is a challenge without a doubt. Many people use food to calm emotions, take the edge off, or numb out. Pay attention to how you are feeling, and your tendency to turn to food manage those emotions. This is a big one.

6. Be patient: It takes 21 days to make a new habit and a thousand days to master it. Take it one day at a time. Keep in mind that losing weight regain will be a much slower process than it was right after you had WLS. Make sure your expectations to lose weight regain are realistic. Set a goal of losing an average of 1-2 pounds weekly.

7. Support, support, support:  One way to reach out is to attend your support group meeting. Even if you haven’t gone to your meeting lately, now is the time. Your fellow weight loss surgery friends and support people along with your support group leader understand. No judgments or thinking less of you for weight gain will take place. We’ve all been there and done that, or are aware that it can happen.

This is the most important time for you to become active in your support group meeting again. With the assistance and support of your support group leader and other members, you will realize you are not alone. It can be the turning point you need to get right back on track.

cathy wilson


Cathy Wilson, PCC, BCC, had RNY surgery in 2001 and lost 147 pounds. Cathy is a regular contributor to the OH Blog and authored the "Mind Matters" column in ObesityHelp Magazine. Cathy is a licensed pilot and loves flying. She is a member of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) and the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC).

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