Bariatric Surgery Success 3

The 3 R’s of Bariatric Surgery Success

June 7, 2019

Bariatric surgery is an amazing starting point to help us get on a new path to health and moving toward a new beginning. But what happens when we struggle to move out of old ways of thinking? We often end up in a cycle that can go something such as Restrict, Relapse, Repeat.

Sound familiar? This is probably best thought of as the “3 R’s” of the diet mentality.

I'm pretty sure we've all dealt with that in the past. Restricting is very common with any kind of diet. We have to get rid of something that the diet says is unhealthy and when we do that, it seems like that’s all we can think about. So, then what happens? That’s usually when we Relapse. We have tried to avoid whatever food choice that the diet says we can’t have and we eat it (sometimes a lot of it) and we feel guilty and like we’ve failed. We may gain weight, whatever we lost plus more, and then we may even try to get back on that diet or another one and repeat the cycle again.

The 3 R's of Bariatric Surgery Success

Instead of the 3 R's of the diet mentality, let's shift that cycle for a more effective set of 3 R's that promote your weight loss surgery success. What I like to think of as a better cycle of the “3 R’s” is something that I call:


First, You Have to “Reclaim” Your Power

When you are reclaiming our power, you’re taking ownership of the fact that food doesn't actually have the power over us. It feels like it sometimes. We think that the food is in control because we just can’t stop thinking about it, but ultimately, we get to choose whether or not we give in or not.

When you reclaim your power, you are choosing to take a step back and decide what to do when the thoughts come up. Maybe you’ve just gotten off from a stressful day at work and haven’t had time to think about what to do for dinner. You get to choose whether or not to give in to snacking or picking up fast food or making another choice.

So at that moment, you can pause and think what you're going to choose to do -  literally think "I choose ___."

"I choose to figure out something for dinner" or “I choose to go through the drive-thru.”
"I choose to not walk to the fridge or the cabinet" or “I choose to grab some chips from the pantry.”
"I choose to wait five minutes and see what I do then" or “I choose to eat something now and worry about it later.”

Next Up is R to "Realize"

Realize that it’s okay to feel whatever you feel. Realize that wanting to eat is normal. It’s something that happens because of some sort of feeling, even if that feeling is hunger.

If that feeling is hunger – because you’ve not eaten enough or it's been a while since you've eaten – EAT. Choose something satisfying. If it’s some other emotion that’s making you want to eat, name it. Own it. It's okay to sit in that feeling because it's gonna pass. Having a feeling, an emotion, will not kill you, okay? Yeah, I know that’s dramatic, but it’s true!

I use an acronym called H.A.L.T. when I work with my clients and we are working in a coaching relationship.

We literally should stop and think:


Angry can also be frustrated or stressed. Lonely can be bored.

You may just be sitting there watching TV. You may be tired from a long day at work or from doing things at home. You're just trying to get a little time to yourself before you go to bed. Night-time eating can be used as a solution. Instead of using food, acknowledge that feeling and know that it’s okay to sit with that feeling and ride it out. Even if it's just for five minutes.

See how you feel when you try this. If you still want a snack, don’t beat yourself up. Have the snack and try again next time. You made progress because YOU TRIED!

The Third R is “Replace”

This one is about choosing to replace your habits with something else. For me, one of my biggest struggles was night time eating and it still is.

If I'm sitting in front of the TV, especially if it’s something kind of mindless after work, my first thought is to start finding something to snack on – even 14 years after surgery! So, I have to do something to distract myself.

Whether that is having something to drink or getting up and going somewhere else for a few minutes, the key is recognizing where that desire to snack is coming from (for me it’s usually being tired or boredom) and figuring out a way to distract yourself.

Bonus Tip for Bariatric Surgery Success

The “ABCs”

To go along with recognizing what is going on that is causing you to really struggle, the ABC’s are another simple acronym for you to remember so you can work toward addressing what is going on.

It stands for:


So, if there's a certain ACTIVITY (like sitting in front of the TV) that causes you to do a certain BEHAVIOR (like snacking), then you have to figure out what you have to CHANGE (what do you have to do differently?)

If you’re not willing to change your environment, your habits, then you're not willing to really work on making a difference in your life. It’s like the quote about insanity: doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

One of my favorite quotes is:

"What got you here won't get you there."

So remember, if you get stuck in that first "Three R's" mentality: Restrict, Relapse, Repeat

Then you’ll never get to the second, healthier one: Reclaim, Realize, Replace

And the best way to get there is to remember your ABC’s:

What ACTIVITY is causing the BEHAVIOR, and what CHANGE are you willing to make? Remember, it is about progress, not perfection. You'll make progress each day with the ABC and using the healthier 3-R's!


Amanda Dutton, MS, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Your Bariatric Coach in Georgia who loves helping WLS patients as well as binge eating and compulsive eating disorder clients because of her own experience with WLS 13 years ago. She's written a book "Healthy From the Inside Out" for weight loss surgery patients and admin of the Facebook group "The Emotional Side of Weight Loss Surgery Support Group" which has amassed 1600+ members in 9 months due to no negativity or food policing.