Weight Regain After WLS and Fighting BiologyApril 29, 2019
Do you really want to read one more article on regain after weight loss surgery? No, I didn't think so. I decided if I had more information on WHY my body loves to be fat, then maybe I could understand it and work to overcome it.
I recently watched a program on Netflix called ‘Why We Are Getting Fat.’ It seems Dr. Giles Yeo, a Geneticist at Cambridge University in the UK, studies the genetics of weight gain. He says most of us who are morbidly obese are ‘fighting our biology’. He says there are more than 100 genes that link to obesity and one of the most important is the FTO gene.
The FTO gene is a fat mass and an obesity-associated protein that all humans have. Those with one change to this gene do not gain like those of us with two changes. For some of us, our bodies work against us when it comes to weight loss and hunger.
It is not simply physics. Eat less, move more, though that is very important in any weight loss program, it does not address the real hunger and food cravings some of us fight, every day, all day.
Scientists have known for some time that we all have hunger hormones, like ghrelin, and the bigger the stomach, the more we have and the more serious hunger we experience. That is the basic reason why WLS works. By decreasing the size of the stomach, the amount of hunger hormones decrease and we eat less. It isn’t about stomach size after all. Another lead researcher, Professor Steve Bloom, is working on an injection that controls hunger and works like a gastric bypass without the surgery.
There are wonderful things coming in the future of obesity research.
Fighting Our Biology
But what about now? What about those of us struggling to maintain or keep the wolf at bay? It is terribly hard when we do love the wolf we fight. Another thing I believe is that cells and DNA in our bodies have evolved for millions of years. I call it ‘Killing a Mammoth’ syndrome. Humans have been on the earth for about six million years, and modern man, about 200,000 years. We have had abundant food and good nutrition for the last four or five hundred years. So, for thousands, if not millions of years, mankind starved. They would kill a mammoth, eat and the body would store fat for fuel to prepare for the next famine.
The human body adapts to the routine of abundant food, then a period of starvation. It is still in our DNA. So when we go on a ‘diet’ and cut calories drastically, we lose at first, then our metabolism slows down to preserve the body’s fuel, we get discouraged and quit.
I think this is the body’s response to starvation and when we go off the diet, the body thinks we have killed a mammoth and all is well. So the weight comes back quickly and we pack on a few ‘extra’ pounds to guard against the next starvation period or diet. This is very simplified of course, but I do believe this.
I also think this is why programs like Weight Watchers work. If there is abundant food, perhaps our DNA doesn’t recognize the subtle cut in calories and just keeps chugging along. So, add DNA memories to our struggle, both mental and emotional, our propensity to eat for comfort, plus the fact that we are bombarded with environmental and visual stimulation and it is a recipe for regain.
Regain After Weight Loss Surgery
So, here comes the part about regaining after weight loss surgery. I fibbed. Like everyone else, I dieted my way to almost 300 pounds. Most of my adult life, I had two modes. I was either losing weight or gaining weight. I would eat grapefruit and eggs and lose 20 pounds, go back to Whoppers and fries, and gain 30 pounds. I would eat cabbage soup, lose 30 pounds, go back to fried chicken and gain 50 pounds. I joined Weight Watchers so many times I should be an honorary member and never have to pay. Sound familiar? I could not face tipping the scales at 300 pounds, so I gave up trying and looked into gastric bypass. It would be my last hope.
I chose Dr. Hosein Yasrebi in Jacksonville, Florida and on September 9th, 2002, I underwent the surgery. I lost a total of 152 pounds. Life was great. Then it began again, slowly at first. I gained 10 pounds. I lost five. I gained 20 pounds, I lost 10. I gained 30 pounds, I lost 15. The old way was slowly creeping back. I knew I needed to stop. For whatever reasons, this lifetime habit of losing and gaining had started again.
In February of 2018, I went in for my yearly physical. I had not weighed in a long time. I was afraid to. But in my doctor’s office, I could not hide from it. Sure enough, I had gained a lot of weight, I was at 198. Just 2 pounds from 200. 7000 calories and I would be there. My doctor suggested only weighing when I came in every month for a B12 shot. Right, I thought, that’s going to work. I cried all the way home. I felt really sorry for myself, but I also knew I had no one to blame but myself.
So when I got home, I wrote out all the things I hated about ‘dieting’ and the list was long. I came to me that I needed to work around those things. I just needed to stop dieting. I needed to do what I’ve read about for years. And that is making healthy eating a lifestyle.
Be Accountable For What You Eat
Log it. I did not mind logging what I eat since I could do it online. I simply did not want to give up the foods I loved and be on a strict eating plan. I decided I would be accountable for everything that I put in my pie hole.
If I wanted that candy bar, then I could have it, but I had to log it and count the calories. And it was never worth the calories.
Knowing I could have it made the difference. I learned new ways to cook. I do not count carbs but I do watch my protein. I also do not count non-starchy vegetables or fruit on my daily log, but I do log everything else. To keep up my protein, and get a really sweet fix, I have a jazzed up protein shake every day. It always has a base of one whole frozen sliced banana and whatever sugar-free syrup I want and blend it until it is like soft ice cream. I started keeping other frozen fruits to change it up but my favorite is banana. And I only weighed once a month when I went for my B12. That has been key for me. Staying off that scale has surprisingly worked.
Exercise. Since I am lazy, I have to make myself do it. I swim two or three times a week for an hour and walk the other days. But all you have to do is walk. Just get out and walk. It is the one thing that I found keeps my metabolism going. If I do not exercise, I do not lose. It is that simple.
Supplements. If you have had gastric bypass, then supplements should be a religion. No questions. No complaining. Just do it. I take liquid iron, chewable vitamins and calcium, vitamin D and do my best to keep my electrolytes in order. Take your supplements if you do nothing else.
Since that day last February, I have lost 60 pounds of regain and I am almost, not quite, but almost in a size 8. I have a few more pounds to lose, but there is no hurry. I’ll get there. And this time, I plan to keep going with the way I eat, and the exercise.
I will be 71 years old in a few weeks, and I feel fantastic. I am thankful to have been given the gift of weight loss surgery, and though I got lost for a while, I do not beat myself up over it, I just step back on the path and keep going.
You’ve got this!
ABOUT THE AUTHORCharlotte Carlile lives her dream, in a condo by the sea in Daytona Beach, Florida. She retired from AT&T, then from contracting to telecommunications companies. She has published short stories in local magazines and articles in the local newspaper. Her passion today is genealogy and she is the corresponding secretary for her local genealogical society and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She underwent gastric bypass surgery in 2002 and considers herself a long term success.