What is the Risk of Weight Regain After Bariatric Surgery?

Bariatric surgery is a big step, so it’s reasonable to focus on what outcomes to expect long-term. While bariatric surgery is recognized by the medical community as an effective tool for treating obesity and associated medical conditions, some express concerns that they may gain the weight back after bariatric surgery.

weight regain after bariatric surgery

It’s a misconception that it’s common to regain significant amounts of weight following bariatric surgery. According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, studies have shown that most bariatric surgery patients are able to maintain successful, long-term weight loss. About half of patients may experience some weight gain by two years after surgery, but this weight regain is usually relatively minor. 

Let’s take a look at some of the different factors involved in weight regain following bariatric surgery and how you can reduce your chances of regaining weight.

Types of Bariatric Surgery and Weight Regain

The type of bariatric surgery, or weight loss surgery, is a factor in the risk of weight regain. Bariatric surgery can be either “restrictive” or “malabsorptive”, or both. In restrictive surgeries, like the gastric sleeve or gastric banding, the size of the stomach is reduced (or “restricted”), so that you feel full while eating smaller portions of food. While both the gastric sleeve and gastric banding procedures are restrictive, on average, patients who have gastric sleeve surgery lose more weight long-term than gastric band patients

Malabsorptive procedures create a way for food to bypass part of the small intestine, limiting the amount of nutrients from food that the body absorbs. Gastric bypass surgery and duodenal switch weight loss surgery are both restrictive and malabsorptive. On average, patients of these procedures experience better rates of long-term weight loss and maintenance, with lower instances of weight regain, than patients of restrictive surgeries.

Regardless of the type of surgery, most people still experience much more significant and sustained weight loss following bariatric surgery than they were able to achieve prior to surgery. Long-term weight loss success or the risk of weight regain after bariatric surgery is complex, so talk to your doctor before you choose which surgery may be right for you.

How to Prevent Weight Regain after Bariatric Surgery

Other factors that can play a role in weight regain after bariatric surgery include lifestyle, mental health, and other anatomical or medical factors.

Lifestyle Changes

Bariatric surgery is widely accepted as an effective tool in helping those who are obese lose very significant amounts of weight and improve their health. But, like all health treatments, it’s not a magic cure. Even with surgery, it takes a great deal of work and commitment on the part of the bariatric surgery patient to lose weight and prevent weight regain.

Studies have shown that weight regain after surgery can often be attributed to a relapse into unhealthy or disordered eating habits. 

There’s a reason that the bariatric surgery program at City Hospital at White Rock is called My New Beginning—because we know weight loss is a journey. In order to prevent weight regain after bariatric surgery, patients must be able to identify challenges and develop more healthy lifestyle habits. 

bariatric surgery weight regain prevention

My New Beginning is designated as an Accredited Center under the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP) of the American College of Surgeons and American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. The only way to earn this accreditation is to meet very specific criteria, which include establishing a continuum of care and providing support for patients for their entire weight loss journey, both before and after surgery. 

Before surgery at My New Beginning, patients are required to complete comprehensive education on nutrition and exercise. The educational course covers things patients can begin to change before surgery, including:

  • getting into the habit of taking daily vitamins;
  • decreasing portion size;
  • adjusting how you eat your meals—eating protein first, chewing food thoroughly and slowly, eating small, frequent meals;
  • beginning simple steps to incorporate exercise into your daily routine; and
  • learning which foods to avoid.

Adjusting your lifestyle before surgery will help you prevent weight gain following surgery. To keep you on track with your new lifestyle, My New Beginning offers a weight loss app that helps you track nutrition, including recipes, and a convenient barcode scanner that lets you scan barcodes as you’re shopping to view nutritional information. Tools like the My New Beginning app can be a great way to lower your risk of weight regain by letting you track weight loss, keeping you focused on your journey and helping you be more aware of lifestyle habits that may get you off-track.

Addressing Mental Health Needs

Bariatric surgery patients who have underlying mental health needs related to disordered eating, untreated alcohol or drug abuse, or other issues may face additional challenges with weight regain after surgery.

bariatric surgery support group

Pre-surgery education offered by My New Beginning, as well as attending support groups both before and after surgery may help disrupt disordered eating patterns that cause weight regain. Some people, however, may find that additional treatment with a psychologist is helpful in learning how to manage disordered eating habits. Prior to surgery, each My New Beginning patient is required to undergo a psychological evaluation to ensure the patient is ready and informed for surgery. This can be a good time to discuss concerns about challenges in managing disordered eating or any other mental health issues. 

Any alcohol intake after bariatric surgery can slow weight loss or cause weight regain, as alcohol has empty calories with no nutritional value. If you have a history of alcohol or drug abuse, be sure to discuss it with your doctor, as it is not only a risk factor for weight regain, but also can affect your health in other ways.

Benefits of a Supportive Program

There can also be some medical and anatomical risk factors for weight regain, so it’s important to work closely with your doctors if you have a thyroid disorder, become pregnant, or need to change medications, among other issues. My New Beginning also offers revision surgeries for those who may have had a complication with a prior surgery or aren’t seeing expected weight loss following bariatric surgery.

A comprehensive, coordinated team approach of care is the best way to reduce the risk of weight regain following bariatric surgery. My New Beginning is set up to help patients for the commitment of a weight loss journey with pre-surgery education, a free weight-loss app, and support groups. 

If you’re ready to learn more, call My New Beginning at (214) 324-6127 today!

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