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5 Years Post Op – Bariatric Edition

I spend a lot of time writing for the bariatric newbie. My newbies are seeking information. They are getting ready for the important pre-op diet. They are working through the post-op guidelines. They are on the rapid weight loss phase and there are seeing fluffy pink clouds in the sky. They are getting closer to their goal. It’s a happy, exciting phase.
What happens 5 years post-op? Where are all my experienced bariatric clients? What are their challenges and how do they differ when compared to the first year post-op?
I want to address my experienced sleevers today. Hands up if that is YOU!!
I have a lot of contact with clients who have had bariatric surgery and they are still on their journey because GUESS WHAT … The bariatric journey doesn’t just END. It changes. It gets more challenging. 
We need to work hard during the first year or two to instill new, healthy habits because it is exactly these habits that will take us to our goals and help us maintain those goals for a long time to come. 
Please remember that if we go back to the same unhealthy habits we had before surgery, we have a very big possibility of gaining back the weight which we lost during the first few years post-surgery. I see the struggles. I know the challenges. I try to teach my clients about the importance of using the sleeve as a tool and putting good habits into place NOW.
If you are 5 years post-op and maintaining – Here’s to YOU! You are my hero and you’ve worked very hard to remain in maintenance. I know just how hard you have worked. I know how you’ve incorporated exercise into your life. I know that you are making wise food decisions almost every day.
Hands up if you are 5 years post-op and have experienced a re-gain.
Guess what … it’s not “all lost”. Your tool is still intact and you can use it to lose the re-gain again but you will need to do things a bit differently this time. You will need to ditch all the processed and refined carbohydrates and sugar from your diet. You will need to drink plain water, black tea, or coffee and eliminate the artificial sweeteners from your diet.
Prioritize Protein/ Fill with Fat/ Reduce Carbs – this is the equation to get the ball rolling again. Eat until you are full and then stop eating. Don’t snack between meals. Get some activity throughout the day and make a sleep schedule.
Once we get back to “bad habits”, it’s really hard to break them but it’s not impossible. I have seen many of my clients have a re-gain and then grab a hold of it and get the weight off again. 
Regain occurs because we choose to eat the wrong food. Regain does not occur from eating chicken and broccoli. It comes from eating cookies, chips, and ice-cream. The sleeve doesn’t fail us. We fail our sleeves. We begin to “eat around” the sleeve and we start to graze. We find ways to trick our tool. We eat mashed potatoes before we eat steak. We eat the tortilla chips and dip before we eat our main course. We allow slider foods to stall our weight loss. 
To all my experienced sleevers out there – if you’ve had a regain, please understand that you CAN get the weight off again. It needs to start with some motivation and a plan. Your plan should include 3 small meals a day of protein with vegetables. You should stick to drinking plain water and you should incorporate some movement into your life. 
The sleeve doesn’t just stop working one day. It is with us for life. If you have stretched out your sleeve and you can eat large portions again, this didn’t happen overnight. This happened from constantly overeating day after day after day. You can look into revision surgery – like having the sleeve redone or having it converted to mini-gastric bypass surgery.
The one thing I don’t want you to do is to just “give up”. That is not a possibility. I want you to reach out to me for assistance. I have plans in place to help you get back to the place you need to be. Start by logging your food and activity. Be accountable. Don’t hide from your weight gain. Talk about it. Don’t feel like you have failed. You have just made some bad food decisions and it’s time to look them straight on and fix some things.
The key phrase here – LifeLong Journey! We are in this for the long-haul. 
I am encouraging you to continue down your path if you are at your goal weight and to stay vigilant with the daily food choices you make. If the number on the scale is bigger than you would like, attack it head-on! Don’t settle. 
Sheri Burke RHN specializing in bariatric nutrition.

About the Author: Sheri Burke is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Bariatric Surgery Coordinator at International Patient Facilitators in Tijuana and Cancun, Mexico. She has worked with bariatric surgery clients for over 10 years and especially enjoys providing nutritional guidance to pre and post bariatric clients.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two teens and cooking up a nutritional storm in the kitchen.

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