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Get Back on Track: How Bariatric Patients Can Return to a Healthy Groove

January 26, 2023

You can gain weight even after you’ve had bariatric surgery. The key is getting back on track quickly instead of letting the pounds add up.

But there are many strategies – for everyone – to ease your way into making better food decisions and meeting healthy exercise goals.

Size Up Your Situation

Be accountable to yourself. That’s Step 1 for returning to a lifestyle of eating right and exercising regularly. Do that by asking  yourself these questions and answering them honestly.

  • What are you eating? For three days, write down everything you eat, from sandwiches to condiments. You can use the term “food journal” or simply record the details on your smartphone. Seeing the foods in writing will help you assess your intake.
  • What are you drinking? It’s crucial to drink enough fluids to keep your urine light yellow, as it needs to be. See the beverage choices you’ve made listed on paper (or a computer or smartphone). That might help you away from carbonated or sugared beverages.
  • How have you moved your body? Jot down every staircase climbed, trail walked and hand weight lifted. Again, knowledge is power.
  • When did you take your vitamins? Since bariatric patients often can’t absorb all nutrients, it’s crucial to take specially designed supplements to avoid deficiencies. Most contain, among other elements, water-miscible versions of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. If you see you’ve been skipping doses, create a system to remember daily going forward.
  • How often do you weigh yourself? You might like to step onto the scale every morning. Most bariatric patients find that once every two weeks is reasonable so they don’t get too hung up on a single day’s number. Take the time to see how often you’ve gotten on the scale. Figure out a schedule that’s helpful for you and make a plan, then stick to it.

There are no wrong answers here. You’re logging these so you can help yourself do better throughout the year. Reading your own answers will help you know what to change.

Use Hacks To Stay Healthy

Cutting back to five or six small meals a day, with half of the four ounces per meal from protein — that can sound intimating. You don’t have to go it alone, even if you live alone. The world is full of useful tools to help you stay the course, support you or both. Why not use them?

  • Apps. Plenty of companies offer apps for smartphones and tablets that are designed to help people lose weight or maintain a low-calorie diet with regular exercise. Do a few free trials until you find one that’s right for you. Look specifically at apps designed for bariatric patients. Those tend to work best. They take into account your need for certain amounts of protein and fluids, and can remind you to eat and drink throughout the day. You might even have access to easy-to-make healthy recipes. Some apps also track exercise.
  • Instructional packets. Most bariatric offices provide patients with detailed packages spelling out how to plan meals that will keep them healthy and help them shed pounds. Use this info! The packets provide tools that really work. For example, plate meals with foods from the protein, starch and “free vegetable” groups — items you can eat freely, mostly the so-called rabbit foods like lettuce and cucumbers. The packets also give beverage choices including sports drinks, diet lemonade, water with electrolytes and just plain water.
  • Support groups. In person and online, bariatric nurses, dietitians and nutritionists host regular support groups for patients. The surgeons sometimes participate. The hosts present a topic, then open up a lively conversation. Older patients often take newer patients under their wing. You can find support groups online, often through social media.
  • Podcasts. While you’re driving, cooking or slicing up veggies for a snack, listen to a podcast designed for people who’ve had weight-loss surgeries. The best ones choose a topic for each podcast, then have experts join the host to talk about it. Tune in for an easy, educational way to get inspiration and education.
  • Exercise buddies. A spouse, kid, neighbor, coworker or friend: Commit to exercise together. Maybe you’ll walk briskly around the neighborhood three days a week at 7:30 a.m., or take the 6 p.m. Tai Chi class at your local Y, or follow an online yoga video together every Sunday morning at 11. At work? Dance together for 10 minutes in a quiet space every afternoon at 3 p.m. sharp. Set it up and stick to it; you’ll both show up to please the other.

How To Get Started

These ideas won’t work until you feel motivated. Change that. Think — really think — about how great you felt when you were thinner, or when you exercised every other day. You had more energy, more pep. Envision wearing that new exercise outfit you bought before you slacked off, and how great you’ll look in it again. Little mind games can go a long way toward getting you to eat those healthy meals, drink those hydrating beverages and move that beautiful body of yours.

Follow through, you will reap the benefit of seeing yourself in a more positive light and feeling better physically. A better self-image will make you feel good from the inside out.

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