The thought of combining weight-loss surgery and a weight-loss program may seem odd. After all, bariatric surgery of any kind creates fast weight loss afterward, right?
It does. But combining weight-loss surgery with Weight Watchers makes more sense – for both your body and your mind – than you might imagine.
Think about it: You’re used to being overweight. You’re used to having a body that carries around too many pounds and a mind that probably carries too much emotional baggage related to those pounds. Plus, you may not have had the best nutrition habits going in, and you need a long-term strategy to maintain your lower weight.
Here’s a look at how weight-loss surgery combined with Weight Watchers gives you a powerful one-two punch.
How weight-loss surgery affects your body
We are all familiar with people who have had weight-loss surgery and quickly lost a lot of pounds. Prominent personalities who have had gastric bypass surgery, for example, seem to shrink before our eyes.
All bariatric surgeries create a situation internally where the body simply cannot take in or process the same number of calories that it could before. Sometimes this is a result of restriction, such as when the size of the stomach itself is reduced, preventing it from holding as much food. It can also be a result of malabsorption, when surgery shortens or bypasses part of the small intestine, where calories and nutrients are normally absorbed by the body.
After your surgery, your weight loss gets two jump starts:
- Decreased caloric intake: Firstly, you are taking in fewer calories by far – especially as you transition from a post-surgery liquid diet and then a soft-foods diet to your new normal, which is vastly reduced in calories from what you used to eat.
- Chemical changes: Secondly, there are hormonal changes that typically follow weight-loss surgery, which can result in a reduction in feelings of hunger, an increase in feelings of fullness, and even an increase in the number of calories you burn – in other words, a faster metabolism. This is the opposite of what often happens with a longtime dieter, when the body’s metabolism, believing it is being deprived, shifts downward in order to not burn calories as fast.
Every individual’s experience is different, but It is not uncommon for a person to lose up to 50 pounds in the first six months after weight-loss surgery, according to WebMD. The weight loss slows over time, but continues for anywhere from nine to 18 months. Considering that many patients were 100 pounds or more overweight when they had their surgery, this can be a startling transition – and one that can be difficult to adjust to, physically and mentally.
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Life after bariatric surgery
Three months after surgery, your weight will have fallen substantially. You will have moved through the liquid and soft stages of your post-surgical diet to eating small amounts of solid food. You will need to avoid fried foods, carbonated beverages, nuts and seeds, fibrous vegetables and tough meats, among other things. You’ll be expected to drink a lot of fluids to prevent dehydration. You’ll have learned that you have to eat and drink more slowly, and do so several times a day. You will be learning to focus on high-protein foods and to take vitamin and mineral supplements to make up for nutrients you are not getting through the small amounts of food you eat.
This is the ideal time to join a Weight Watchers program. Unlike diet programs that rely more on packaged foods, Weight Watchers works to teach people how to find their ideal longtime weight and then maintain it, through food management, exercise and mindset.
People who have recently had bariatric surgery often have difficulty changing their self-image from that of an obese person to that of a healthy, slimmer person. Furthermore, they may not have good nutritional habits and they may need a support system around them where people talk about how to eat healthy foods and maintain weight in a balanced way. These lifestyle changes are vital for transforming the quick changes after surgery into long-lasting change.
How Weight Watchers works
While Weight Watchers programs may change slightly from year to year, they are all based on a system in which foods are assigned points values. Participants have a target number of points to eat on a daily basis to either lose or maintain their weight. While nothing is off-limits, fruits, vegetables, lean meats and foods that are low in fat and sugar carry fewer points, which encourages healthier choices.
Weight Watchers counselors also are experienced in helping people deal with the emotional aspects of a weight-loss journey. If your weight starts creeping up – which it can do down the road after bariatric surgery – a group leader can look at your food tracking and make suggestions based on your needs.
Joining Weight Watchers when you still have some weight to lose will cost a monthly fee. But after you reach your goal weight and maintain it for six weeks, you receive lifetime membership, and the meetings and online tools all become free. Lifetime membership requires you to weigh in once a month and to stay within two pounds (up or down) of that goal weight. It can be a helpful way for a bariatric patient to stay in touch with good eating habits even after they have reached their thinner, fitter goals.
Are you thinking about bariatric surgery?
The Soma Weight Loss Clinic performs all types of bariatric surgery – gastric balloon, gastric sleeve, lap band and gastric bypass – and supports strong post-procedure lifestyle changes.