An Action Plan for Gastric Sleeve Patients (Part 1)

When patients first start losing weight after their vertical sleeve gastrectomy, they think of each pound as being gone forever. Sometimes that’s true—and, by the way, I encourage that way of thinking. But at some point during their journey, many sleevers discover that they’ve started to regain a bit of the weight they’ve lost. Watching the scale go up, rather than down, can feel very discouraging. But staying stuck in those feelings can lead to even more regain. Move past your “stuck” place and get the scale moving again in the right direction with these tips.

Step 1: Get your head right.You already have the best tool (in my opinion) for losing weight and maintaining that weight loss: a sleeve. So the physical aspect that prevents so many of my patients from getting to a healthy weight without bariatric surgery isn’t the issue. It’s the mental aspect that’s likely tripping you up. VSG doesn’t remove the emotional response to triggers like stress, boredom, and family issues. You know that. One of the best ways to get back on track—and stay on track going forward—is to finally develop a plan for managing the triggers that cause you to relapse into poor eating patterns and/or skipping workouts.

What works for one person may not work for another, as it’s a very individual thing. But in general, it’s about being mindful of what’s going on in your head pretty much all the time. Are you craving a donut after a fight with your spouse? The first step is identifying why you want that donut. If you’re seeking comfort, what else gives you solace and cheers you up? Maybe it’s a hot bath with your favorite magazine or a sweaty workout that makes you feel invincible. Go ahead and write down a list of options besides eating that work for you when your head, rather than your stomach, says, “feed me.” If you’re falling into habit eating—ie: needing sweets after a meal—maybe getting lost in a good book will distract you until the craving has passed. When you’re feeling out of control because of money problems, perhaps a calming yoga practice works to soothe your worst-case-scenario tendencies. Identify the tricks that work for you, and then use them!

Step 2: Plan to succeed. So many people start off strong when it comes to meal planning, prepping, and making contingencies. The pounds may start to creep back on when they become a tad lazy in any of these areas. And make no mistake that it takes consistency in all three in order to prevent regain. Because if you plan out your meals for the week but fail to prep them, you’re still vulnerable to the drive-thru at the end of a long day. Likewise, a drive-thru sounds mighty tempting when a traffic jam delays your return home to a perfectly prepped meal. Life will throw you curveballs, but strategic planning can outsmart just about anything that comes your way.

Go back to basics by meal planning, whether it’s for the day, week, or month. Again, you know yourself best, so work with your individual personality on this one. Some patients like to have their gastric sleeve diet mapped out weeks in advance, while others would get overwhelmed at the prospect of planning more than a day out. Then—and this is crucial—prep everything you can ahead of time. Roast several meals’ worth of chicken and veggies, boil eggs, portion out nuts, etc. Do the heavy lifting now so there’s no excuses later. And speaking of no excuses, plan for contingencies every step of the way. Stash healthy snacks in your desk at work, in your car, and in your handbag so that traffic, late meetings, or the bakery department at the supermarket don’t win.

These two steps will go a long way toward losing regained pounds. But in the next article, I’ll share even more tips that will help you get back on track permanently.

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“Changing lives…one sleeve at a time”.