When they first get gastric sleeve, most patients are thinking solely about losing weight—not when and how to stop the process. For folks who’ve spent most of their lives overweight or obese, the idea of losing too much weight is almost laughable. But knowing when and how to stop shedding pounds is a very real concern for many of my VSG patients. Here are my tips on successfully moving from weight loss to weight maintenance.
Use the BMI range as a guide
For some patients, the question of when to stop losing weight is answered by their bodies. Whether you’ve had vertical sleeve gastrectomy or not, your body likely has a “happy place”—a healthy weight that’s fairly easy to maintain over the long haul. If you’ve never been at a healthy weight as an adult, or you’ve never achieved weight loss in a healthy manner, you may not know that number until you get there. And because stalls are so common with any bariatric surgery, it can be difficult for people to differentiate between a stall and a happy weight. When you’re within an appropriate BMI range and are “stalled,” think about whether you are (or could be) happy at this weight long-term. Your body might be trying to tell you something. If you’re not yet at a healthy BMI weight—and especially if you’re well outside of that range—it might make sense to push through the plateau.
Of course, your physician can give you individualized guidance on a weight that’s good for your body, but it’s easy to find the weight range for your height with a quick computer search. For a person who’s 5’9”, for example, the “normal” range is 125 to 168 pounds. That seems like a big spread because, as I always say, every body is different. One 5’9” person might look and feel like a walking skeleton at 130 pounds, while another person of the same height would look and feel amazing. It’s about your comfort, your lifestyle, and your body’s predispositions.
Adjusting your diet
One of the reasons I love gastric sleeve so much is that it doesn’t cause weight loss through nutrient malabsorption. Meaning, unlike other bariatric methods, the vast majority of gastric sleeve patients don’t have to worry about losing so much weight that it becomes a medical issue. All you really need to do is adjust your gastric sleeve diet when you’re ready to stop losing. Why not exercise? Unless your physician advises you otherwise, I’m always in favor of regular exercise as a healthy habit, whether you’re losing or maintaining. So let’s look at dietary changes that can move you from weight loss to maintenance:
- Add carbs. Before we go any further, I want to stress that any change you make should involve healthy choices. So when we’re taking about upping your carb intake, I don’t mean donuts and potato chips. I mean sweet potatoes, lentils, oats, bananas, brown rice, chickpeas, etc.
- Get more fat. Some people don’t feel great upping their carb intake. And who wants to feel like crap when you’re supposed to be feeling better than ever? For those people, I recommend getting additional calories through healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, and nuts. Fats are very calorie-dense, so increasing your intake by just a little can go a long way.
- Drink your calories. The reason we advise weight loss patients not to drink their calories is because it adds up quickly. Which is why, when you’re trying to stop losing weight or even gain back a few pounds, drinking a calorie-laden beverage is a good way to go. Again, this isn’t license to have a milkshake every day. Rather, think fruit juices and good quality smoothies.
The bottom line is that you have to learn to trust yourself and your body. Pay attention to cues that it’s happy within a certain (healthy) weight range, and then figure out whether you need to slightly increase your caloric intake in order to maintain that happy weight. Just remember to continue monitoring your weight to ensure that you’re truly maintaining and not gaining.
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