The only thing I can say with certainty after vertical sleeve gastrectomy is that you will lose weight. How fast will you lose it? How much will you lose? How many calories will be optimal for your weight loss? Will you need skin removal surgery? In a nutshell: I don’t know. We can—and will—give you all the guidance you need to be successful on your VSG journey. But your body is as uniquely wonderful as you are, and everything will be individual to you.
The subject of how fast you’ll lose weight is particularly sensitive. Patients become (understandably) anxious about whether their speed is okay, or if they’re doing something wrong. Of course, variables like your gastric sleeve diet and your exercise routine come into play. But much of the time, the pace at which your pounds slip off isn’t something anyone can accurately predict. And when you see sleeve brothers and sisters posting big losses in a single month, while you’re sitting at a fraction of that loss in the same timeframe, it can be challenging.
If you’re more of a tortoise than a hare, here are a few benefits of slow weight loss that I hope will bring you comfort.
- Fewer frustrating stalls. Stalls are incredibly common after any bariatric surgery. They’re necessary as one’s body adjusts to the big changes taking place, but that doesn’t make them easier to handle psychologically. As any sleever can attest, stalls can really mess with your head. When you lose weight more slowly, you’ll likely experience fewer stalls because everything is happening gradually. In other words, your body won’t be as “shocked” as it is with rapid weight loss and may avoid those full-stop stalls.
- More energy. One of the top complaints we hear from VSG patients in the first few months post-op is that their energy has plummeted. Endobariatric patient Chrissie, a member of the gradual loss group, sees the upside in terms of how her get-up-and-go. “I feel great, probably better than those that lose fast,” she says. “More energy—I’m good with that.”
- Lots of fat loss. When you’re dropping dozens of pounds at a time, it’s nearly impossible for those numbers to be all fat. That’s just not how the body works. But when your pace is the slow-and-steady, you’re more likely to retain muscle while shedding fat.
- Less loose skin. If your weight loss is (or will be) in the hundreds of pounds, it’s pretty hard to prevent loose skin completely. But the slower you lose weight, the greater the chance that your skin has time to adapt to the pace. The good news is that your skin is super elastic; it definitely has the ability to contract with your weight loss. When the scale moves gradually, the result may be skin that’s firmer and less saggy.
- More time to fine-tune emotions. Some patients are surprised when they struggle mentally with the idea that their bodies are quickly moving from overweight/obese to a healthy weight range. So much of the vertical sleeve gastrectomy journey is mental, and too few people take that into account. It can be especially jarring when they see their bodies rapidly shrinking from what they’ve always known to a brand new, unknown body. Slower weight loss can help ease this psychological clash of old you vs. new you. If you feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable at any time, though, I always recommend seeking out a qualified therapist to work through these difficult thoughts.
The truth is that there are pros and cons to both rapid and leisurely weight loss after VSG. So if you’re feeling frustrated or down in the dumps about your progress, remember that as long as you’re working with your new tool, you’re doing it right. And your body will thank you!
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