You’re probably hoping that gastric sleeve in Mexico will cure the yo-yo dieting you’ve likely been doing most of your life. And for many, this tool is exactly what they need to get their weight under control forever. But there are plenty of other VSG patients who still ride the yo-yo rollercoaster—maybe not to the same extent as before, but even 10 or 20 pounds up and down isn’t good. An interesting new study reveals why the lose-gain-lose-gain cycle makes it extra tough to lose those 20 pounds permanently and why it may not be (entirely) a matter of self-control.
Yo-Yo Weight and Binge Eating
You didn’t get to a state of health that requires vertical sleeve gastrectomy without some binge eating involved, right? But it turns out that the more your weight fluctuates (because of a repetitive pattern of eating more, followed by eating a lot less), the more likely it is that your body prompts you to eat compulsively. Why? Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine found that this back and forth lessens the brain’s ability to experience “reward” feelings—or even satiety. And just like any addiction, when you’re not getting that high anymore from the amount you’re consuming, you increase the dosage. In this case, that dosage is food.
Binge eating is something that VSG patients fight even after surgery because it can be a true addition, as well as a habit. One’s easier to break than the other (hint: a habit). Like many other things related to obesity, it seems like your body is set up to fail with traditional diet and exercise. And while vertical sleeve gastrectomy can greatly impact your odds of living a life that’s far healthier, a quick glance at our Facebook group reveals that many are struggling with regain, loss, regain, loss, etc.
Is There an Exit on This Rollercoaster?
I always advise patients who are suffering from any disordered eating, but especially binge eating, to seek out a therapist who specializes in addiction. Combining a medical tool like vertical gastric sleeve surgery and a psychological tool like counseling is an unbeatable one-two punch in conquering binge eating.
The scientists behind the study mentioned above believe that part of the solution could lie in rebalancing the part of the brain that controls feelings of reward. If cycling between “binge foods” and then the low-cal, often boring foods you probably use to lose the pounds you gained during the binge period feeds the addiction, it makes sense to me that sticking as closely as possible to your healthy, balanced gastric sleeve diet would be an ideal way to retrain your brain.
Lastly, let me recommend a resource here at Endobariatric that not everyone knows about: our nutritionist. Recently, my patient, Amy, admitted, “I need to talk to the nutritionist. I am up 20 pounds and cannot keep it down. I am still yo-yo dieting.” You’re far from alone, Amy! And we’re always here to help.
Knowledge can be a first step toward permanent change. This new evidence suggesting that yo-yo dieting feeds (no pun intended) the drive to binge eat, thanks to its negative impact on brain patterns, may be the push you need to get off the rollercoaster forever. Whether through counseling, talking with our nutritionist, recommitting to the gastric sleeve diet that works for you—or a combination of them—it is possible to leave the yo-yo behind.
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