Bariatric surgery is a great tool which gives you a powerful leg up in the weight-loss game. However, it’s not a quick fix. You see – even post-surgery, you’re at risk for some weight regain. In fact, recent research has indicated that, depending on your initial BMI, you could possibly regain up to 50 percent of your original weight within a period of 10 years.

With that said, I’d like to share with you some of the most common risk factors for weight regain and give you some tips for overcoming them.

1. Emotional Minefields

If you were an emotional eater before surgery, you’re at risk for continuing to use food as a way of numbing painful emotions, coping with stress or even intensifying pleasant emotions post-surgery.

What the term “healthy relationship with food” means is that you neither fear food nor “live to eat,” but you use it simply as a source of nourishment for your body. You eat when you’re physically hungry and stop when you’re full. You don’t eat to fill an inner emptiness, to occupy or entertain yourself, to celebrate (although food may accompany celebration) or because you’re lonely or angry.

The best way to overcome emotional eating is to build awareness. Here’s how:

Diary(a) Keep an “emotional food diary” and include these observations:

  • What is your hunger level on a scale of 1 (famished) to 10 (stuffed) before and after eating?
  • What is the reason that you’re eating?
  • What were you actually hungry for? (Food? Companionship? Rest? Entertainment? Comfort?)

(b) Develop healthy ways of feeding that specific hunger, whatever it may be.

2. Habit Hacks

Our long-time habits when it comes to food and eating – or any other behavior – often run so deep that cues in the environment will trigger us to automatically perform them despite our best intentions.

Again, the key to change is to build awareness of your long-time, food-related habits by taking some time to think deeply about them. This may feel uncomfortable, but it will help you to maintain your hard-earned weight-loss.

stop signHere are some common habits (other than emotional eating) which can lead to weight regain.

  • Eating while watching television or doing any other distracting activity
  • Automatically ordering dessert after dinner
  • Buying a high-calorie drink on the way to work
  • Eating your kids’ leftovers
  • Buttering your bread or vegetables
  • Eating in response to a craving, aroma or the time of day – even if you’re not hugry

Ask yourself if you’re consistently performing new habits that are
important for weight maintenance, including:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Keeping a food record
  • Planning meals ahead of time
  • Eating according to your surgeon’s recommendations
  • Stress management activities

3. “But I Hate Exercise!”

A pair of classy sports shoesRegular exercise is one of the keys to successful weight maintenance, whether you’ve had surgery or not. When clients tell me they “hate” exercise, I ask, “Did you know that there are thousands of activities that qualify as exercise? How many have you tried?” You can imagine the answers.

Here are some tips for transforming your mindset when it comes to exercise:

  • Eliminate the word “exercise” from your vocabulary and replace it with “movement.” (Do you hate to move? Of course not!)
  • Find a form of movement that you love – or at least like to have fun with.
  • Find a buddy or join a group that you can “move” with.
  • Combine your activity with something else you enjoy.
    Examples include reading, television, movies, music and talking on the phone.
  • Reward yourself for moving (not with food, of course!).
  • Chart your progress and look back with pride.

4. It’s Not Magic

Sometimes, when it comes to maintaining weight-loss, we engage in a form of denial known as “magical thinking.” In other words, we may fool ourselves into believing that we just need to lose the weight and then we can “get off this diet” – or something to that effect.

Retrain Your BrainRemember the old saying that goes like this – “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” It’s true. To keep off the weight you went through so much to lose, you need to change your lifestyle forever.

When you see an ad for some delicious, gooey, heart-attack-inducing food, remind yourself of this: “I can eat like that, or I can look and feel like this, but I can’t have both.”

5. Social Scenarios

So much of our unhealthy eating or overeating is done in a social setting, and we tend to unconsciously match other people’s eating behaviors. So, focus on the people and the conversation, put your fork down between bites and ask yourself these questions:

  • “Am I still hungry?”
  • “Am I eating this food because I want to or because someone else does?”
  • “How will eating this food serve both my health and weight goals?”
  • “Can I have a bite and enjoy it, or is it a trigger food I can’t stop eating once I start?”

Doreen Lerner headshotAbout the Author:
Doreen Lerner, Ph.D. is a wellness coach who is maintaining her own 100+ pound weight-loss. You can get your free copy of her report, “The Top 5 Mind Hacks You Need to Make to Stop Regaining the Weight You Lost” when you subscribe to her free email newsletter at