11 Tips to Avoid Weight Regain After Bariatric Surgery

Cutting vegetables

Courtney SutterfieldWeight loss after bariatric surgery does not always follow a straight path. Sometimes, the number on the scale goes up after weeks of following the bariatric eating plan, which can be disheartening. There’s no need to panic, but weight gain after bariatric surgery should be an indicator to make adjustments to your eating and exercise habits. After all, weight loss surgery is not a quick-fix diet – it’s a tool for a changed lifestyle.

“It’s important to remember that just because you’ve had bariatric surgery, that life does not stop,” says Courtney, dietician at the Bariatric & Metabolic Institute at Arkansas Heart Hospital. “It’s important to have other ways of dealing with that other than turning back to food.”

Continue reading for tips to avoid weight regain after gastric bypass surgery or gastric sleeve surgery.

Be honest with yourself. If you are regaining weight, ask yourself if you have been following all the guidelines established by your physician, dietician and care team. The sooner you commit to getting back on track, the sooner you will see results! If moderation didn’t work for you before surgery, it is not going to work for you after surgery. If you need support, request a “back on track” appointment with the Bariatric & Metabolic Institute team.

Be aware of carbs. Excessive carbohydrate intake through processed foods or too many complex carbohydrates will slow initial weight loss and lead to weight regain. “Keep your food simple,” Courtney says. “Protein and non-starchy vegetables are the best sources of fuel for us humans. Once we’re adults, our need for carbs is drastically reduced. Even exercising for an hour a day doesn’t require a drastic increase in carb intake.” Once you’re in the lifetime eating stage, your diet should be comprised of real, whole foods. Avoid processed foods, including certain protein shakes and bars.

Remember what worked after surgery. Get out your manual and start again. Processed foods and junk weren’t your friends before surgery, and they aren’t your friends now. “If you’re a year out from surgery and seeing weight regain, get back to the basics in BMI’s education guide,” Courtney says. “Utilize the recipes. Don’t eat quick, fast and easy.”

Try this protein-packed grilled pork tenderloin and firecracker slaw recipe.

Don’t skip breakfast. You don’t have to eat eggs, but breakfast does need to consist of a quality protein. “A protein is anything that walks, swims or flies – beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, cheese or eggs. These are the best sources of proteins for us humans,” Courtney says. “Don’t get fooled by food that says it’s high in protein such as protein chips, cookies or drinks.”

Plan and prep your meals. If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. Planning ahead for meals is your best weapon against impulse eating. “The long-term rewards of meal planning and prepping far outweigh any little bit of extra time you have to spend in the kitchen to get your meals ready for the week,” Courtney says. “It really does make life so much easier when you prep.”

If you absolutely cannot prepare a meal at home, try these fast-food eating tips.

Keep a food journal. If you bite it, you write it. We tend to underestimate what and how much we eat; this helps identify possible pitfalls.

Exercise is a must. Immediately following surgery, you will lose weight regardless. But then it will slow and if you haven’t established a good exercise routine it will not be any easier later in the game. “Being active is important,” Courtney says.” Do different types of exercise. Cardio is good for fat burning, but strength and resistance training are equally important since they minimize muscle loss after surgery.”

Try these exercises for bariatric patients and beginners.

Avoid grazing and unhealthy portion sizes. Just because a food is labeled “healthy” doesn’t mean it is for you if you are eating it throughout the day or eating large volumes.

Avoid night eating. It is easy to consume several hundred calories while watching late night TV. Burning off those calories the next day is no fun, so instead of getting a snack, get some sleep.

Hold yourself accountable. At the end of the day, the only person responsible for your success or failure is you. “The BMI team is here for you, and we want you to succeed but you have to do your part,” Courtney says. “If you start gaining weight back, don’t just think ‘my surgery quit working for me.’”

Reach out to the BMI team. The BMI team is here to help you identify the underlying causes of stress eating, why you turn to food or self-sabotage. “We know that this is long-term, lifelong commitment to this eating,” Courtney said. “That’s why we have great team members and bariatric physicians in place that provide support and resources such as recipes.”


Bariatric surgery is not a diet or magic pill – it’s a lifestyle. The Bariatric & Metabolic Institute offers physical and mental support for life when managing obstacles such as weight regain after surgery. Our team is there with guidance and resources to help through clinic appointments, a private support group and weekly live discussions on a variety of topics.

Find a bariatric surgeon at BMI, learn if you qualify for bariatric surgery and see our weight loss surgery financing options.