The majority of bariatric surgery patients maintain weight loss equal or greater to 50 percent of their excess body weight over the long term, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS). While bariatric surgery success rates far outpace those of non-surgical therapies, there are still barriers to sustaining weight loss.
The good news? A number of strategies are useful in promoting patient adherence. Here’s a closer look at five ways you can help your bariatric surgery patients stay on track with their weight loss goals.
Bariatric surgery may be a patient’s best pathway to weight loss and enhanced overall health, but the truth is that there’s no “magic bullet” when it comes to shedding pounds. Patients who expect bariatric surgery to do all the work are setting themselves up for disappointment. By educating patients about all possible options and outcomes related to their post-bariatric surgery behaviors, dietitians can help them stay on track.
For example, the more patients are aware of the consequences of failing to drink enough water or take multivitamins, the less likely they are to deviate from best practices. Also imperative to facilitating ongoing adherence? Helping patients understand that while plateaus and stalls will happen along the way, they are both normal and surmountable.
While many patients look forward to their procedure dates, bariatric surgery represents the start of a journey, not its end. Working with patients to set detailed, measurable goals pertaining to everything from diet to exercise can provide the motivation they need to continue moving forward. Regularly assessing progress, meanwhile, offers additional encouragement.
Protein-heavy powdered shake mixes and glorified “nutrition” bars are commonly prescribed to weight loss patients. However, these not only fall short in the taste department, but often fail to provide the nourishment patients need.
Fortunately, there have been some promising new developments in meal replacement, such as Rational Foods’ Achieve food pouches. This patent-pending alternative to the usual bland and boring meal replacement go-to's provides a “real food” post-care option that tastes delicious, nourishes recovering patients, and is suitable for both short-term and long-term dietary needs. Packed with strawberries, carrots, pears and other organic ingredients, the ready-to-eat pouches provide 20 grams of protein in each serving while curbing patient cravings for junk food. A two-year shelf life, meanwhile, further supports lifelong healthy eating habits.
While healthcare practitioners typically emphasize the role of diet and exercise following bariatric surgery, the value of patient support systems cannot be overstated. From the healthcare team and family and friends to coworkers, therapists and fitness trainers, committed support across all aspects of life can yield advice, information, motivation, and validation. One way to ensure that patients have access to adequate support systems? Create and share a list of local expert resources and support groups.
A consistent bariatric exercise regime supports optimal weight loss outcomes. However, increasing awareness among bariatric patients that moderate exercise after bariatric surgery offers a host of other health benefits beyond weight loss offers additional incentives to get moving. Because many bariatric patients may initially be reluctant to go to the gym, it can also be helpful to remind them that there are many other ways to workout, starting with walking — an exercise which can be performed immediately after bariatric surgery.
Ultimately, bariatric surgery isn’t a solution, but rather a tool which requires proper understanding and use. These five tips can help dietitians and other members of the healthcare team best support patients in leveraging bariatric surgery into positive and lasting change.