Belly fat can be a pain. Not only can excess fat on your lower abdominal region look unsightly, but it’s also a sign of diminished health.
Stomach fat has been linked to many health issues, namely among them high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
As if you needed more of a reason to find a way to erase your belly fat for good.
Introducing bariatric surgery.
Many of the people booking bariatric surgery consultations lament the fact they have so much belly fat.
Whether a person is interested in a more attractive body, improved health, or both, belly fat is always mentioned at some point in the conversation.
Bariatric surgery aims to help you eradicate belly fat and fatty tissue all over your body in a rapid, yet safe manner.
But what happens if the belly fat returns after bariatric surgery?
To answer this question, it helps to understand why you form belly fat, to begin with.
A gathering of abdominal fat is linked to a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, and chronic stress.
As a bariatric surgery patient, you are encouraged to move your body more, eat the right types and quantities of foods, and keep stress to a minimum.
Even if you follow your bariatric surgeon’s guidelines for healthier living to a T, belly fat can still return.
Here is all you need to know about the possible return of belly fat after bariatric surgery, and how to get back on track when you find yourself plagued by the dreaded abdominal bulge.
Gastric Surgery Affects Your Stomach
Today’s most popular bariatric techniques work to restrict food consumption in some way.
The remaining stomach tissue is converted into a sleeve the size of a banana. When you eat, you are forced to eat less because your stomach is now smaller.
As you are forced to consume fewer calories, weight loss becomes accelerated. You can compound your weight loss by exercising regularly and choosing healthier foods in proper portions.
That’s a general breakdown of how gastric surgery works to help you achieve your ideal weight.
Gastric bypass goes further by rerouting your digestive system. This helps to further restrict calories from digestion, allowing for significant weight loss.
Gastric surgeries can help patients lose up to 80% or more of their excess weight, depending on the surgery and the lifestyle choices the patient decides to follow into the future.
The Stomach Can Expand After Weight Loss Surgery
The stomach is considered a muscular hollow organ. When it lies empty, the stomach is around the size of a fist.
When you eat food, your stomach has the ability to expand to accommodate the volume of food consumed.
The stomach is an amazing organ that can stretch to hold as much as a whole quart of food. It shrinks back down to a capacity of two-point-five ounces when empty.
After bariatric surgery, overeating can cause your rearranged stomach to stretch beyond what is therapeutically recommended.
That means you may find yourself consistently overeating without realizing it, hindering, or halting your weight loss efforts entirely.
Can You Prevent the Stomach from Growing After Gastric Surgery?
Some stomach growth is normal following a bariatric procedure. The problem arises when the greater stomach volume causes weight loss stall or weight regain.
The most common cause of stomach growth is the consumption of carbonated drinks and the act of eating and drinking at the same time.
Bonus: You Won’t Feel as Hungry After Gastric Sleeve Surgery
Surgeries like the gastric sleeve and gastric bypass do not only rely on restriction. There is another element at play that further aids in weight loss, and it involves your hormones.
The portion of the stomach removed during bariatric surgery is the part that secretes ghrelin, which is the hormone responsible for making you feel hungry.
With eighty percent of your stomach removed, your body stops producing as much ghrelin. Thus, you feel less hungry.
What if Your Stomach Still Stretches After Gastric Surgery?
It is important as a bariatric patient to eat until you are satisfied, not until you are entirely full.
While you will feel less hungry after gastric surgery, you may still find yourself overeating, particularly if you stuff yourself.
your stomach can only hold so much volume. Your stomach is one-tenth of the size it was before. Still, some stretching can occur.
While permanent stretching doesn’t happen often, you can stretch your stomach too much if you consistently overeat over time.
Factors That Contribute to Weight Regain
If you ever find your belly fat returning after bariatric surgery, it could be due to one of the following reasons.
This is where you overeat or consume liquids and solid foods at the same time, which can enlarge your stomach and the stomach outlet.
After running tests, the bariatric surgeon may determine that weight regain is caused by altered fat metabolism, such as can occur during menopause. This can result in easier fat storage and limited fat burning.
The return of belly fat could be due to a change in your mental health, such as a bout of depression.
Consistently eating beyond what you need to feel comfortable and not exercising are sure ways to experience weight regain following a bariatric procedure.
Some weight regain is normal after bariatric surgery. That is because the gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, and gastric banding can only do so much.
There may be environmental factors surgery can’t control, such as living with people who don’t follow healthy habits.
Sometimes it’s easier to go along with those around you than be the outlier.
Eating healthy and exercising is difficult when your friends and family would rather lounge and watch Netflix and snack all day.
However, there are a number of tips you can apply to your life to make succeeding with bariatric surgery easier. This same advice is useful for keeping weight regain from growing out of control during those times belly fat dares to return.
How to Prevent Your Stomach from Expanding After Bariatric Surgery
Reframe Your Relationship with Food
Instead of seeing food as a treat, see it for what it is: Fuel for your body.
Eat to live, don’t live to eat.
By rethinking your relationship with everyday foods, you will begin to appreciate what each food does for your body.
You’ll begin choosing foods based on the energy, vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber they provide, instead of how amazing they will taste.
Form New Eating Habits
Success with bariatric surgery requires that you become accustomed to eating small, nutritious meals at several intervals throughout the day.
Instead of consuming three big meals, you might have a small meal, then a snack, rinse, and repeat.
This keeps your metabolism burning high, maximizing fat loss.
Track Your Food and Macronutrients
In addition to consuming small, frequent meals, you are encouraged to fill your plate with lots of protein-rich foods like lean meats, poultry, and fish.
These foods help you build and maintain muscle, which is important for fat burning.
Consuming at least ninety grams of protein is key, as is consuming lots of fiber.
Use a phone app or handwritten food journal to track the calories you consume and macronutrients like protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Tracking what you eat is also an effective way to keep yourself accountable and gauge your progress with time.
Avoid No-No Foods
When snacking, reach for something healthy. Sure, you’ll receive a few moments of pleasure after eating that sugar-laden treat, but you might regret it later.
Healthy snacks can be pieces of fruit or vegetables, or they can be creative snacks like smoothies.
Avoid sugar, junk food, fried foods, candy, and pastries as best you can.
Avoid Stress and Manage Your Mental Health
Becoming overstressed is a quick way to undo your hard work.
Stress eating is a common phenomenon.
While consuming a meal heavy in fat and salt may make you feel better in the short term, the long-term consequences aren’t worth it.
Find ways to manage the stress that don’t involve eating, such as yoga, playing instruments, exercising, and rock climbing, just to give some examples.
Find activities and hobbies that you enjoy and that will take your mind off whatever might be bothering you.
If your mental health takes a dip, don’t be ashamed to find help from a professional who specializes in mental healthcare.
Separate Eating and Drinking
Eating food and consuming beverages simultaneously is a recipe for stomach upset.
To keep your stomach from stretching, and your tummy from hurting, eat and drink at least thirty minutes apart.
Take Nutritional Supplements
Your bariatric surgeon may suggest you take a multivitamin and nutritional supplements like zinc.
Never Give Up
So what if a little belly fat forms after losing a significant amount of weight? A tad amount of excess weight regain is normal, and not the end of the world.
A majority of bariatric patients go on to lose their excess weight and keep it off long-term.
Even if a little weight comes back, they know they can dial back the regain to keep their body slim and their health on point.
It helps when you have the advice of your bariatric surgeon to rely on when obstacles arise and your resolve wanes.
Follow this advice and your bariatric surgeon’s recommendations to keep weight regain at bay as a bariatric surgery patient.
Most people end up losing their excess weight and keeping it off with bariatric surgery. You can be one of them by scheduling a consultation with board-certified bariatric specialist Dr. Babak Moeinolmolki of Healthy Life Bariatrics.