When & Why You Should Follow Up with Your Bariatric Care Team

March 24, 2021

The first year following bariatric surgery is often filled with exciting experiences and victories. As the weight drops off, energy and self-confidence skyrocket. The limitations that once held people back are finally gone. Sound familiar?

Weight re-gain and fluctuation (of around 5-15 pounds) is natural. In fact, studies show that nearly 50 percent of patients experience this. However, when it’s not addressed in a timely fashion, old habits can, unfortunately, take over again.

Stopping weight re-gain in its tracks is a lot easier with the help of your bariatric surgeon and care team, says Dr. Adeshola Fakulujo, MD, FACS, of the Jefferson Health Bariatric Surgery Program in New Jersey.

Most patients adhere to their initial follow-up appointments up until the 1–2-year mark. After that, many stop coming in, even though a life-long provider-patient relationship is highly encouraged, Dr. Fakulujo says. “I think there’s a false sense of invincibility. Confidence and motivation are incredible to have, but so is the ability to admit you still need guidance.”

What many people don’t realize is the restrictions that result from the surgical procedures – be it gastric bypass or gastric sleeve – cause rapid weight loss for several months. It’s like a “grace period” to adjust to your new habits and prepare for a life-long change, Dr. Fakulujo says. Once this “autopilot” ends, consistent healthy behaviors – including dieting and exercise – are a must.

Nobody is perfect, and life is full of constant stressors – which we’ve seen this year, during the pandemic, more than ever. What’s important is that you hold yourself accountable. And the sooner you act, the better, says Dr. Fakulujo. “We don’t want you to feel ashamed. The last thing we want is for you to hide and become unhealthy. We’re here to help you through any difficulties, big or small.”

Keep in mind, obesity, like any other chronic disease, needs long-term management, and sometimes, what you’re doing simply needs to be re-visited. After a thorough assessment of your experiences, a decision will be made together on what the next best step is – whether it’s a refresher nutrition class, physical fitness advice, and/or medications.

When you follow up with us, our surgeons, dietitians, wellness coordinator, and support staff will provide you with any necessary medical interventions and helpful resources – such as our virtual support groups – continues Dr. Fakulujo. For some people, this may involve a referral to a behavioral health specialist, or therapist, and that’s okay.

Not to mention, follow-up is also important for continued monitoring of other aspects of your health, particularly vitamin levels. Bariatric patients are at an increased risk for vitamin deficiencies, and these can change over time.

The vast majority of patients are able to successfully take their excess weight back off on their own. For others, revisional surgery may be considered, especially if there are compounding complications (i.e., acid reflux returning after a gastric bypass).

When you feel lost, remember why you had surgery in the first place, recommends Dr. Fakulujo. “Chances are, you did this for your health – to be able to live your life again. Don’t let that fall to the wayside because you’re afraid to reach out. We’re always here to help.”

For more information on Bariatric Education & Support, click HERE.