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Steps to Avoid Weight Regain

By Cynthia K. Buffington, PhD

For years, the advice to the overweight and the obese is that we simply need to eat less and exercise more. While there is truth to this guidance, it fails to take into account that the human body continues to fight against weight loss.


In fact, weight loss results in biological changes in the body that cause rapid and efficient weight regain. These biological changes include: 1) a reduction in energy expenditure (calories the body burns), 2) an increase in appetite and reduced feelings of fullness, 3) a decrease in fat utilization and 4) an increased potential for fat accumulation. Bariatric surgery helps to counteract, in part, these biological contributors to weight regain. Certain lifestyle practices post-surgery may also be beneficial in helping to correct these biological contributors to weight regain. These practices include:

  1. Regular moderate physical activity exceeding 150 minutes per week. Such activities include walking, swimming, biking, dancing and other aerobic activities. Regular physical activity helps your body burn more fat, reduces the storage of fat in adipose (fat) storage depots, stimulates the amount of calories the body burns, and reduces appetite and food intake.
  2. Frequent interruption of sitting time. Sitting for prolonged periods results in metabolic changes that cause your body to burn less fat and to accumulate more fat in fat storage depots, leading to weight gain. Frequent interruptions to sitting by standing up, performing leg and arm activities, or taking short walks can help to prevent these fat-promoting metabolic conditions.
  3. Increased consumption of anti-obesity foods. Certain foods may have anti-obesity actions because they help to reduce appetite, cause your body to burn more fat, lower fat in the blood, and reduce fat accumulation. These foods include those that are:  a) high in quality protein (eggs, milk, fish, poultry, beef, pork and seafood), b) high in calcium (dairy, cooked broccoli, collard and turnip greens, sardines, shrimp, oysters, fortified dairy alternative and orange juice)  c) rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids (fatty fish, flax seed, walnuts, grass-fed animals, and supplements of fish oil, krill, certain algae ), d) high in fiber (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains).
  4. Reduced intake of fat-promoting foods. All calories are not created equal. Some foods cause biological changes in the body that increase the risk for fat accumulation and weight gain. Fat-promoting foods are those that are high in a) saturated fat (animal fat and products), b) trans fat (solid cooking oils, some margarines), c) monosodium glutamate (MSG) in processed meats , d) sugar, e) high fructose corn syrup (found in many beverages and processed, pre-packaged foods), and f) processed grains.
  5. Micronutrient Repletion. Repletion means sufficient amounts. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. Studies find that individuals who obtain sufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals, whether from their diet or supplements, are at lower risk of fat accumulation and weight gain.
  6. Adequate Sleep. Sleep loss causes hormonal and metabolic changes in your body that increase the desire for high calorie foods (cakes, potato chips, cookies, etc.), reduces the number of calories the body burns, and favors fat accumulation. Studies find that adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night; adolescents 9 to 10 hours; and children 11 to 12 hours.
  7. Release of Stress. Chronic stress causes changes within the body that increase appetite, food cravings, fat accumulation, and weight gain. Therefore, it is important that you learn ways to release or cope with stress to help prevent weight gain. Stress coping strategies may include the assistance of a mental health professional or any one of a variety of stress-releasing techniques, such as yoga, Tai chi, hot baths, deep breathing exercises, meditation, music, aromatherapy and more.