10 Habits of Successful Bariatric Patients

Steph Wagner MS, RDN

August 4, 2015

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10 Habits of Successful Bariatric Patients


Habits my most successful bariatric patients focus on

I’ve had the privilege of working with weight-loss surgery patients since 2009 when I first passed my boards and became a dietitian.

During this time, I’ve witness which habits my most successful bariatric patients change in their life, and stick to long-term.

I share this with encouragement that you won’t get it all right, all the time. But when you focus on doing these things as much as you can, you will have success in your journey!

Here is a list of what habits to focus on to get the most out of their surgery.


1. They make changes before they have surgery. 

Without a doubt my most successful patients DON’T put off their changes until surgery makes them change. They start the second they walk out the door of their first visit to clean out the house, quit the soda and sweet tea, and cook more at home instead of eating out. They know these things will be tough, so they jump on it right away. Learn more about an effective Pre-Surgery diet plan

2. They have a strong support system.

In all my visits I ask my patients “who is your biggest cheerleader going through this journey?” When they say “myself” I don’t disagree, but I strongly encourage them to think of who they could reach out to for cheerleading and accountability. We weren’t meant to do this alone. Whether it’s a friend, neighbor, family member or someone at support group I am a firm believe that having a great support system can make all the difference.  When your family is not on board, make sure you have someone outside of the family cheering you on.

3. They get to support groups.

Seriously. Not just because the doctor said “you have to go to at least one” but instead they make it a priority to take the time to get to a group. It’s like “church” for your “post-op soul” (just go with it). You walk away feeling refreshed, encouraged, motivated and (see above) like you aren’t doing this alone. If getting to an in person support group just isn’t feasible, consider finding a closed Facebook group by searching the month and year you had surgery on Facebook. These specific groups can be a better fit than the REALLY large groups. If not the same date, try the same area you’re in. Another great online resource for support – Obesity Help

4. They plan out their meals and have a grocery shopping “routine”

I’m the dietitian so I just have to go here. I hate the word “fail” but the old saying “failure to plan is planning to fail” is painfully true when it comes to any weight loss plan. You want to see serious results?? You have to make changes. Flying by the seat of your pants can only take you so far. Set a day to make your meal plan, set a day to get to the store. I plan my meals and write my list on Thursday. But I don’t like to do it all in one day or I get annoyed with it. So I do my actual shopping and putting the food away on Fridays. Then we’re set for the weekend and the following work week. It works for me. What will work for you? Prefer to use a pre-written meal plan? Browse the Food Coach Me meal plans here

5. They keep their post-op appointments.

Just like support groups, they also faithfully keep their post-op follow ups. Whether that’s with their surgeon, their dietitian, their exercise physiologist, successful patients never assume they’ve got it all figured out on their own. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I do this everyday. I meet patients in all situations and stages in the process. If I didn’t have something to tell everyone who came in my office, I wouldn’t love what I do…I’d be BORED with what I do. Get what I’m saying? Good providers are worth keeping in touch with.

6. They try new recipes and keep variety in their diet.

Oh yeah! Food fatigue and boredom makes this way of life turn to drudgery. It’s MORE than okay to still enjoy food and have fun with it! Instead of having an unhealthy relationship with food (thinking of it too often, eating it for comfort, etc) having a healthy relationship doesn’t mean hating it or eating because you have to…it means making a healthy meal with different flavors that are enjoyable! You’ll much more likely to enjoy your post-op lifestyle if you keep your foods exciting at meal times. (Hence all the recipes and meal plans on this site!) Find out WHAT you can eat after surgery for your best success as a FoodCoachMe Premier Access Member

7. They don’t dwell on what they can’t have (or feel sorry for themselves)

Attitude is everything. Seriously….it changes everything. When you are first making major changes in your food choices, it’s okay to go through normal and healthy “mourning” of saying goodbye to things. While I’m not giving permission to do a “farewell tour,” I’m instead I’m saying Yes, it’s okay to say “that’s going to be hard to say goodbye too…” as long as you follow it up with “but it’s worth it.” The better you feel, the less you will miss these things. Will starches and sweets always sound good? Sure! But enjoying a brownie for 5 minutes isn’t worth a lifetime of health and weight control.

8. They keep a consistent sleep schedule.

I urge patients not to underestimate how significant a good sleep schedule can impact weight loss. Sleeping little and/or going to bed at odd hours each night increases cortisol, or the stress hormone, in your body. This makes your body slow down weight-loss and increases appetite, usually for starchy foods. A well rested body is not under stress and can still with a healthy lifestyle because it’s being cared for! (Hint: great to way to increase sleep AND decrease cortisol? Exercise!)

9. They find alternative sources of enjoyment other than food.

What hobbies have you always enjoyed that you’ve gotten away from? Writing? Furniture restoration? Gardening? Scrapbooking? Or what about socially? What friends would you like to reconnect with or what trips, even small day or evening trips would you like to make time for? There are so many things to enjoy that have nothing to do with food. Sit down and brainstorm how you’d like to spend your time? Most people don’t say “I’d like to spend my time eating” because we all know it doesn’t last. Getting out of the house or working on a new product is long-lasting enjoyment. Take photos of your hike outside of town. Start a blog about your furniture projects. Rekindle your enjoyment for life!

10. They make “long-term” changes the focus of their journey.

Whether patients mean to or not, it’s too often I see patients make changes for a short amount of time. It could be influences from family or friends, or it could be old habits snuck in. I see patients at 3 months post-op in my office. When they report they have  “a little of this” or a “a little of that” I do admit I have to lay in on pretty thick that it’s FAR too early to let go of the changes they needed to make before and right after surgery. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Surgery is a wonderful tool, but don’t let the “honeymoon period” lie to you. Quality food is always the answer. Always!


You don’t have to do this alone!

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17 thoughts on “10 Habits of Successful Bariatric Patients”

  1. I have enjoyed your Pinterest site. November 17th will mark my one year anniversary my gastric bypass was done. I turned 50 and my health was terrible with many issues. I am no longer a diabetic on insulin and was taken off 4 medications! Praise the Lord!! I was a size 24W and now size 8-10. I have lost a total of 172 in 15 months.

  2. Congratulations!!! WOW! What an amazing journey and such an encouraging story to share! Thank you for following and sharing your success!

  3. I am 11 years out from my gastric bypass and have never been involved in a support group, although I have considered It many times. I have got caught up in not planning, shopping, and cooking lately because of a busy schedule. Also, late night study and day work has taken a toll only sleep time. Thank you for the reminders of where I need to put my focus.

  4. It’s a new day!!! It’s never too late for a fresh start. Even if the “plan” is for the next 2 days…it’s better than a plan for 0 days! Wishing you the best! :)

  5. I love to cook and find that preparing healthy new dishes and sharing with others gives me great joy!  Besides this way I try dishes I probably would not have if not for the sharing and helping others at the same time!   Most tell me they love being my “guinea pigs” and now get requests to bring some of these dishes to gatherings sometimes saying… “Surprise Me”!

  6. You are a woman after my own heart!!! Having fun with new recipes that are still in line with our health goals!! Love it.

  7. Hi my name is Arelis Correa, I’m 39 years old single mom. I had the gastric sleeve done in 2012. I lost 90 pounds and have kept it off. If I had a choice to do this again, I would have done it younger. My entire life has changed. I was wearing 3x in some clothing, now I can actually wear some Small and medium clothing. I encourage everyone to seek all the information needed and go for it.

  8. @Arelis Correa Congratulations! Thank you for sharing your story and your encouragement. I am so happy for you!

  9. Great points. Mindset, planning, support, and accountability are key for all that succeed at weight loss and keeping it off. This goes for everyone, regardless of how they lost the weight. Thanks for posting this well thought out insight.

  10. Thank you! I’m scheduled to have surgery in March or April 2020. I really needed to read this as it also reflects what I’ve been learning so far.



  11. I’m hoping to have surgery before Christmas 2020. I’ve gone through psyc eval. dietary eval. now I’m getting my endoscopy this fri.10/09/2020. All have approved me just haven’t received a date. I’ve been studying this subject for months. Enjoy reading all the comments. Sometimes I think I’m ready then other times I wonder if I am. I started falling back into old habits eg; drinking soda. Do you have any advice for me? This is such a long process it hard not to get discouraged.

  12. @Yvonne yes it is such a long process! Just stay the course. Reading, practicing, thinking over what changes you can make now for a smoother transition later. You are doing great! Soda is super hard. I would walk up and down the aisle at the grocery store to see what calorie free, caffeine free and non-carbonated options they have. Load up on herbal tea, water flavorings or evening fresh herbs or fruits to infuse your water with flavor. I sometimes use DoTerra essential oils in my water for flavor. You start to find what you like most and that helps when soda starts to call your name. After surgery things may taste different so the good news is soda may not sound good anyway (and bubbles usually hurt) but the flip side is you might be starting over to see what you like for water again!

  13. These are great and when I think about the people I know that do these things, they are successful. I like that you mentioned the importance of support groups. I’m a member of BariNation and the groups there have been so helpful. I think the variety is the key because I need different supports depending on where I am in my journey. I go to a group led by a professional (doctors, therapists, dietitians) and sometimes I go to a virtual bariatric meet up to hang out with other patients. Having support has been a huge help on the hard days and my biggest cheerleaders on my good days.

  14. Yes Sarah! I love that so much! Way to tap into all the ways to get support…we could never have too much support in any area of life and certainly in managing health needs.

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