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When the Honeymoon after Weight Loss Surgery is Over

By Michelle May, M.D.

honeymoon-after-weight-loss-surgeryWhat is the honeymoon period after weight loss surgery? The honeymoon is a limited period of time when things seem pretty easy—much like that idealized time early in a marriage. During this period, you don’t feel hungry and may even need to remind yourself to eat—a new experience for most people. Since you don’t have much of an appetite, you lose interest in food. Obviously, weight loss is often dramatic during this honeymoon period; most people will lose the majority of the weight they are going to lose during this time.

The length of the honeymoon period depends on the type of procedure and myriad other factors. It is very common after gastric bypass and the gastric sleeve, and less so after gastric banding. It typically lasts six to twelve months, and sometimes up to eighteen or occasionally even 24 months after weight loss surgery.

The honeymoon period is an important time to establish a new relationship with food. While you may not be able to learn how to use hunger to guide your eating yet, you can work on putting other practices in place, like mindful eating, balanced nutrition, regular physical activity, and other forms of self-care besides food.

Because, like all honeymoons, this period eventually comes to an end and you will have to return to real life.

When the honeymoon after weight loss surgery is over, you’ll begin to understand why everyone keeps saying, “Weight loss surgery is only a tool.” This is a high risk time. While the procedures support your lifestyle changes in various ways, none of them prevent you from eating when you’re not hungry.

When your appetite comes back but you haven’t yet addressed the reasons you were eating before surgery, you may develop maladaptive eating habits: grazing on small amounts of food throughout the day; overeating “slider” foods in response to environmental and emotional triggers—soft simple processed carbohydrates of little nutritional value that slide right through the pouch without providing nutrition or satiation like ice cream, potato chips, pretzels, and crackers. Some individuals develop a “transfer addiction”—such as the use of alcohol, gambling, tobacco, drugs, sex, or shopping—to help them cope with their triggers. Individuals with a history of binge eating or other eating disorders, alcoholism, or drug addiction are at increased risk for transfer addictions after weight loss surgery, but no one is immune.

Clearly you need additional tools in your toolbox. The Mindful Eating Cycle*, which is the foundation for the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery Program, is an important tool because it guides you to recognize your hunger and fullness signals and address your other triggers for eating when you’re not hungry. With practice, you’ll learn to use all of your tools to build a strong foundation for optimal health.

*As with all of our programs, the Mindful Eating Cycle serves as the structure for learning new skills, problem solving, and deconstructing overeating episodes. Click here to read a peer-reviewed article, The Mindful Eating Cycle: Preventing and Resolving Maladaptive Eating after Bariatric Surgery

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About the author

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle , winner of seven publishing awards. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery. Michelle shares her compelling message and constructive keynotes with audiences around the country, offers workplace wellness programs, and has trained and licensed hundreds of health professionals to facilitate Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs worldwide. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah Radio, and quoted in Diabetic Living, Fitness, Health, Huffington Post, Parents, Self, USA Weekend, US News & World Report, WebMD and many others. Her personal success story was published in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. Michelle cherishes her relationships with her husband, Owen and grown children, Tyler and Elyse. She regularly enjoys practicing yoga and hiking near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She and Owen, a professional chef, share a passion for gourmet and healthful cooking, wine tasting, photography, and traveling.

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