Success After Bariatric Surgery: What Can I Expect?

Obesity is a major health problem because of its serious health consequences, increased mortality risk, and associated social, psychological and economic costs. When dieting and other weight loss interventions don’t work, some individuals turn to bariatric surgery. 

The goal of bariatric surgery is to modify the stomach and intestines to treat obesity and related diseases. Some weight loss procedures limit how much you can eat; others work by reducing the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and a few of them do both. 

Bariatric surgery is considered by many to be the most effective treatment for obesity in terms of maintenance of long-term weight loss and improvement in obesity-related comorbid conditions. It’s the only available treatment for morbid obesity that consistently achieves and maintains substantial weight loss, decreases the incidence and severity of obesity-related comorbidities and improves overall quality of life and survival. 

The type of bariatric surgery that works best for a patient depends on several factors, including their general health, their health needs and their own preference. Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass (RYGB), typically referred to as simply gastric bypass, is one of the four safest and most common bariatric operations. With gastric bypass, about half of a patient’s weight loss occurs in the first six months but may continue for up to two years post-operation. Studies have found that many people who undergo RYGB keep off most of the weight for ten years or longer

Research on Long-Term Weight Loss 

By most estimates, 80 percent or more of patients do well after undergoing gastric bypass surgeryonly 15–35 percent do not reach their goal for weight loss. In most cases, weight loss surgery is considered successful when half of a patient’s excess weight is lost, and the loss is sustained up to five years.

Patients may lose 30 to 50 percent of their excess weight in the first six months and 77 percent of excess weight as early as 12 months after surgery. Clinical studies show that most patients lose weight rapidly following their gastric bypass surgery and continue to do so until 18 to 24 months after the procedure. 

Although some weight regain is somewhat common after bariatric surgery, patients — on average — maintain 50 percent of their excess weight loss five years after surgery. A study published in JAMA Surgery found that the majority of bariatric surgery patients kept off between 20-30 percent of their body weight seven years after their operation. Another study showed that patients could maintain a 50 to 60 percent loss of excess weight 10-14 years after surgery. In longer-term studies of both teens and adults who got bypass surgery, researchers found that people lose about one-third of their original body weight on average and keep most of it off.  

Losing large amounts of weight offers numerous health benefits, too. Compared to obese adults who don’t get the surgery, bariatric patients live longer, have a lower risk of cancer, have less high blood pressure and have lower rates of type 2 diabetes. Even overall healthcare costs are reduced by almost 30 percent within five years of bariatric surgery. 

Other medical problems that can be eliminated from bariatric surgery include:

  • Heart disease
  • Respiratory problems
  • Sleep apnea and obesity hypoventilation syndrome
  • Heartburn
  • Low back pain, degenerative disk and joint disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Stress urinary incontinence
  • Shortness of breath and asthma 

The positive effects aren’t only physical. Research has reported improvements in psychosocial status following bariatric surgery, including social relations and employment opportunities and improved quality of life. Patients who had bariatric surgery had a 32.7 percent decrease in depression at the time of surgery and a 16.5 percent decrease six to 12 months after surgery. 

Recommended Steps for Long-Term Success After Bariatric Surgery 

It’s no secret that the most successful bariatric surgery patients are those who also demonstrate active lifestyle changes regarding both improved eating patterns and physical activity. That’s why weight loss surgery is the most effective and sustainable treatment option for severe obesity — as long as the patient is motivated to make the lifestyle changes he or she needs.  

Undergoing gastric bypass surgery means a complete lifestyle change. It can improve your quality of life if you not only adopt a healthful diet and exercise regularly but also follow the recommendations and instructions from your medical team and take the necessary vitamins and supplements. Most gastric bypass patients will need to be on vitamin and mineral supplements — i.e., a multivitamin, Vitamin B12, Calcium, Vitamin D, Iron — for life. 

Other recommendations for post-gastric bypass success are:

  • Keep all of your scheduled follow-up appointments.
  • Surround yourself with a good support system.
  • Stop smoking, and don’t consume any type of nicotine.
  • Avoid alcohol, which is absorbed more quickly into the bloodstream after surgery. 

If you’ve successfully lost weight through gastric bypass surgery but are still bothered by excess skin, consider skin removal surgery or other types of body contouring procedures. Contact us today for a free virtual consultation!


Dr. Gabriela Rodriguez specializes in General and Laparoscopic Bariatric Surgery. She brings to VIDA Wellness and Beauty a wealth of experience in bariatrics. Dr. Rodriguez is a founding associate of the Mexican College of General Surgeons. A world-class bariatric surgeon with double certification in the US and Mexico.