Life After Bariatric Surgery

Success After Surgery

The basic rules are simple and easy to follow to be successful:

  • Immediately after weight loss surgery, your doctor will provide you with special dietary guidelines. You will need to follow these guidelines closely. Many bariatric surgeons begin patients with liquid diets, moving slowly to semi-solid foods and later more solid foods can be tolerated without risk to the surgical procedure performed. Allowing time for proper healing of your new stomach pouch is necessary and important. Most bariatric surgeons recommend a period of four weeks or more without solid foods after weight loss surgery.
  • After your recovery, your diet will consist of child-size portions. Protein in the form of lean meats (chicken, turkey, fish) and other low-fat sources should be eaten first. These should comprise at least half the volume of the meal eaten. Foods should be cooked without fat and seasoned to taste. Avoid sauces, gravies, butter, margarine, mayonnaise and junk foods.
  • Never eat between meals.
  • Drink 2-3 quarts or more of water each day. Water must be consumed slowly at first, due to the restrictive effect of the operation.
  • Exercise aerobically every day for at least 20 minutes (one-mile brisk walk, bike riding, stair climbing, etc.). Weight/resistance exercise can be added 3-4 days per week, as instructed by your doctor.

Learn more about diet

Back to Work

Your ability to resume pre-surgery levels of activity will vary according to your physical condition, the nature of the activity and the type of weight loss surgery you had. Band surgeries most often return to work within a week, and gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy patients return to full pre-surgery levels within 3-4 weeks. More extensive surgery or open incision gastric bypass may require approximately six weeks to return to full pre-surgery levels of activity.

Exercise Right After Weight Loss Surgery

Many patients are hesitant about exercising after surgery, but exercise is an essential component of success after surgery. Exercise actually begins on the afternoon of weight loss surgery - the patient must be out of bed and walking. The goal is to walk further on the next day, and progressively further every day after that, including the first few weeks at home. Patients are often released from medical restrictions and encouraged to begin exercising about two weeks after surgery, limited only by the level of wound discomfort. The type of exercise is dictated by the patient's overall condition. Some patients who have severe knee problems can't walk well, but may be able to swim or bicycle. Many patients begin with low stress forms of exercise and are encouraged to progress to more vigorous activity when they are able.

The Importance of Continued Exercise

When you have a weight loss surgery procedure, you lose weight in part because the amount of food energy (calories) you are able to eat is much less than your body needs to operate. It has to make up the difference by burning reserves or unused tissues. Your body will tend to burn any unused muscle before it begins to burn the fat it has saved up. If you do not exercise daily, your body will consume your unused muscle, and you will lose muscle mass and strength. Daily aerobic exercise for 20 minutes will communicate to your body that you want to use your muscles and force it to burn the fat instead.

Pregnancy After Weight Loss Surgery

It is strongly recommended that women wait at least one year after the surgery before a pregnancy. Approximately one year post-operatively, your body will be fairly stable (from a weight and nutrition standpoint) and you should be able to carry a normally nourished fetus. You should consult your surgeon as you plan for pregnancy.

Hair Loss

Many patients experience some hair loss or thinning after surgery. This usually occurs between two to six months after surgery. Consistent intake of protein at mealtime is the most important prevention method. Also recommended are a daily multi-vitamin with minerals. Your surgeon will monitor nutritional labs for early identification of any nutritional deficiencies. Most patients experience natural hair regrowth after the initial period of loss.

Problems With Previous Weightloss Procedures

Contact your original surgeon - he or she is most familiar with your medical history and can make recommendations based on knowledge of your surgical procedure and body.