After weight loss surgery, you will need to make several lifestyle adjustments in both the short-term and the long-term. Over the course of the next 12-18 months, you will see your weight reduce significantly. To maintain a healthy weight and minimize the risk of weight-related illnesses, you will need to follow through with the dietary changes prescribed by your surgeon for the rest of your life. Joining a support group to deal with the emotional ups and downs you may feel after surgery is also crucial to your long-term success. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a simple step, and the journey to a lifetime of better health and vitality starts with the choices you make as soon as your surgery is complete.
After Surgery: In the Hospital
While recovering from weight loss surgery in the hospital, you will be asked to stand up and walk around several times a day. Movement is key to making sure that your body adjusts quickly to the changes brought on by surgery and stimulate your circulation for faster healing. The sooner you are on your feet, the sooner you can look forward to being released from the hospital.
Depending on the type of procedure you’ve had, and how well you are recovering, you may be released from the hospital in one or two days, or you may have to wait longer. Your doctor will monitor your progress and let you know when you can expect to head home. When you are released, the hospital administration will expect someone to assist you, so make arrangements for a family member or friend to come pick you up.
After Surgery: Recuperating at Home
Once you are home, you may need some assistance with meal preparation, driving to and from appointments, and with changing your dressings. Be sure to enlist the help of a family member or friend over the next several weeks to manage these tasks until you are able to do them on your own. When you are recuperating at home, you will need to continue moving around just as you have in the hospital. Even walking laps around the living room or taking a slow stroll down to the end of the block and back will help your body heal and will build the habit of getting regular physical exercise. You should be able to drive again within two weeks of having the surgery, and generally you can return to your normal activities within six to eight weeks. Your recovery time may vary depending on the type of surgery you’ve had and how well your body is responding to it.
After Surgery: Changing Your Diet
Perhaps the biggest change you will notice after weight loss surgery is the dietary regimen that you need to adopt. Your doctor will advise you on the specific changes you will need to make following your procedure. It’s important that you follow these instructions to the letter.
Bariatric patients are limited to liquids and then soft foods in the first few weeks after surgery, explains Dr. David Provost, who has been performing weight loss surgery for 20 years. “Eventually, they can start to add solid foods into their diet, but they will be eating very small portions, and some foods will be off-limits.” Cookies, cakes, chips and sodas are no-nos for post-bariatric patients, says Dr. Provost, as are high-fat foods, like fried chicken or ice cream.
If you have gastric bypass surgery, you will probably need to avoid sweets and alcohol for the rest of your life, as your body will metabolize the sugar too quickly, causing what is known as “dumping syndrome.” And for any type of bariatric procedure, you will need to limit your portion sizes significantly to accommodate the reduced size of your stomach. If you have questions about your weight loss surgery diet, confer with your surgeon and enlist the help of others who have undergone the same procedure. Often, speaking with weight loss surgery “veterans” who have maintained a healthy weight for several years can help you gain practical insight into integrating your new diet into your post-bariatric surgery lifestyle.