What to Expect in Post-Op Years

Life will change after weight loss surgery. Bariatric patients should be fully informed about all aspects of life after weight loss surgery, not only the potential benefits, but also the post-operative risks, expectations, needs, and necessary changes. Knowing what to expect will help prepare patients mentally and emotionally for the changes that accompany weight loss surgery and to better deal with post-operative life.

Bariatric Ssurgery
Support and motivation is important in helping individuals meet their weight loss goals after bariatric surgery.

Weight loss surgery is not a quick fix or an easy path to weight loss, but it is an effective treatment for morbid obesity. Weight loss surgery is, as the saying goes, the beginning of the rest of your life.

Significant weight loss can be achieved and maintained long-term if a patient follows the recommended bariatric surgery diet, exercise, and lifestyle guidelines set by the bariatric surgeon, nutritionist, therapist, and other bariatric support staff.

Steps to Weight Loss Success

  • Diet - Control food portions for calorie reduction
  • Diet - Eat healthy foods for good nutrition
  • Exercise - Engage in physical activities you enjoy for exercise
  • Support - Participate in nutritional counseling to learn healthier ways of eating
  • Support - Participate in bariatric exercise programs for motivation and support
  • Support - Participate in counseling to deal with the emotional and mental aspects of obesity and weight loss surgery
  • Support - Participate in bariatric support groups and weight loss surgery forums
  • Set Goals - Monitor success of weight loss

Diet and Nutrition After Weight Loss Surgery

Weight loss surgery will require permanent changes in a patient's diet, both in how much food is eaten and what food choices are made. Although specific post-surgery dietary guidelines will vary by procedure and bariatric surgeon, there are many aspects of a healthy diet that are appropriate for all bariatric patients. The food consumed by individuals on a bariatric surgery diet should be low in calories and high in nutrition, focusing on low-fat proteins and sides of healthy fruits and vegetables. Since food portions will be small, it is important that the food is nutritious and provides adequate nutrients to the body for good health. Nutritional supplements will be necessary, especially for malabsorptive bariatric procedures.

Exercise After Weight Loss Surgery

Bariatric patients will be expected to include exercise into their daily routines. Exercise provides many health benefits and helps to maximize weight loss. Exercise not only burns calories but it helps to preserve and protect muscle tissue during rapid weight loss. The recommended amount of exercise for bariatric patients is at least 30 minutes a day, 7 days a week of aerobic activity and 10 minutes of weight/resistance training 3 - 4 days per week. There are many activities that individuals can choose to do for exercise, such as walking, bike riding, and swimming, but the best activity is the one that is fun and enjoyable and keeps one motivated. A patient will be given specific exercise guidelines by his or her bariatric surgeon, but generally a patient will be asked to start walking as soon as possible after surgery, starting slowly and progressing to a full work-out schedule as recovery occurs.

Going Back to Work After Weight Loss Surgery

The amount of recovery time needed before a bariatric patient can return to work will vary based on the bariatric procedure performed, physical condition of the patient, and the type of work done by the patient. Patients who have an adjustable gastric band implanted are often able to return to work within one week, while laparoscopic gastric bypass patients may need at least 2 to 3 weeks and open gastric bypass patients will probably require about 6 weeks for sufficient recovery.

Birth Control and Pregnancy

Women are strongly advised to avoid getting pregnant for the first two years after weight loss surgery and should use the most effective forms of birth control if they are sexually active and of childbearing age. The first two years after surgery is when most weight loss occurs and to get pregnant during this time could put the baby in danger and dramatically reduce the amount of weight loss. Pregnancy places many demands on the body and the developing fetus can be harmed by the lack of nutrients and calories absorbed by the body. After the first two years, a patient should talk to her bariatric surgeon about the necessary nutritional guidelines and special concerns involved with post-bariatric pregnancy. If a woman has an adjustable gastric band, the band can easily be loosened to allow for a healthy pregnancy.

Weight Loss Support

Support after bariatric surgery is an important aspect that will help keep a patient on track with diet and lifestyle changes so that significant weight loss is achieved and maintained. Bariatric surgeons should provide nutritional counseling, exercise instruction, and psychological counseling as part of their bariatric program and it is important that patients make use of these resources. It is also helpful for patients to participate in weight loss surgery support groups and on-line forums for bariatric patients. Support and motivation is important in helping individuals meet their weight loss goals after bariatric surgery.

Adjustable Gastric Band Adjustments and Fills

One of the benefits of an adjustable gastric band is that it can be adjusted to control eating. The gastric band will be put in place unfilled. The first fill is usually scheduled for six weeks after surgery. It will be necessary to schedule follow-up visits at various intervals with your bariatric surgeon for band fills and health checks.

Long-Term Follow-Up Care

Follow-up tests to check for nutritional deficiencies will be needed periodically, at least yearly and more often as necessary, for a lifetime. The long-term effects of weight loss surgery, especially the procedures with intestinal rerouting, are still not completely known. Nutritional deficiencies can occur at any time over the years and will need to be monitored on a regular basis. Some of the tests performed will check for vitamin and mineral deficiencies, protein malnutrition, anemia, bone disease, liver function, and thyroid function.

Bariatric Plastic Surgery

Most individuals who undergo bariatric surgery lose a substantial amount of weight in a short amount of time. While weight loss is the goal of bariatric surgery, such massive weight loss can result in excess skin, loose muscles, and localized areas of unsightly fat tissue. Patients who have lost their excess weight may want to consider bariatric plastic surgery for a cosmetic procedure such as a tummy tuck to remove the excess skin flap and tighten muscles in the abdomen or liposuction to sculpt and reshape the body to improve appearance.