How to Maintain Lifestyle Changes After Weight Loss Surgery
Bariatric surgery is an important step toward a healthier lifestyle, but what happens after you have the procedure?
Bariatric surgery is an important milestone in many patients’ weight loss journey, but it’s by no means the end of that journey. Rather, it should be considered the first step toward a healthier, more fulfilling life. With thorough aftercare and adherence to lifestyle changes, patients can see powerful, long-lasting results.
If you’ve recently undergone bariatric surgery, or if you’re still exploring the benefits of the procedure, here’s what you need to know about maintaining a healthy weight post-surgery.
Following your surgery, you’ll receive several prescriptions for medication that will help you heal and progress. Some you’ll take for the rest of your life; others you’ll only take for the period immediately after your surgery. While your doctor can provide more details on medications and dosages, it’s likely that you’ll have to crush or open most of these medications, as your body will not be able to absorb whole pills as effectively post-surgery.
That being said, many patients who undergo bariatric surgery have previously dealt with conditions like high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and coronary heart disease. Weight loss surgery may help relieve some of these conditions, reducing the total number of medications a patient needs to take each day.
In the weeks after surgery, most patients will need to be on an all-liquid diet as their body heals and adjusts to the changes. During this time, it’s especially important that patients consume enough fluids; most doctors will recommend about 64oz per day to avoid dehydration and constipation.
Over time, you can progress to soft and pureed foods, and eventually solid foods will be safe to consume. However, many patients will be required to take daily supplements for life, usually including a multivitamin, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, and calcium.
Patients will have to monitor their caloric and nutritional intake as well. Daily calories should fall between 400 and 900 calories for the first 12 months after surgery, and diet should be low in fat and sugar but high in protein. It’s recommended that patients avoid certain foods such as rice, bread, raw vegetables, and fresh fruit, as they can be difficult to digest.
Over time, patients should aim to exercise for 30 to 45 minutes a day, with aerobic activity 3 to 5 days a week. At first, however, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to tolerate more than five minutes of walking in the morning and five minutes in the late afternoon or evening. As this becomes easier, patients should increase these intervals by five minutes at a time until they can comfortably walk for 15 minutes twice a day.
After that, it should be safe to integrate more variety into your exercise routine, including light jogging, swimming, or cycling. In time, patients can add resistance training and other new activities into their routine.
Maintaining these lifestyle changes after bariatric surgery can be challenging, and many patients find that it’s especially difficult to do alone. That’s why we recommend relying on the help of others during this time, including your doctor. Schedule regular check-ins and follow-up appointments; it can be highly motivating to know that someone will be monitoring your progress.
In addition, many patients benefit from joining a support group. Sharing your experiences and discussing issues and difficulties with others who are on the same journey can be very helpful for staying on track. Your doctor can provide recommendations for support groups to join.
Though the journey to a healthier lifestyle may not be easy, it’s nonetheless important — and having the courage to take the first step can make all the difference.