Life After Bariatric Surgery
Bariatric surgery is not a magical cure. While surgery can be a powerful tool for helping you lose weight, it is not the only tool that you will need. You have to take care of your body and follow the rules in the months and years after surgery if you’re going to keep the weight off and regain your quality of life*.
But that’s why our team is here. We’re absolutely dedicated to helping you on your weight loss journey. Our support groups and talented team will be there for you one hundred percent both pre- and post-bariatric surgery.
Diet After Bariatric Surgery
After surgery, you’ll have to make important changes in your diet in order to keep your weight off*. Most of the patients who regain their weight do so because they slip into old dietary patterns like grazing and eating large or sugary meals.
We typically recommend that patients eat 5 very small meals per day as part of life after bariatric surgery. Initially these should only be ¼ cup of food each, but they should be high in protein to avoid nutritional deficiencies. You should aim for 60-90 grams of protein per day post-bariatric surgery, depending on your surgery and your individual needs.
Additionally, because of the changes to your stomach, you’ll need to change how you eat. Here are some dietary guidelines to help you with life after bariatric surgery:
- When you start eating solid food, eat very slowly. Chew each bite thoroughly, and wait two to three minutes between bites to give your stomach time to adjust.
- Don’t drink fluids while eating. Drinking fluids—even water—with your meals can cause dumping syndrome and vomiting, and can leave you feeling hungry sooner after a meal.
- Don’t eat desserts or other items with sugar if they have more than 3 to 5 grams per serving size.
- Don’t drink your calories! Avoid carbonated beverages, high-calorie nutritional supplements, milk shakes, and drinks that have no nutritional value.
- Avoid alcohol.
- Limit snacking between meals.
If you stick to these tips and prepare healthy recipes, you’ll maximize your chances to keep your weight off post-bariatric surgery and feel great*.
Going Back to Work After Bariatric Surgery
Everyone who gets bariatric surgery ends up taking time off of work to recuperate. Expect this, and build it in to your schedule. Your body undergoes massive changes in surgery, and you can’t rush your recovery.
How long should you wait before returning to work post-bariatric surgery? It varies from person to person. Some patients who have desk jobs returned after as little as 5 days. Others, whose jobs require more activity, have taken 3-4 weeks off to recover. Most patients take around 2 weeks post-bariatric surgery before they go back to work.
The important thing is to discuss this with your practitioner and to not go back before your body is ready.
Pregnancy After Bariatric Surgery
One of the benefits of weight loss surgery is that it can often help previously infertile women to become pregnant. High weight can often cause infertility, and weight loss can cure this problem. Life after bariatric surgery can often include having children.
However, it is important to wait a full two years after surgery before becoming pregnant. This may seem like a long time, but it is crucial to avoid severe risks of birth defects and medical issues for the child. Rapid weight loss during pregnancy can deprive a growing baby of vital nutrients. Conceiving before two years have passed can lead to problems such as neural tube defects, malnutrition, low birth weight, prolonged neonatal ICU stay, and even autism.
If you do become pregnant, it is vital to ensure that your surgeon or practitioner knows about your pregnancy. Labs should be monitored regularly to ensure that vitamin or mineral deficiencies do not occur. You will also need to take a prenatal vitamin along with 1500 mg of calcium citrate every day to prevent neurological or skeletal defects to the fetus. Other vitamins may also be required, although this varies from person to person.
Both men and women who were infertile prior to bariatric surgery may regain their fertility. Therefore, if you are not planning a pregnancy, you need to consider taking proper precautions.
The malabsortive element of gastric bypass surgury (note: not LAP-BAND® or gastric sleeve surgery) can interfere with absorption of oral birth control. Therefore, if you are taking oral birth control, talk to your OB/GYN about changing to a patch, shot, vaginal ring or IUD for birth control. You can read more about different kinds of birth control for bariatric patients here. Given the risks of pregnancy before 2 years have passed, you may even consider applying 2 forms of birth control at once.
Following Up After Weight Loss Surgery
After surgery it is vital to your success to follow up with our office. We have a wealth of resources to help you live a fulfilling life after bariatric surgery. Those who follow up regularly tend to do the best in losing weight, keeping it off, and regaining their quality of life.
Bariatric surgery is not a quick fix, and our office is there to guide you on your journey. After surgery you are at risk for complications such as nutritional deficiencies as well as weight regain. The best way to prevent these from occurring is to follow up with our office and get your required labs and check ups. Of course, we also love having patients check in so we can see your success and take part in your transformation!
Even after bariatric surgery, maintaining a healthy weight is a journey. We’ll help hold you accountable, but you need to be the key player. Schedule regular appointments with your surgeon, practitioner, dietitian, and social worker. Attend support groups. Weigh yourself regularly. Keep food and exercise logs.
Unhealthy weight can often have a brutal impact on your emotional well-being. Bariatric surgery can alleviate the physical problems, but we’ve found that patients thrive when they’re able to talk to other patients about common issues. Bariatric resources support groups will be held once a month post-bariatric surgery, in person and by phone (conference call) if you live far away.
These meetings are a way for you to share your successes and struggles about life after bariatric surgery with others. You can also receive good advice from other patients.
Post-bariatric surgery, we hold group education classes with our dietitian and exercise specialist to help you craft a healthy diet and exercise plan. We also host quarterly live events; for instance, a few months ago we held a live training where we went through a grocery store learning about the best foods to eat after surgery. These are a great opportunity to reconnect with staff and other patients and also to learn more.
We’re always available to work with you on an individual level if you’re struggling with life after bariatric surgery. We offer to include your family members in all of our consultations, so that they can become cheerleaders and help you on your weight loss journey. We also offer individual calls and more follow-up if you need it.
We are committed to working with you and giving you the support that you need as you approach life after bariatric surgery.
If you adopt a healthy diet, exercise, and stay in touch with the BMCC’s staff and your support group, there is an excellent chance that you can regain the quality of life you’ve dreamed of*.