Recovering From Gastric Sleeve Surgery

If you’re interested in a gastric sleeve surgery, then we commend you for being willing to take the next step on your weight loss journey. 

If you’re suffering from obesity, then you’ve probably already tried diets, exercise regimens or even weight loss pills. Many of our patients experience “yo-yoing” weight loss—they diet and exercise like champions and lose 50 pounds or even more, only to watch helplessly as the scale creeps back up.

This is why gastric sleeve surgery (also referred to as a sleeve gastrectomy) is so powerful. Bariatric surgery lets you lose weight and keep it off, creating dramatic and lifelong change. Imagine how that would feel.

With that said, it’s natural to have fears and concerns about gastric sleeve surgery. What will surgery be like? How long will recovery take, and what will recovery look like? What foods will you be able to eat after surgery, and when will you be able to go back to work?

In this blog we’ll address each of those fears so that you can feel confident about moving forward with gastric sleeve surgery.

What Is Gastric Sleeve Surgery and How Will It Help Me Lose Weight?

A sleeve gastrectomy is a form of bariatric surgery that is typically performed either laparoscopically or robotically. Laparoscopic surgery involves making four to five small cuts in the abdomen and using a laparoscope—elongated instruments inserted through the incisions—to perform the gastric sleeve operation. Laparoscopic and robotic surgery approaches are actually less invasive and lead to a quicker recovery time than traditional surgery.

The surgery itself lasts between thirty and forty-five minutes. Dr. Long, our double-board-certified bariatric surgeon, will remove a large section of your stomach. The remaining section forms a narrow tube, or sleeve, that has less room for food. Unlike gastric bypass or duodenal switch surgery, there is no additional anatomical rearrangement with this surgery. 

 A sleeve gastrectomy helps you by:

  • Removing about three-quarters of your stomach, drastically reducing the amount of food that you can consume at one time. 
  • Making you feel full for long periods even after eating a small meal.
  • Reducing the ‘hunger hormone’ the stomach produces, further decreasing appetite and leading to more weight loss.
  • Reversing health complications, such as diabetes and high cholesterol, that come with obesity.

Stage 1: Before the Gastric Sleeve Surgery

The road to recovery begins before your gastric sleeve surgery. It’s important to understand that as the physical pain of the surgery fades, you may face challenges in terms of your mental and emotional health. For example, your relationship with food will change and you will not be able to eat like you used to. Some patients find this difficult to process, which is one reason that we offer support groups for bariatric surgery patients

It’s important to understand that weight-loss surgery is not a cure-all or a magical pill. After surgery, your health is in your hands—and while we will support you every step of the way, it’s important that your commitment to your health is lifelong. You will need to follow the recommended dietary approach with high integrity for the rest of your life, as well as exercise consistently in order to maintain the best results. While the gastric sleeve does not make decisions for you, it does make it feel very natural to make the right decisions if you have practiced forming habits out of these before surgery. That is why our program is so highly invested in preoperative education and behavioral transformation. Knowing that the road to a better life is a journey will set you up for your greatest chance of success.

Before surgery is really the best time to ask for the support that you think you’ll need from family and friends, find support groups of people who have undergone weight loss surgery as well, make arrangements at work, and set up your home to maximize your physical recovery.

Stage 2: Immediately After the Gastric Sleeve Surgery (1-4 Days)

Depending on your progress, you may be released later the day of surgery or perhaps the next day if your body needs more time to recover. If needed, you may spend this first night after surgery in the hospital where our team will closely monitor and support you. Once the anesthesia wears off, you’ll drink clear liquids only. You may experience moderate to severe pain in and around your abdomen. Some patients also experience side effects from the anesthesia, such as nausea and constipation. This is why our team will monitor your progress closely, in order to address any issues and make sure that you start the road to weight loss on the right foot.

After you’ve been cleared to go home, we will send detailed instructions with you covering a range of topics such as how to avoid complications, eating plans, and when to resume normal activities. 

A friend or family member will need to be present to take you home. It’s also a good idea for them to hear our guidelines too so that you don’t forget anything.

Stage 3: Short-Term Recovery From Gastric Sleeve Surgery (2-4 Weeks)

Once you’re home, you’ll be cleared to progress to protein shakes for 2 weeks and then to eat pureed foods for 2 weeks after that. Eating anything solid before your stomach is ready could lead to vomiting, sharp pains and nausea. We will give you supplements to take to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients that you would typically receive from solid food. 

During this time, you may feel drowsy and low-energy as your body adjusts to the dramatic drop in calorie intake. However, it’s important to maintain low-intensity activity during this time period by moving around about once per hour during the day and doing some low intensity activity for at least 20 minutes a day as your body to adapts to its new reality. Maintaining activity enhances your recover. But it is important to avoid any strenuous activity for now. While we do want you to take at least two weeks off of work, you should be able to resume work duties at this time as long as your job is not physically demanding. 

A support group can be very helpful during this time as many patients report that the worst emotional effects usually occur around this time. Just remember that you and your body have been through substantial transformation and mood changes are common. 

Stage 4: Long-Term Gastric Sleeve Surgery Recovery (1-3 Months)

Hitting the six week post-surgery milestone is exciting. By this time you should be working and returning to regular physical activity. 

One of the biggest psychological challenges that sleeve gastrectomy patients face afterward is in their relationships with people. While many friends, family members and co-workers will be happy you took this step to improve your life, that response may not be universal. For example, you might not be able to participate in some aspects of your social life the way you did before surgery. This may result in losing touch with certain friends. 

It’s also possible that some people in your life will feel jealous or threatened that you underwent weight loss surgery and become distant as a result. It’s important to prepare for different reactions because everyone you interact with will have one and it might not be the one you expect. Handling these reactions is another area where a support group can help.

Diet During This Stage of Recovery

By this point you should be able to eat soft-solid foods. Here are some important tips to follow:

  • Chew slowly and thoroughly before swallowing.
  • Eating and drinking should be done separately. This prevents your stomach from filling up. You should avoid any liquids during eating and for half an hour after eating. 
  • Avoid soft drinks, other carbonated beverages, junk food and snacks.
  • Take the supplements we recommend every day.

After six weeks you can resume regular food as long as it is chewed very well and consumed very slowly. At this point it’s very important to choose healthy foods, never eat when distracted, and to stop eating when you feel full, in order to maximize your weight loss. As part of our service to you, you’ll receive post-care checkups where we can discuss which dietary choices are best for your long-term health based on your body and preferences. 

We’ll also discuss a post-surgery exercise program and how you’re coping with the psychological effects of surgery. Your post-op education will cover these topics and more.

Ready to Start Your Path Toward A Slimmer, Healthier You Through Gastric Sleeve Surgery?

The Bariatric and Metabolic Center of Colorado is a certified ASMBS comprehensive MBSAQIP center in Colorado. Dr. Long is a double-board-certified bariatric surgeon who has performed over 1,000 bariatric surgeries. We offer some of the lowest cash-pay bariatric surgery prices in the state.

If you’re ready to lose weight and keep it off, schedule an appointment today.

Dr. Joshua Long headshot

This page was medically reviewed by Dr. Joshua Long, MD, MBA, FACS, FASMBS. Dr. Long is a double-board-certified bariatric surgeon and bariatric medical director for Parker Adventist Hospital.
Full Bio: Dr. Joshua Long, MD, MBA, FACS, FASMBS
Page Updated: January 6th, 2023

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