Bariatric surgery is not a quick fix. It’s an ongoing journey toward weight loss through lifestyle changes. After surgery, the differences in your body makes it physically easier to adjust your eating and lifestyle habits. Fortunately, you will not have to go through the process alone. A team of professionals will be there to support your efforts. Positive changes in your body, your weight, and your health will occur, but you will need to be an active participant throughout the recovery process and for the rest of your life.
The changes made to your gastrointestinal tract will require permanent changes in your eating habits that must be followed for successful weight loss in your new life after bariatric surgery. Post surgery dietary guidelines will vary by bariatric program. You may hear about post surgery guidelines from patients from other programs, and they may vary widely from what we teach. What is most important is that you follow your surgeon’s guidelines. The following are some of our recommendations for a healthy diet after bariatric surgery:
During the first few weeks after surgery you will be on a liquid diet. This allows you to get the nutrition you need in a safe, well-tolerated way – Remember, no matter which surgery you choose, this is major stomach-altering surgery. The last thing you want is to is to put food in there too soon an make the stomach angry.
When you start eating solid food, it is important to chew your food thoroughly and eat very slowly, waiting two to three minutes after swallowing before putting the next bite of food in your mouth. It is important to cut meat into small (toddler-sized) bites and chew it thoroughly.
Don’t drink fluids while eating. Fluids consumed with meals can cause acid reflux, vomiting, and the dumping syndrome, and can lead to feeling hungry sooner after a meal, tempting you to eat more than is necessary.
Don’t eat desserts and other sweets if they have more than 3 to 5 grams of sugar per serving size.
Avoid carbonated drinks, high-calorie nutritional supplements, high-calorie soups, milk shakes, foods high in fat, and foods that have no nutritional value.
Limit alcohol intake as it is high in calories, low in nutritional value, can be irritating to the stomach, and will be erratically absorbed.
Limit snacking between meals. Foods chosen should augment an already limited diet and generally be fresh crunchy fruits and vegetables.
Meal-size will be very small at first, but over time will increase. Keeping this under control by measuring is critical to long-term successful weight-loss.
In the end, patients are eating normal, solid, good, nutritious, and tasty food. Patients who consistently follow these simple guidelines will enjoy lasting weight-loss success. Patients who ignore them will gain weight back over time!
Your ability to resume pre-surgery levels of activity will vary according to your physical condition, the nature of the activity, and the type of weight loss surgery you had. Most patients return to work and are able to exercise within one to three weeks after their laparoscopic bariatric surgery. We encourage patients to get back to “normal” activities without restrictions as quickly as they are able. For patients who have had an open procedure, this may take up to six weeks to fully recover.
It is strongly advised that women of childbearing age use the most effective forms of birth control during the first 12 to 24 months after weight loss surgery. The added demands pregnancy places on your body and the potential for fetal developmental complications make close nutritional support and follow-up of critical importance. It is important to understand that after successful weight loss surgery, your pregnancies will actually be safer and your child’s health improved than if you hadn’t had the surgery and lost the weight.
Although the short-term effects of weight loss surgery are well understood, there are still questions to be answered about the long-term effects on nutrition and body systems. Nutritional deficiencies that occur over the course of many years will need to be studied, and can depend on your diet after bariatric surgery. Over time, you will need periodic checks for anemia (low red blood cell count) and Vitamin D, B12, folate and iron levels. Follow-up tests will be conducted at least yearly and more often as indicated. These tests and their follow-up are best done by your bariatric surgical team. As a general rule, patients who follow up lose more weight, keep it off more effectively, and stay healthier, longer, than those who don’t follow up.
Support groups are one of the many tools that successful bariatric programs use to produce the greatest level of success for their patients in their life after bariatric surgery. The widespread use of support groups has provided weight loss surgery patients an excellent opportunity to discuss their various personal and professional issues. Most learn, for example, that weight loss surgery will not immediately resolve existing emotional issues or heal the years of damage that morbid obesity might have inflicted on their emotional well-being. Our surgeons have support groups in place to assist you with short-term and long-term questions and needs, including the most effective exercise and diets after bariatric surgery.
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