Life After Weight Loss Surgery
September 5, 2017
After your weight loss procedure, there will be many changes you will encounter. Understanding and preparing for these changes is important to maintaining and enjoying a new, healthy life. A plan with a realistic vision of what will change and what will remain the same is a great foundation for success.
1. Dietary Changes. Whether you opted for gastric banding or a bypass, your body will need time to heal and adjust. You may still be adult-sized, but your digestive system will be much like a newborn’s. Liquids will be the easiest for your stomach and intestinal tract to handle at first, with slow additions of pureed or soft foods that your body will tolerate. At times, the initial restrictions may seem trying, but simply avoiding setbacks—overeating, eating too quickly or succumbing to spicy temptation—is a huge step toward progressing to more substantial foods.
2. Liquids. Drinking enough can be challenging. Your body needs water to heal as well as to carry on everyday functions, and that includes burning fat. Your goal will be at least 64 ounces of water a day—that’s at least eight drinking glasses full. However, you won’t be able to bolt it or easily make up for dehydration. A smaller, more sensitive stomach requires consuming beverages in sips and small, regular quantities. Choose glasses, cups or travel mugs that you like, and always have a fresh drink within reach.
3. Proteins Versus Carbohydrates. Protein-rich foods are key for building muscle and maintaining your metabolism. Typically, patients need to manage between 60 and 100 grams of protein daily while keeping carbohydrates to less than 50:
- Starchy carbs take up space, yield little nutritional value, make weight loss more difficult and can cause distressing gastric episodes for bypass and duodenal switch patients.
- In contrast, protein provides satiety, that sense of fullness and satisfaction. Your body can’t absorb more than 30 grams at a time, though, so you’ll want to incorporate healthy protein throughout the day.
This is where a nutritionist can really help by identifying a full range of suitable protein sources: from the more traditional meat, eggs, dairy and beans to specially balanced protein shakes, extracts and bars. With recent focus on healthy eating and protein-rich diets, lots of tasty options are readily available, affordable and enjoyable.
4. Supplements. Your body depends on certain vitamins and minerals to function properly. Reduced calorie intakes and malabsorption issues, however, can limit your ability to consume sufficient quantities of essential nutrients. Most patients will need to take a daily multivitamin as well as supplements containing calcium, vitamins D and B12, and iron.
5. Medications. Medical conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes may improve with weight loss, but that does not mean you can stop taking prescribed medications or go pill free:
- You may need to cut or crush large tablets or opt for liquid forms of medications to make them more easily ingested.
- If you had a gastric bypass or duodenal switch, you may have absorption issues and actually need increased doses.
- Your surgeon may tell you to avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids due to risks of poor healing, bleeding and ulcers.
- Enteric coated or slow-release medications can also be problematic if they don’t remain in your system long enough to be absorbed.
Every drug has unique properties for delivery and efficacy, and what worked well before surgery may need adjustments to work well after surgery. Always consult with your prescribing physician as your weight changes to ensure you are taking the appropriate dosage of medications.
6. Activity and Exercise. The ultimate goal is about 150 minutes—about 2.5 hours—of moderate exercise each week. That said, everything varies by individual and healing time:
- At first, most patients are limited to walking.
- You’ll want to avoid activities that strain your abdominal muscles like sit-ups, pull-ups or weight routines until your surgeon clears you for them.
- The primary concern is being able to safely tolerate the exercise. Amounts and intensities of activities range widely from person to person.
As you become more fit, you’ll be increasing durations and challenge levels so that your body continues to burn fat, build muscle, overcome plateaus and lose weight. Learn how to ease into a workout routine here.
7. Alcohol and Tobacco. Alcohol and tobacco are substances that you should avoid both before and after surgery:
- At the least, alcohol represents empty calories. At its worst, alcohol actually increases in potency after gastric sleeve, gastric bypass and duodenal switch surgeries. It’s more readily absorbed but less easily digested, so effects last a long time and can quickly lead to alcohol dependence and addiction.
- Tobacco harms every cell in your body, reducing blood flow while distributing toxins. Patients must cease smoking at least 6 weeks prior to surgery. Resuming smoking greatly increases the risks of blood clots, the major cause of death following surgery.
8. Pregnancy. Yes, you can have children if you’ve had weight loss surgery. Pregnancy just requires some additional planning, monitoring and supplementation:
If you want children, you’ll need to give your body 12 to 18 months first—time for your body to recover and your weight to stabilize.
- If you don’t want children, you’ll need to take proper precautions. Dramatic weight loss can affect the effectiveness of certain contraceptives, so be sure to talk to your doctor. Even if you were unable to conceive before, weight loss may make you fertile.
9. Check-Ups. Choosing weight loss surgery is choosing change. Your body will be changing rapidly, so it’s only reasonable to expect that everything associated with it will, too, including your mental and emotional frame of mind. That’s why check-ups are so important:
- The food, supplements, medications, exercise plans and expectations of your first weeks after surgery will rapidly shift in following months.
- Everyone has challenges, plateaus and setbacks, so you should look forward to check-ups and sessions as a safe space where you can share problems and find solutions that will keep you on track.
10. Support. Solid routine and access to a trusted, consistent support network are key factors in losing weight and maintaining weight loss. Let Acadiana Weight Loss be your safe space, your trusted support team. If you would like more information on what you can do to lose weight and keep it off for life, call us at 337-233-9900, or learn more about the weight loss options we offer. Let us be your first check-in.