Tips for Losing Weight After Weight-Loss Surgery

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After you have weight-loss surgery, you will likely be required to make some big changes to your lifestyle, which will include following your surgeon's instructions to the letter. Check out these tips for success after weight-loss surgery.

Know When to Call Your Surgeon

In the weeks after surgery, you should call your surgeon if:

Don't Drink Calories

Your caloric intake will be very limited after surgery, which should help you lose weight immediately after surgery. Don’t work against your surgery by taking in liquid calories, like soda, that provide no real nutrition and slow your weight loss. Make every calorie count by focusing on protein, fruits, and vegetables. In the first few days after surgery, you may be encouraged to drink smoothies and other protein-rich drinks, which is an exception to the liquid calories rule.

Avoid Sugar

Sugar provides zero nutrients but can make your blood sugar climb, cause hunger pangs, and, for patients of certain types of gastric bypass, may result in dumping syndrome. Avoid sugar and any foods that list sugar in the first three ingredients whenever possible.

Avoid Carbonated Drinks

The bubbly nature of carbonated drinks such as soda can cause gas pain and increase the pressure in your stomach, which can be harmful to staples and sutures, especially in the months immediately after surgery. Avoid soda—even diet sodas, which can increase sugar cravings—after surgery.

Watch Fluid Intake When Eating

Don’t drink fluids immediately before, during, or after your meal. It is essential that you reserve the small amount of space you have in your stomach for high-quality, nutrient-rich food. Drinking before and during your meal will fill your stomach with fluid, instead of food, and drinking immediately after your surgery can “wash” food out of your stomach, making you feel hungry sooner. Separate food and fluid by at least a half an hour whenever you can.

Keep Your Follow-Up Visits

After surgery, your progress will be closely monitored. Skipping appointments may mean that a nutritional deficiency, surgical complication or other issues may not be discovered in a timely manner. Also, appointments are a good motivator for staying on track with your goals.

Keep Taking Medications

Don’t stop taking any medications without your surgeon’s approval. Many diseases can improve with surgery and weight loss, but that doesn’t mean you should stop taking your medication. Talk to your physician prior to stopping any medications. By the same token, don't start medications without your surgeon's approval, especially in the weeks following surgery.

Don't Snack

Snacking is a habit that can slow your progress and hurt your long-term success. Stick to high-quality meals and avoid highly processed foods. If you are hungry, have a meal, but it's important to not snack between meals.

Eat Protein

Protein should be your primary focus when sitting down for a meal. Not only will it help you maintain your muscle mass while losing fat, but it will also help you feel full longer after your meals. If you are feeling full quickly and unable to finish your meals, start with your protein to make sure you are taking in enough.

Skip Alcohol

Alcohol is full of empty calories that provide no nutritional value. It can also contribute to stomach ulcers, which you are already at risk for because of your surgery. Weight-loss surgery also makes you more sensitive to alcohol than you were before, so a little goes a long way.

Chew Your Food

Chew…and then chew some more. Chewing your food thoroughly is essential to preventing nausea and vomiting during and after your meal. Large chunks of food can have trouble passing through the digestive tract after surgery, and if it gets stuck along the way, it can cause pain.

Avoid Pregnancy

Avoid pregnancy for the first 24 months after surgery. Your body will be in high weight-loss mode for at least a year after your surgery. During that time, supporting yourself and a baby would be unhealthy for you and could be disastrous for a developing fetus. If you are sexually active, use a reliable method of birth control, and consult your surgeon before attempting to become pregnant.

Find a Support Group

There are more than 140,000 people having weight-loss surgery each year, so it's not terribly hard to find people who have walked in your shoes. Not only do support groups offer emotional support, but they can also provide advice on the wide range of changes you are facing as you lose weight. Support groups are available in most areas that have a bariatric surgeon and are available as an online resource, too.

Don't Take OTC Drugs Without Approval

Over-the-counter drugs can pose risks after surgery that were not a concern prior to surgery. Pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen increase the likelihood that you will develop an ulcer. Remedies for constipation shouldn’t be taken without physician approval, as constipation can be a sign of complications or a need for a change in diet.

Listen to Your Body

Try to eat only when you're hungry. Learn to listen to your smaller stomach and only eat when your body is giving you true hunger cues.

Avoid Simple Carbs

Simple carbohydrates are highly processed foods such as white bread, pasta, sugar, and white rice. The rule of thumb is that generally speaking, simple carbs are white foods. Instead, seek out more wholesome alternatives such as brown rice that contain fiber and additional nutrients that may be stripped from white rice. Simple carbohydrates can also elevate blood glucose levels, triggering hunger pangs and cravings.

Exercise

From the moment you are able to exercise after surgery, try to fit it into your regular routine. Even if you can’t walk far or for very long, get started. Your recovery will be faster, and you will be encouraged by how quickly your stamina improves as the pounds shed. Regular walking immediately after surgery also helps prevent serious complications, such as pulmonary embolus and blood clots.

Eat Mindfully

Aim to really focus on your meal while you're eating and stop the moment you feel full. Giving food your full attention (say, by sitting at a table instead of in front of the TV) will help you learn the art of mindful eating and develop new healthy habits.

Stay Hydrated

Drink lots of water—away from meals. Staying hydrated will help you feel more energetic, and it will prevent you from mistaking hunger for thirst. Many adults confuse the two sensations, so if you are well-hydrated, you won’t have to wonder if you are truly hungry.

Say Goodbye to Caffeine

Caffeine is the most-used drug in the world, and it is a drug. Caffeine alters your mood, increases your heart rate and is a diuretic. If you drink caffeine, you will be working against your efforts to stay well-hydrated and increase your risk of a stomach ulcer.

Find Healthful Coping Skills

Finding healthy coping mechanisms are an important tool to have in your toolbox. Gentle exercise, reading, meditation, and quality time with friends are excellent ways to check in and make time for yourself when you're stressed or anxious.

Watch Out for Lactose Intolerance

Be aware that many weight-loss surgery patients develop lactose intolerance after surgery, even if they didn’t have it before. Go easy on the dairy products until you know how your body will tolerate lactose. Also consider low-fat dairy products to increase the protein you get without too much fat.

Plan for Portion Control When Eating Out

Restaurant portions are going to be massive in comparison to your needs after surgery. Plan on taking food home or ordering a child’s portion. If you aren’t sure you can resist joining the clean plate club, divide an acceptable portion away from the meal and have the server pack up the rest before temptation sets in.

Stop Using Straws

When drinking, don’t use a straw. Straws allow you to drink too quickly, so you may end up with an uncomfortably full stomach, and they also increase air in the stomach that can cause serious discomfort.

Focus on Whole Foods

Add minimally processed foods, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, and protein to your diet as much as possible. Avoid processed foods such as packaged and boxed items when a fresh alternative is available.

Take Supplements If Recommended

Many weight loss surgery patients become low in essential nutrients such as iron, potassium, and calcium. If your doctor recommends an over-the-counter or prescription supplement, be sure to follow instructions.

A Word From Verywell

It cannot be stated enough that it is essential to follow your surgeon's directions after surgery from immediately post-procedure through the long-term. Your future health depends on your lifestyle changes as much or more than on the alterations made by surgery. Write down your health goals and keep them front-and-center: Being mindful of your long-term lifestyle changes will help you make small steps to achieving them every day.

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Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Coen PM, Goodpaster BH. A role for exercise after bariatric surgery?. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2016;18(1):16-23. doi:10.1111/dom.12545

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