Tips for Losing Weight After Weight Loss Surgery

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You will be making many changes to your lifestyle after you have weight loss surgery, 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 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 rule.

Avoid Sugar

Sugar is the ultimate empty calorie. Sugar will make your blood sugar climb, cause hunger pangs, provide no nutrients and, for patients of certain types of gastric bypass, cause 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 your 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 junk foods. If you are hungry, have a meal, but don’t 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 you and a baby would be unhealthy for you and 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 people who have walked in your shoes are not hard to find. 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 plentiful on the Internet.

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

Don’t eat if you aren’t hungry. Just because the clock says it is time for a meal doesn’t mean you should eat one. Learn to listen to your smaller stomach and only eat when your body wants you to.

Avoid Simple Carbs

Simple carbohydrates are highly processed foods such as white bread, pasta, sugar, and white rice. The rule of thumb is this if it is white, it may be a simple carb. You are better off with more wholesome alternatives such as brown rice that contain fiber and nutrients that white rice does not. Simple carbohydrates can also elevate blood glucose levels, triggering hunger pangs and cravings.

Exercise

From the moment you are able to after surgery, exercise. Even if you can’t walk far or for very long, get started. Your results will be better, and you will be encouraged by how quickly your stamina improves as the pounds shed. Walking also helps prevent serious complications, such as pulmonary embolus and blood clots, if you start immediately after surgery.

Eat Mindfully

No more eating while watching television. Focus on what you are doing when you eat and stop the moment you feel full. Giving food your full attention will help you learn to say when and develop new healthier habits.

Stay Hydrated

Drink lots of water. This 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 ever wonder if you are truly hungry.

Surgery Won't Fix Your Life

Remember that surgery is a way to lose weight, but it is not a miracle fix for every problem in your life. Being thin won’t make your children clean their room without being asked, it won’t fix a bad marriage and it certainly won’t make your nosy relatives behave themselves. Be realistic in your expectations of life after surgery.

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

If you need bariatric surgery, the chances are high that you used food as a coping mechanism for stress. It is time to find a new way to cope, whether it is exercise, reading a book, talking to a friend on the phone or whatever works for you other than eating.

Be Careful With Milk

If you must drink calories, skim milk is an excellent option. Be aware, though, 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 remove the rest before temptation sets in.

Stop Using Straws

If you are going to drink, don’t use a straw. Straws not only allow you to drink too quickly, so you may end up with an uncomfortably full stomach, but they also allow air into 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 canned and boxed items, when a fresh alternative is available.

Take Supplements If Recommended

If your surgeon recommends a supplement, take the supplement. Many weight loss surgery patients become low in dietary essentials such as iron, potassium, and calcium. If your doctor recommends an over the counter or prescription supplement, take one.

A Word From Verywell

It cannot be said enough that it is essential to follow your surgeon's instructions after surgery. Not just for a week or two, not just during your recovery, but for the long term. Soda will not suddenly be good for your six months after surgery, nor will sugar-filled snacks and treats. Your results depend on your lifestyle changes as much or more than they depend on the alterations made by surgery. "Just this one time" often turns into all the time, so be mindful of your long term goals and the changes you will need to make to achieve and maintain those goals.

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Article Sources

  • Bariatric Surgery For Severe Obesity. Consumer Information Sheet. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. March 2008.

  • Jones, Nicolas V. Christou, MD, PhD; Didier Look, MD; and Lloyd D. MacLean, MD, PhD. " Weight Gain After Short- and Long-Limb Gastric Bypass in Patients Followed for Longer Than 10 Years." Annals of Surgery 2006 November; 244(5): 734–740.