Weight Loss Surgery: Long-Term Care

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Weight loss surgery (also referred to as bariatric surgery) is the first step to improving and in some cases reversing weight-related health conditions that may worsen your overall health over time. But the surgery itself is not a permanent fix.

There are a series of changes that need to happen both before and after your procedure to help ensure a successful outcome. The long-term care that happens after surgery is one of the most crucial parts. Here’s what you need to know about it, including the necessary lifestyle adjustments you’ll need to make.

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Benefits of Surgery

When combined with a full, comprehensive treatment plan that includes a series of lifestyle adjustments weight loss surgery can help improve your health by treating obesity. This includes the many diseases obesity can cause, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep apnea, stroke, and more.

Weight loss surgery also causes hormonal changes in the body. This can alter how your body burns calories and expends energy in addition to feeling fuller more quickly.

Research published in The Ochsner Journal found that in subjects who received gastric band surgery 80% of them had 70% excessive body weight loss after two years, while 70% of subjects who received gastric bypass had 50% excessive body weight loss after three to four years when combined with lifestyle changes and a healthy diet.

Possible Future Surgeries

Although most weight loss surgeries are done laparoscopically, meaning the surgery itself is relatively noninvasive as well as the recovery time after surgery much quicker, there are still some complications that may pop up when dealing with other health issues down the road.

Managing conditions such as gallstones, kidney stones, and peptic ulcers can all be more difficult due to the new structure of the stomach from weight loss surgery.

In addition, things like pancreatic cancer, gastric cancer, and esophageal cancer present challenges when it comes to using the stomach as a channel for treatment as well as working around the new reconstruction of the gastrointestinal tract.

Weight loss surgery itself is typically not performed twice, even if a patient gains the weight back. That’s because doing the same procedure again increases the risk of complications like bleeding, infection, or causing a leak in the gastrointestinal tract.

This makes it even more important for a patient to follow their long-term treatment plan post-surgery so that they don’t reverse the benefits that their weight loss surgery helped kick-start.

Lifestyle Adjustments

How successful weight loss surgery is for an individual largely depends on how well they adhere to a modified lifestyle. This consists of two major parts—exercise and diet.


Your suggested daily calories will be between 400 and 900 calories per day for the first year after surgery. Over time, this will increase (though will never exceed 1,000 calories a day) and it will be important to make sure you’re eating high-nutrient foods in small portions that can fuel your body with its new, smaller stomach.

You’ll work closely with a nutritionist to find the right diet plan for you, as you may find certain foods now cause you discomfort initially, although this too will gradually change over time.


Exercise is the second part of this equation, as you’ll aim to get 30 to 45 minutes of activity once you’ve recovered from surgery about three to five times a week. This will help maintain weight loss as well as build muscle, which will help burn more calories over time.


Aside from watching your diet and moving more, your healthcare team will prescribe you some medications to take after surgery to help prevent ulcers and gallstones. These medications may only be needed for a few months or indefinitely, and will be taken crushed up rather than in capsule form so that your stomach can absorb them properly.

You’ll also have a list of vitamins to take, including calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and possibly others to make sure your body is getting the proper nutrition it needs now that your diet is so restricted.

A Word From Verywell

The long-term care after weight loss surgery can be overwhelming, which is why it’s so important to make sure you’re looking after not only your physical health, but your mental health, too. Join a support group or forum that you can discuss hurdles and victories with, as well as help keep each other accountable.

Weight loss surgery is extremely effective when paired with long-term care, as 85% of patients lose and maintain 50% of the initial excess weight loss. With the right treatment plan and support, the lifestyle adjustments you make after weight loss surgery will soon feel like your new norm rather than a checklist you need to complete each day.

Plus, the added bonus of longevity and more physical energy to do the things you enjoy and spend time with those you love will inspire you to stay on track for the long haul.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. Benefits of bariatric surgery.

  2. Richardson WS, Plaisance AM, Periou L, Buquoi J, Tillery D. Long-term management of patients after weight loss surgery. Ochsner J. 2009;9(3):154-9.

  3. Kini S, Kannan U. Effect of bariatric surgery on future general surgical procedures. J Minim Access Surg. 2011;7(2):126-31. doi:10.4103/0972-9941.78342

  4. Lim RB, Blackburn GL, Jones DB. Benchmarking best practices in weight loss surgeryCurr Probl Surg. 2010;47(2):79-174. doi:10.1067/j.cpsurg.2009.11.003

  5. University of California San Francisco Health. Life after bariatric surgery.

  6. Madura JA, Dibaise JK. Quick fix or long-term cure? Pros and cons of bariatric surgery. F1000 Med Rep. 2012;4:19. doi:10.3410/M4-19

By Colleen Travers
Colleen Travers writes about health, fitness, travel, parenting, and women’s lifestyle for various publications and brands.