In the weeks or months leading up to your surgery, New Jersey Bariatric Center® physicians and staff will help you prepare for your new life after surgery. Think of your time before surgery as practice for your new life. After surgery, your motivation, commitment and dedication will play an important role in your ability to meet your weight loss goals. Here are some of the key areas you’ll need to focus on immediately after surgery and beyond.
The modifications made to your gastrointestinal tract will require permanent changes in your eating habits that must be adhered to for successful weight loss. Immediately after surgery, you will be on a liquid diet, moving to soft foods and finally onto regular food. Our dietitians will provide you with a specific food plan so you will know when each of these stages start. Many patients find the early postoperative diet the easiest because they are not very hungry. When returning to regular food, keep in mind these general guidelines:
- Eat proteins first.
- Eat slowly. It takes time for your brain to realize your stomach is full. Eating fast can lead to overeating.
- When you start eating solid food, it is essential that you chew thoroughly.
- Don’t drink fluids while eating. They will make you feel full before you have consumed enough food.
- Omit desserts and other items with sugar listed as one of the first three ingredients.
- Avoid liquid calories. Omit carbonated drinks, high-calorie nutritional supplements, milk shakes, high-fat foods and foods with high fiber content.
- Avoid alcohol.
- Limit snacking between meals.
- Using measuring spoons and measuring cups with each meal to start to understand portion control.
Note: Postoperative dietary guidelines will vary by surgeon. You may hear of other patients who are given different guidelines following their weight loss surgery. You must adhere to strictly to your surgeon’s recommended guidelines.
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. Many New Jersey Bariatric Center® patients return to full pre-surgery levels of activity within one to two weeks of their procedure.
Regular exercise is necessary after surgery. Exercise increases your sense of well-being and energy, and minimizes muscle breakdown. Many patients are thrilled with how much easier it is to exercise after losing just a small amount of weight. This feeling leads to wanting to do more and further increase activity level, with some weight loss surgery patients becoming certified trainers, running marathons and climbing mountains!
However, we know it is not that easy for everyone. Start by walking more. In fact, walking daily until you can walk thirty minutes without stopping is a mandatory requirement after surgery. To assist patients who are unaccustomed to exercise, New Jersey Bariatric Center® has developed partnerships with various area health and wellness providers. Visit Bariatric Exercise for more details.
Patients should not get pregnant for 18 months after surgery. It is strongly advised that women of childbearing age use the most effective forms of birth control during the first 16 to 24 months after weight loss surgery. The added demands that pregnancy places on your body and the potential for fetal damage make this a most important requirement. Pregnancy is safe following the stabilization of weight after 18 months.
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. Over time, you will need periodic checks for anemia (low red blood cell count), vitamin B12, folate and iron levels. Follow-up tests will initially be conducted every three to six months or as needed, and then every one to two years.
Bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) is a commonly used method for estimating body composition and, in particular, body fat. Although BMI and excess weight loss post-operatively can be a good indicator of your success, body composition may give a better assessment of your health and metabolic state. Measuring body composition can help monitor your fat losses versus proportion of your lean mass after bariatric surgery. All postoperative patients will have their body composition measured before surgery to provide a baseline, and then at set points following surgery. During times when weight loss feels more challenging, knowing the measurements this scale provides can help keep you motivated and on track.
For the first 18 months after weight loss surgery, the weight often comes off very quickly. But at some point, you’ll see your weight loss plateau. It is during this time that patients, if not careful, can even experience some weight gain as old habits return or commitment to the program wanes. If this happens, our support team is available to get you back on the right track. Patients can attend a free support group, get support online from our active Facebook page or schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian who will create a detailed plan for weight maintenance. Visit our Support page for more information.
Your rate of weight loss will vary based on your commitment to making the necessary life-changing modifications to your diet and exercise routine. You’ve made a huge commitment to yourself and your loved ones by deciding to have surgery, and work toward a healthier future. Successful long-term weight loss depends on your dedication. New Jersey Bariatric Center® has seen thousands of patients commit to leading healthier lives, and you can do it too!