Choosing to have weight loss surgery is a major decision. No matter the procedure — gastric bypass, gastric sleeve or gastric banding — it’s important that you’re prepared not only for the surgery itself, but also for the days, weeks and months that follow.
Once you’ve assessed the risks and benefits of bariatric surgery and have made a plan, it’s time to focus on succeeding with it. Weight loss surgery is not a quick fix. It’s just one powerful tool you can use to begin losing weight. Understanding what bariatric surgery can accomplish for you means committing to certain lifestyle changes as well. And those lifestyle changes are as essential to your meeting your weight loss goals as surgery alone.
Changing your lifestyle begins with recovering from surgery. Here are seven tips to help you make the transition from bariatric patient to weight loss success story.
1. Plan, study and prepare.
Before surgery, take advantage of all provided information. Know the guidelines you’ll need to follow both pre- and post-op. And don’t try to go it alone. Surround yourself with a support system, including family, friends and your medical team.
Once you’re home and cleared for light activity, start walking. Even if you don’t have the energy, or don’t feel like it, try to get in at least one good walk every day. We aren’t talking about power walking all over the neighborhood — you’ll need to take it easy in those first few days after surgery — but walking can help relieve your pain. Moreover, people who engage in light to moderate physical activity after weight loss surgery tend to recover more quickly. Physical activity improves circulation and bowel function, reduces the risk of blood clots and promotes wound healing.
3. Stick to your post-op diet.
The post-op diet isn’t merely a suggestion — it should be followed exactly. Cheating isn’t an option. Immediately after surgery, you’ll only be able to consume liquids, after which you can add in soft foods and eventually solids. Follow the scheduled diet to ensure your body has time to recover from the procedure and adapt to your new way of life. Also, follow your doctor’s orders regarding how much water to drink. Avoid drinking water with your meals. That includes drinking water right before or right after eating. Once you’re past the liquid stage, get your daily calories from nutrient-dense foods. Always eat your protein first and avoid sugary, fried and fatty foods. The post-op diet may vary some from one procedure to the next, so be sure to get written post-op diet guidelines from your doctor or dietitian.
4. Keep your head up.
The first few days and weeks after surgery can be an emotional struggle. You may be wondering if you made the right choice and if this is something if you can really do. You did and you can. Stay focused on the plan and find things to motivate you during your recovery, such as logging your exercise with a fitness tracker. Once you’ve been cleared for activity, don’t let yourself have too much downtime — stay active, whether that’s working out at the gym or doing household chores. Keeping your mind occupied can help beat back the depression some patients feel following surgery.
5. Find a support group.
Talking with strangers about your experiences may feel awkward and uncomfortable, but that’s OK. Group discussions can provide helpful information. They can answer questions you have about your struggles, not to mention prepare you for difficulties you may not have thought of, such as how to survive the holidays after weight loss surgery. Take advantage of these groups and attend as often as possible. You may also find bariatric support groups on social media, which allow you to connect with other weight loss surgery patients in your area or around the country. Don’t be afraid to make new connections and build new friendships. As understanding and encouraging as your family and friends can be, someone who has been on the same journey can provide the support and accountability you most need.
6. Don’t miss follow-up visits with your doctor.
Immediately following surgery, your doctor will carefully monitor your health and habits. As time goes on, these visits will become fewer and farther between. However, it’s important that you continue checking in with your doctor at least once a year. If you experience any complications or have any concerns, schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
7. Ask for help.
If you’re struggling — whether physically or emotionally — don’t hesitate to ask for help. Schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor, meet with the dietitian or make an appointment for one-on-one counseling with a therapist. There’s no shame in admitting you need help, but if you’re too proud to seek help when you need it, you may be getting in your own way and hindering your success.
If you’re considering weight loss surgery and are unsure which procedure to choose, schedule an appointment with McCarty Weight Loss Center today and ask how the McCarty Mini Sleeve® can help you reach your weight loss goals. This procedure is a quick, minimally invasive and performed on an outpatient basis. It leaves minimal scarring and requires no restrictions on your post-op activities.