What Can You Expect After Bariatric Surgery?

Bariatric surgery is a commonly prescribed treatment for the disease of obesity. Not only can today’s advanced weight loss surgical techniques help you lose weight, but you can also look forward to health and aesthetic improvements. Surgeries such as gastric sleeve (laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy), and gastric bypass (Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery), are suitable treatments for a wide range of obesity-related ailments such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. As your body slims down, you’ll be able to buy more fashionable clothes and begin to feel more comfortable in your own skin.

Undergoing weight loss surgery introduces a change to your body and lifestyle. This is especially true in the initial months following your surgical procedure. The following article will help you visualize what you can expect after waking up in the recovery area. We’ll cover dietary and fitness changes, lifestyle alterations, how much weight you can lose, and how fast the excess fatty tissue melts away.

If you have ever wondered what to expect after bariatric surgery, this article is for you.

What Occurs During Weight Loss Surgery?

For the following changes to make sense, it helps to understand how bariatric surgery helps you lose weight. The most commonly prescribed procedures work through a mechanism known as a restriction. Surgeries like gastric sleeve surgery and gastric bypass surgery both begin by making your stomach smaller. Gastric bypass goes further by connecting your smaller stomach pouch to your small intestine. The diminished stomach capacity forces you to eat less. With RGBY (gastric bypass surgery), you eat less, and your body absorbs fewer nutrients and calories.

Not only do you eat much less with these surgeries, but you feel less hungry and feel fuller faster during meals. Many patients also report that they have fewer cravings following bariatric surgery. As you can imagine, the weight falls off fast once these changes have taken effect.

What is Recovery Like After Weight Loss Surgery?

When you wake up in the recovery area after having weight loss surgery, you will usually be sent home right away. Your surgeon may opt to keep you under observation for a couple of days to monitor your progress. Once you return home, you will be placed on 48 hours of bed rest. After the 48 hours have expired, you may feel like moving around. Refrain from engaging in any high-intensity workouts. Stick to light or low-impact exercises like walking or swimming.

Recovery from bariatric surgery takes some adjustment. The first thirty days following surgery are critical. During this time, you may feel different. Your breathing will become altered, moving your arms and legs becomes easier, and you can stand taller. If you experienced aches and pains before, the discomfort will become reduced or eliminated altogether. Equilibrium will also be restored if your balance was off before surgery.

While these changes are positive in nature, they can take getting used to. Be aware of the procedure you underwent, and your weight loss goals, and have faith that you will become accustomed to these changes in short order.

When Can You Return to Work?

Bariatric doctors recommend that you wait between one to four weeks before returning to your job. You may have a longer stay away from your job if your employment requires strenuous activity.

How Does Your Lifestyle Change After Weight Loss Surgery?

A woman is preparing a salad with vegetables and a bottle of water.

Weight loss surgery is not a magic wand. You do not walk out of surgery a thinner person. There is still much work to be done on your part. One of the ways you can benefit your results is by leading a healthier lifestyle.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Immediately following bariatric surgery, your surgeon will place you on a liquid diet for a couple of weeks. Soft foods will slowly be introduced followed by more solid foods as time goes on. The idea is to help you get used to your new smaller stomach. The new diet also gets you used to portion control. You will not feel deprived, as one of the benefits of weight loss surgery is that you end up feeling less hungry than before. You can get by with smaller meals, and you fill up faster than you did as well.

When you progress to solid foods, your surgeon will advise you to stick to high-protein selections. Most post-surgical dietary plans recommend that you eat between 60 and 100 grams of protein per day. Without this much protein, you may experience muscle loss and weakness.

Stay Hydrated

During the liquid phase of your diet, you will find yourself drinking up to 64 ounces of fluid each day. This is necessary to avoid problems such as nausea, kidney issues, fatigue, and constipation. Even after you move to solid foods, you’ll want to continue drinking up to 64 ounces of water each day. Drinking that much water keeps you satiated, burning fat, and your skin and muscles healthy.

Take Supplements

Bariatric surgery patients need to take care that they are getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals they need each day to remain healthy. Because you are eating much less than before, you may need to supplement with over-the-counter vitamins and minerals. Your surgeon may suggest that you take a multivitamin, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Calcium, and Iron.

Start an Exercise Program

With significant weight loss will come greater mobility and energy. This can make you want to exercise for a change to keep your weight loss progressing. It is important to start slow when it comes to any workout regimen. Begin with walking frequently, starting within a few hours following surgery. Walking even short distances several times per day can aid with healing. Once you feel stable on your feet, strive to walk for 30 minutes per day with moderate intensity. Even after you achieve your weight loss goal, exercising regularly can help you keep the weight off over the long term.

Medications May be Altered or Stopped

If you were taking medications for weight-related illnesses before surgery, you may find your doctor lowering your dosage or stopping your usage entirely. That is because bariatric surgery is considered a suitable treatment for over 60 weight-related ailments including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnea, and others. Some patients may require anti-acid medication for a short time following their surgical procedures.

No Smoking

Bariatric surgery is not only about losing weight. The primary aim of the surgery is to make you healthier. To that end, you should stop smoking if you hope to achieve the best and longest-lasting results. Your surgeon likely advised you to quit before the day of surgery. This is because tobacco products can interfere with your body’s ability to heal. You will also be at greater risk for a heart attack, blood clots, and pneumonia during your recovery.

Refrain From Drinking Alcohol

Alcohol can interfere with your health following bariatric surgery. For instance, alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream more quickly after a bariatric surgical procedure. If you do drink during or after recovery, you will have higher levels of alcohol in your system for a longer period of time. This can lead to an increased risk of alcoholism. Since alcohol affects you differently, you may be unprepared, which can lead to accidents involving harm to yourself and others, especially if you try to drive.

Read our article: Lifestyle Tips to Help You De-Stress Without Alcohol or Food

Wait to Get Pregnant

A pregnant woman holding a photo of her baby.

Female patients should avoid pregnancy for at least a year to 18 months following weight loss surgery. This may require a birth control plan so that you can reach your lowest possible weight before trying to conceive. One of the benefits of bariatric surgery is that you can have an easier time conceiving, even if you stopped having periods before undergoing bariatric surgery. Male patients can also have an easier time getting their partners pregnant because obesity tends to have a dampening effect on fertility in both sexes.

Follow Up with Your Bariatric Surgeon

Your time spent with your bariatric surgeon does not end when your procedure is complete. You will follow up with your bariatric specialist every few months during the first year. You will then visit your surgeon every year for the rest of your life. This should fill you with the hope that you do not have to traverse your weight loss journey all on your own. You have a support system you can take advantage of to troubleshoot issues you are having and to ensure you are losing weight and maintaining your weight loss permanently.

When Does Weight Loss Begin?

Obesity does not occur overnight. As such, you should not expect an immediate transformation after undergoing bariatric surgery. Most people experience a loss of 5 to 15 pounds in the first 30 days.

How Much Weight Can You Lose?

Patients lose between 30 to 50 percent of their excess weight in the first six months. The weight loss continues with many losing as much as 77 percent of their excess weight as early as 12 months after surgery.

Are the Results from Weight Loss Surgery Permanent?

Bariatric surgery can positively change your life, but it requires ongoing commitment on your part. You must maintain a regular diet, exercise, and lifestyle program to achieve sustained results.

If you happen to fall back into old habits, it is possible to revert back to your former weight. As long as you maintain a healthful routine and keep up with your follow-up appointments with your bariatric surgeon, you can become one of the millions of bariatric surgery patients who have managed to maintain significant weight loss for life.

What Other Ways Can Your Life Change as a Bariatric Surgery Patient?

You Could Very Well Live Longer

The disease of obesity puts you at a higher risk for premature death. That means that losing weight with bariatric surgery could extend your life. A study conducted by the Utah School of Medicine showed that bariatric surgery patients are 16% less likely to die of any cause over 40 years of follow-up compared to those who do not undergo surgery. The study also showed a 72% drop in the number of deaths by diabetes. Deaths by cancer and cardiovascular disease showed a decrease of 43% and 29% respectively.

You May Get Married or Divorced

Research from the University of Pittsburgh found that people who have bariatric surgery double their chances of getting married or getting divorced. Two Scandinavian studies found similar results.

Why would divorce occur after weight loss surgery? Rachel Goldman Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at NYU Grossman School of Medicine said, “People are changing their lifestyle.” She adds that those changes do not start or stop on the day of surgery. They begin when someone decides to have weight loss surgery and continue as a lifelong process.

Goldman gave an example. “Maybe a couple loved to go out and enjoy an extravagant meal before surgery, or they had ice cream and watched a movie every Friday. The habit changes that come with bariatric surgery can require one partner to focus less on those rituals.”

Don’t let the prospect of divorce keep you from the health benefits of bariatric surgery, however. Lead author of the Scandinavian Study, Wendy King, reported that 81% of couples were still married 5 years after the procedure.

Old Habits May Come Back to Haunt You

A person is holding a burger, fries and an orange.

Transforming old behaviors into new, healthy habits can be tough. Some patients find that breaking unhealthy habits causes anxiety and friction in their lives. Food commercials on TV could trigger a craving for junk food, for example. No matter how appealing the advertisements are, unhealthy foods like fried foods and soft drinks are forbidden on the post-bariatric surgery diet. After surgery, you need to train your brain to look at food as fuel for health and energy, not just focus on the way food tastes. Bad habits can be overcome if you work at them and keep your eye on the prize, which is looking and feeling your best for life.

Post-Bariatric Body Contouring Surgery

After you lose weight with bariatric surgery, you may find that you have excess skin. For cosmetic reasons and comfort, you may choose to undergo body contouring surgery. Today’s body contouring surgeries employ minimally invasive techniques to augment the abdomen, breasts, thighs, legs, and back. This is always an option if you want to enhance your appearance after the excess weight has fallen away.

Read our article: Bariatric Surgery and Body Contouring by One Doctor Saves Time and Money

Are You Ready to Improve Your Life, Health, and Appearance with Bariatric Surgery?

Now that you know what to expect, there is no reason to put off having bariatric surgery any longer. Having the right surgery could improve any weight-related ailments you currently suffer from. You may even live longer as well. To find out if bariatric surgery is right for you, schedule a bariatric surgery consultation with Doctor Babak Moeinolmolki. You can do so by calling Healthy Life Bariatrics in Los Angeles, California, at (310)881-8503

Dr. Babak Moeinolmolki
February 20, 2023
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