Bariatric surgery can be a life-changing procedure and can alleviate many medical problems commonly associated with obesity. But the onus is on you to stay on track according to your surgeon’s instructions.
The exact changes to your life depend on the procedure you underwent and what your life was like before the surgery.
With that said, bariatric surgery does not automatically bypass the laws of physics. This means that the old formula ‘calorie in = calorie out’ applies to you just as much as it does to any other person. Think of bariatric surgery as a new lease on life – it will help you lose weight dramatically. However, you’ll still make the conscious decisions to eat healthily, exercise regularly, and visiting your healthcare provider.
There is the very real threat of weight gain (if you don’t stick to a diet plan), and you could be back to square one.
Brace for a New You
You will have to make major lifestyle changes and, in some cases, a few follow-up procedures. Most people would even do it all over again – if needed. On average, patients tend to lose anywhere from 70 to 100 pounds after gastric bypass surgery and feel more active. Since they’re no longer obese, patients have a lower risk of comorbidities associated with weight gain, such as sleep apnea, diabetes, and insulin resistance.
Bariatric surgery often involves shrinking the size of the stomach by sealing small portions and creating a thumb-sized pouch over it. Other changes include bypassing a small section of the intestines to reduce the amount of nutrients and calories absorbed from food.
But the risks are very real.
You’ll Have to Really Chew Your Food
The stomach is smaller and has a reduced capacity of absorbing nutrients. To compensate, you’ll have to eat several smaller meals during the day while also supplementing with additional minerals and vitamins.
This increases your risk of overeating and overloading the pouch, which can lead to dumping. It’s when the food overflows straight into the small intestine, where it can cause nausea and chills.
Your doctor will put you on a protein-rich diet immediately after the surgery to help repair the cells and speed up the healing process. During this process, you’ll have to chew your food more thoroughly to help the stomach absorb it.
You will be on a very strict regimen of eating meals six times a day. This is problematic because you will have no desire to eat – but you must eat to help with recovery following the surgery.
Caution: Never eat too much in one sitting, do not gulp your food, and completely avoid sugary foods.
Social Changes in Lifestyle
Many patients have reported significant changes in their social circle after bariatric surgery because of they no longer enjoy eating out as much.
Bariatric surgery includes making small chemical changes that can lead to a loss in appetite (this is by design). As a result, patients have a diminished supply of the hormone called ghrelin. This lowers their appetite, so they won’t crave food all the time.
It can be hard to enjoy eating at restaurants with friends and family when you’re not in the mood for food.
Keep in mind that this chemical imbalance may stabilize in patients within six to nine months after the surgery. So your food cravings could swing back and you’ll have to stick to a diet plan.
Positive Behavioral Changes
Your friends and family will notice an improved change in your demeanor after bariatric surgery. Your improved energy levels, happier temperament, and increased mobility make you more emotionally available. It’s easier to spend quality time with your loved ones when you’re not worried about yourself.
Your family, children, and friends may also change their eating habits. They will choose meals that are healthier not just for you, but for the entire family. There will be a renewed focus on eating lean proteins, fresh produce, and smaller portions.
The healthier lifestyle changes you make will likely inspire them – and that’s a win-win situation for everyone.
You should set expectations of your social circle and get them to support you on your journey.
Patients May Opt For Post-Bariatric Surgeries
This is the less fun part of the process. Many patients choose to undergo more surgeries – not because they need to, but because they want to. Things like excess skin after weight loss and body lifts are very common.
These aesthetic surgeries include a lower body lift for the tummy, buttocks, thighs, and back after the rapid weight loss. Some patients often undergo a breast lift a few months down the road, followed by even more surgeries for the face, neck, and arms.
It’s tempting to do all of these surgeries at once, but it’s incredibly unsafe for the body to do so. Recovery is a vital component of surgery, and if you undergo too many at once, it will complicate your recovery plan.
Your surgeon may also recommend plastic surgery for different areas of the body, including the face and upper arms.
You’ll Have to be on Mineral and Vitamin Supplementation
Since the stomach has a diminished ability to absorb vitamins and minerals, patients will need to eat over-the-counter minerals and vitamins for the rest of their life.
Patients will be instructed on what supplements they should eat, which may include calcium, vitamin D, iron, and vitamin B12. Not taking these vitamins could result in severe life-threatening health issues.
You’ll be instructed to take a protein-rich diet and slowly transition to soft foods like poached eggs during recovery.
Hit the Gym
Exercising is extremely important to maintain weight loss after the surgery. In fact, working out is known to help patients with their recovery.
With that said, patients should always check in with their doctor about resistance exercises they plan on doing. On average, patients should opt to do 30 minutes of low-to-moderate exercising per day. Exercising will play a major role in keeping the weight off.
Significant Improvements in Lifestyle
Bariatric surgery improves a person’s quality of life because they will become more mobile., It will help them regain their independence, improve breathing, increase stamina, and energy levels. This will also help the joints because they no longer have to support the excess weight.
Patients will be happier with their appearance, and as a result, feel more confident with higher self-esteem. Non-clinical depression will also subside following bariatric surgery.
No More Alcohol and Smoking – for Life
Surgeons will require their patients to avoid smoking before bariatric surgery. They will be instructed to avoid alcohol because it could lead to severe medical problems.
Patients must make the conscious decision to quit smoking and alcohol for the rest of their life. This can be a problem because quitting isn’t easy for patients. The surgeon may assist patients by helping them avoid smoking.
Surgeons will require patients to stay off all nicotine products because it can cause several problems. For starters, it hampers the body’s ability to heal after surgery and puts the patient at an increased risk for heart attack, blood clots, and pneumonia.
Alcohol must be avoided after bariatric surgery because of its serious consequences. The body easily absorbs more alcohol into the bloodstream and stays in the body for longer too. These factors lead to a higher risk of alcohol addiction in bariatric surgery patients.
Pregnancy after Bariatric Surgery
Bariatric surgery (that leads to successful weight loss) can help patients get pregnant. Patients who faced difficulty getting pregnant before will find it much easier after surgery. This applies to women who weren’t having their periods before surgery.
However, female patients should avoid pregnancy after weight loss surgery. It is recommended to achieve adequate nutrition and weight loss before getting pregnant.
Generic Food Guidelines for Patients
It is very important to stay hydrated and stay off of carbonated, caffeinated, and sugary drinks. Your surgeon will put you on high-quality proteins that you must consume right after your bariatric surgery. You must limit your intake of high-fat foods and sugary foods and follow very specific guidelines.
It is important, now more so than ever before, to pivot to a healthier eating lifestyle. This means eating more high-fiber foods, vegetables, and fruits. You will need to visit your surgeon for follow-up visits on foods that you can reintroduce into your diet.
To maintain your desired weight, you should incorporate certain behavioral and lifestyle changes. This includes drinking more water, eating nutritious meals, hitting the gym, and avoiding sugary foods. Consider discussing your lifestyle with friends and family so they can support you on your journey. Surround yourself with people who will help you maintain your lifestyle so you won’t slip back into your older habits.
Ready to achieve the best, happiest version of you? Bariatric surgery could help you get there. Contact Alabama Bariatrics to learn about your surgery options or schedule an appointment.