What to Expect After Bariatric Surgery

Life after bariatric surgery will be dramatically different than before your procedure, but that is a good thing. While the bariatric surgery itself is obviously the key component of the whole process, it’s how you handle yourself after the surgery that will determine your long term weight loss surgery success. If you neglect to do everything you are supposed to, you will not be able to see the full benefits of your bariatric surgery.

Diet after Bariatric Surgery

After your bariatric surgery procedure you can expect to have a much different diet. This is due to your stomach capacity being greatly reduced, depending on which procedure you opted for. The reduction in the size of your stomach means you physically can’t take in as much food anymore, which means you are prone to becoming full much quicker and can also experience nausea or side effects including “dumping syndrome”.

Immediately after your surgery you will be limited to a mostly liquid diet for the first few days. For the next two to four weeks after this you will be transitioned to a pureed/soft foods diet. This diet does not allow any solid pieces but it is ok to eat foods that can be blended. This can include:

  • beans
  • fish
  • egg whites
  • yogurt
  • cottage cheese

For the next few weeks you can move on to a mix of soft and solid foods. You want to ease in to eating solid foods, as they will be harder on your digestive system and it will take some time to see what your body can tolerate. Finally after about 2 months, you will be able to return to a normal solid food diet, but still at a much smaller scale than you ate pre-surgery.

The key to your diet is changing not only the quantity of food you eat but the quality. You want to focus your diet on healthy, low-fat foods that are low in sugar and that are high in protein. You want to avoid snacking throughout the day and make sure you eat consistent smaller meals.

Exercise after Bariatric Surgery

Exercise is a crucial component to your bariatric surgery success. It is crucial to start an exercise routine as soon after surgery as you can, but first ensure that you have the approval of your doctor to begin. Your doctor will want to ensure that you have healed properly from your procedure and that your body will be able to handle the physical exertion now that you aren’t taking in nearly as much food or calories. Exercise will help the body alter its metabolism and get it use to burning calories naturally and in a healthy manner. It has been proven in studies that patients who exercise after their surgery lose more weight and keep it off longer than those who don’t exercise at all.

Your doctor can help you find a physical therapist who can help you design an initial exercise plan that fits your needs and abilities. Below are some exercise ideas to help get you started:

  • Walking – Walking can be a great first step in to exercising as it something that you know how to do and can provide the cardio benefit that your body needs to help get in to shape.
  • Yoga – Yoga can be a great option for many people as it is a cardio exercise without the impact that running or walking can have on your joints.
  • Swimming – Similar to yoga, this is a low impact exercise that uses the resistance of the water to really give you a better than you’d expect workout.
  • Cycling – Cycling is a good option for people who may have sore feet or weak ankles who can’t jog or walk for long distance.

For more ideas on how you can start your exercise routine, check out our article on Exercising Ideas for People who Don’t Exercise.

Cosmetic Surgery after Bariatric Surgery

With time, after bariatric surgery many patients lose so much weight that they have a significant amount of excess skin that no amount of exercise will remove. This excess skin can appear on the arms, legs, buttocks or torso. Opting for cosmetic surgery is a choice that many people make as this is the only way to remove this excess skin. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, there are a variety of surgeries that are typical for post bariatric surgery patients who experience dramatic weight loss. These surgeries include:

  • Face & Neck Lift – After dramatic weight loss, the face skin can become flaccid, resulting in the cheek pads dropping, and jowls forming, resulting in the loss of a defined jaw line. Additionally, the neck can become loose and sagging.
  • Arm Lift – Upper arm excess skin occurs on a drastic weight loss patient and is when skin crosses the arm pit and involves loose skin that extends onto the chest region
  • Breast Lift – A breast lift will raise and firm sagging, flat breasts.
  • Panniculectomy – A panniculectomy is performed to remove the hanging pannus, or apron of skin, from the lower abdomen below the belly button.
  • Lower Body Lift – In one procedure, the sagging skin of the abdomen, outer thighs, buttocks, hips, and waist is corrected.

Mental and Emotional Support after Bariatric Surgery

Due to the drastic change in both your appearance and your lifestyle after bariatric surgery, it is highly recommended that you seek counseling either from a professional or through a support group of people who have gone through a similar experience and are also coping with the drastic body changes that you are experiencing.