Keys to Success After Weight Loss Surgery

Weight loss surgery is proven to aleviate or resolve many associated medical problems, including high blood pressure, acid reflux, diabetes, sleep apnea, asthma, and joint pain. However, to have long-term success and maintain a healthy weight, you need to be prepared to make several permanent lifestyle changes. 

The biggest change will be in your portion size. If you’ve been to a restaurant recently, you know that what is considered a normal serving size in the U.S. is often enough food for three people. If you’re used to sitting down to a heaping dish of pasta or a large steak and stuffed bake potato, you may be surprised at just how little food you add to your plate following weight loss surgery.

After either gastric bypass or gastric banding (Lap-Band) surgery, you will only be able to eat a few bites at each meal. You must take small bites, chew your food well, and eat slowly, taking two to three minutes between each bite. By slowing down, you will be more aware of what you are eating, and are more likely to feel satisfied sooner. Most importantly, you should stop eating when you become comfortably full or are no longer physically hungry. Overeating or eating too quickly will result in discomfort or vomiting. Similarly, you will no longer be able to gulp large volumes of liquid when thirsty, and you will have to learn to drink water continually throughout the day to prevent dehydration.

After a gastric bypass, the types of food you eat will also change. You may have difficulty eating tough meats, particularly beef, following surgery. And, you should avoid greasy or fried foods, because your body cannot process them the way it is used to and they can make you feel ill. You generally won’t have a problem with most vegetables, although you may want to avoid raw vegetables, such as broccoli, celery or carrots. Carbonated beverages, even diet sodas, are a big no-no. They can stretch your pouch, limiting weight loss, and defeating the purpose of the surgery. And, if you know anything about the gastric bypass procedure, you know that foods high in sugar cause the dumping syndrome, which causes light-headedness, sweats, a jittery feeling, nausea, and vomiting. Cake, candy, ice cream, pies, cookies, and other sweets and desserts all can cause dumping and are off limits. (Artificial sweeteners, however, are permitted.)

With the Lap-Band procedure, adherence to the prescribed eating habits is equally important, and follow-up visits with your surgeon for adjustments are essential to long-term success. If you do not go back for routine fills to maintain the appropriate amount of restriction for the Lap-Band, you can easily regain the weight that you lost after your initial procedure. When the Lap-Band is adjusted correctly, you should feel full or satisfied fairly quickly. If small meals no longer satisfy you, if you still have weight to lose but have plateaued, or if you find yourself snacking more often and eating foods you previously couldn’t eat, like white breads and fibrous vegetables, then you are probably overdue for an adjustment. Overall, if you follow the nutrition guidelines provided by your surgeon, when you choose your food and then chew it well, you should not feel hungry or deprived.

Exercise is an essential component of any weight loss program, and both the gastric bypass and Lap-Band procedures are no exception. You will be expected to begin a daily walking program upon discharge from the hospital. Patients who are unable to walk due to joint or back problems are encouraged to participate in alternative methods of exercise including water aerobics and stationary biking.

Like your new eating habits, maintaining an exercise regimen will be a long-term commitment. You don’t have to become a fitness junkie, but you do need to work regular exercise into your daily routine. Even walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes a day will help you shed pounds fast, and keep them off for good. Plus, you will lower your risk of heart disease by improving your cardiovascular fitness.

If you are considering weight loss surgery, you need to have a complete understanding and acceptance of the changes you will face. This is not the easy way out. Achieving weight loss goals requires dedication, and if you do not believe you can comply with your surgeon’s instructions, then weight-loss surgery may not be your best option.

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