Bariatric Surgery 10 Things To Do

Bariatric Surgery: 10 Things To Do & 10 Things Not To Do!

December 19, 2018

After bariatric surgery, it can be hard to prioritize what is most important for your weight loss surgery journey.  To make sure you are focused and don't forget, keep the list of these Bariatric Surgery: 10 Things To Do & 10 Things Not To Do tips.

Top 10 Things To Do After Surgery

Focus on protein:  After bariatric surgery, it is crucial to consume enough protein to maintain lean muscle mass (including your heart muscle), to reduce the chance of protein deficiency and to help in the healing process.
Water: Dehydration is the number one readmission problem after surgery. Signs or symptoms that you are not drinking enough water, or getting enough water via foods, are feelings of hunger, dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue, a lack of or dark urine, headaches, dry mouth, constipation, and nausea. Make sure to drink at least 64 ounces of water a day to maintain hydration.
Vitamins: Deficiencies can be common in patients after bariatric surgery. Daily vitamin supplementation is important for your health. Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Iron, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and calcium are a few. With deficiencies comes an increase in infection, anemia, confusion, weakness, bone disease and lowered immune system. All of these can be avoided when taking a bariatric vitamin as directed by a physician every day.
Exercise: Walking is the first exercise you will do after surgery right there in the hospital and can decrease muscle wasting (losing muscle by the body using it for energy) and avoid blood clots.  Typically 30 to 45 days you are restricted to walking. After this, you can resume regular workouts or check with a bariatric exercise specialist to discuss other forms of exercise.
Schedule your meals and snacks: Most everyone has a smartphone and can set alarms to remind us of important events. This can be used also for eating and drinking times. Sometimes after surgery, some patients are not hungry so they do not eat. This can be devastating to their weight loss, health, and mental status. Set an alarm for every 3 hours for eating and then drinking in between the 30 minutes before, during and after meals.  Hint: There are some apps out that are curtailed just for bariatric patients and have the capability to remind you when to eat and drink!
Keep a food log: If you are gaining weight or keep losing weight and want to know why this is the best solution…keep a log.  You can do this by writing it in a journal or using an app like the one discussed above. This can reveal a trend or unexpected calorie intake that you were not aware of.
Keep up with post-op appointments: Seeing your surgeon at your one-week post-operative appointment is important for both the patient and the surgeon. This is reassuring to both that all is well physically and that you are healing normally. Typically you will see a nurse practitioner at 3 months, 6 months and your 1 year anniversary.  These are helpful to the patient to discuss any diet questions or concerns with weight status.
Have labs drawn: During those follow-up visits, please have your blood drawn 2 weeks prior to your appointment date to ensure processing and gives time for the practitioner to review them before you come in.  Your labs will reflect any deficiencies needed to be addressed at your appointment.
Read and reread your handbook: If you are provided with a handbook before surgery, be sure to go back and reread it as you may not have read much about the after surgery advice as you were preparing for the upcoming surgery!  Most handbooks have a plethora of information and answer questions before you thought to ask!
Have open communication with your bariatric dietitian: If your aftercare plan includes dietitian visits, please utilize them!  They are excellent resources and the experts regarding the guidelines of the bariatric diet and foods to maximize your weight loss!  And they love talking about it!

10 Things NOT To Do After Surgery

Do not progress your diet too fast:  This is one of the biggest mistakes patients make and can have detrimental consequences.  The progressive diet allows the healing process to continue and to rest the GI tract after surgery.  The first year after surgery is when you will experience the most weight loss.  Introducing foods too fast can increase your chance to stall your weight loss or worse, ending up in the hospital with a leak!
Do not bend to old habits:  Choosing to eat unhealthy foods, drinking your calories (sugar-sweetened drinks) or overeating could all be part of your BBSL (before bariatric surgery life). Utilize the support system you have around you like a bariatric buddy, a support group, family, friends or whatever motivates you to continue this journey. Call someone before you start down the wrong path. Make sure to change the bad habits you had before having bariatric surgery.
Do not add simple carbohydrates: Simple carbohydrates are defined as carbohydrates that break down and absorb quickly into your body which can cause a spike in your blood sugar and increase cravings for them. Examples are cakes, cookies, rice, and pasta.  This does not mean you can never have them again, just limit them to 2 times a week after your 3 months follow-up appointment.
Avoid alcohol: We get this question all the time, “when can I start drinking alcohol?”  Preferably never, however, we know there will be times when you might choose to. Drinking alcohol right after surgery could cause complications as it can interfere with the healing process. After your 6-month anniversary, if you decide to use alcohol, take it slow, do not drive, and stay at home the first time you drink.
Avoid liquid calories: Milkshakes, sweetened coffee drinks, and even homemade smoothies are considered liquid calories which are sneaky calories that add up quickly. Fruit juices and regular Gatorade are also considered liquid calories. Before you drink anything, check the carbohydrates and sugar content on the ingredients label. You want the carbohydrates to be 0-5g per serving. Some of the drinks found in grocery stores and convenience stores have more than one serving in one bottle!
Avoid weighing daily:  Weighing yourself on a daily basis can be discouraging.  There are plenty of “non-scale victories” you will have during this journey such as clothes fitting looser, losing inches, more energy during the day and having a more restful sleep at night.
Do not compare yourself to others who have had WLS: Everyone’s body is unique and experiences weight loss at different rates so do not compare as it leads to DESPAIR!
Avoid carbonated beverages for life:  The carbonation in sodas can cause gas, expand your pouch and cause overall discomfort.  This could cause less restriction and result in weight gain.
Exercise restrictions: After surgery, our exercise specialists regard cardio as the preferred method of workouts. In the first 30 days, there is no lifting over 25 pounds, no torso twisting, no weights or resistance bands and no submerging yourself in ANY body of water such as lakes, pools, oceans or bathwater.  After 30 days have passed, you can resume your normal workout.
Last but not least….
Do not think surgery will “cure” obesity:  Without proper counseling from the surgeon and their team, patients could assume bariatric surgery is a “cure” for obesity. It is not. This is another tool to be used as a second chance to be properly counseled on healthy eating, not dieting.  Weight gain is possible after surgery, however, follow the dos and don’ts and find the support system that works for you!  Committing to a healthy lifestyle and dietary changes for a lifetime is what defines success here.

I hope these lists help and be sure to contact your surgeon’s office if you have more specific questions or concerns regarding your individual surgery and plan.

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Rebecca Luttrell


Rebecca Luttrell is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist from the north Fort Worth area. She became interested in bariatrics in doing intensive dietetic internship rotations. This exposed her to bariatrics both in the clinical and nutrition counseling settings. She joined the My Bariatric Solutions team in May 2017 and her favorite part of being there is appreciating and supporting the population of people they serve. Read more articles by Rebecca!