Bariatric surgery can be life-changing.
Losing excess weight can help you regain confidence, reclaim your energy, and improve your quality of life. It can help you avoid or even reverse serious health issues. At the same time, undergoing a surgery and then losing an average of 65% of your total weight can cause drastic physical, emotional, and lifestyle changes.
Though it's a challenge to face some of the physical and emotional changes that occur after bariatric surgery, keep in mind that a whopping 95% of patients report having an improved quality of life post-surgery. This means that with preparation, support, and a positive mindset you should be able to get back on your feet and start living life to its fullest. Here's an overview of what to expect after bariatric surgery:
The Hospital Stay
After your bariatric surgery, you will have to stay in the hospital as you recover. Although recovery time will vary based on your personal circumstances, let's take a look at some common procedures — and the average length of stay you can expect.
- Laparoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy. In this minimally invasive procedure, your surgeon will reduce the size of your stomach by around 75 to 80%, leaving a narrow tube. This procedure involves only your stomach, not your intestines, which reduces the risk of malnutrition. With this type of surgery, expect a hospital stay of approximately 1 days.
- Duodenal Switch. In the duodenal switch, your surgeon will connect your small stomach (approximately 1/4 of its former size) to the last portion of your small intestines — called the duodenum. In many cases, you can expect a day hospital stay.
- Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass. In the Roux-en-Y procedure, your surgeon will create a small pouch from your stomach. Then, they will connect this pouch directly to your small intestine, in the process bypassing most of your stomach and a large portion of the small intestine. In many cases, the hospital stay after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery lasts about a day unless there are complications.
Physical & Lifestyle Changes: What to Expect
After you are released from the hospital following bariatric surgery, you will still need to take time to recover fully. Make sure to prepare ahead of time to ensure that you will have support from friends and family during this time. For example, you will probably need help driving home from the hospital and grocery shopping for the first couple of weeks.
Though recovery times vary from person to person — and also based on what type of procedure you've received — you can expect a fairly quick healing time. In fact, many patients can be back at work in as little as one or two weeks after surgery, though you might experience a dip in energy during this time. Let's take a closer look at what to expect:
It's important to incorporate gentle exercises into your routine as quickly as possible under a doctor's supervision. For example, you will probably start walking in the hospital, and be told to continue walking during your postoperative days.
In general, for the first four weeks you will want to focus on getting back into shape with gentle activities like swimming, walking, and daily activities. Avoid lifting anything over 15 lbs for the first six weeks, and don't do abdominal exercises for the first 8 to 12 weeks after surgery.
#2: Wound Healing
You probably will only require pain medication for a few days after surgery, but it's important to pay attention to your incision for the first few weeks. During this time, your risk of infection is raised and will require immediate medical intervention. Keep an eye out for pain, redness, warmth, or drainage from the wound site, and see a doctor if you notice anything unusual.
After bariatric surgery, it's pivotal that you stick to the diet plan recommended by your health care team. Because your stomach is smaller and you have different nutritional needs, mealtime on a gastric bypass diet is incredibly important. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- From liquids to soft foods. At first, you will be advised to stick to a liquid diet composed of nutritious broths. Over the next few days after surgery, you'll be able to switch to foods like yogurt and smoothies. In a couple weeks (or when your doctor says it's okay) you'll start to enjoy nutrient-dense pureed foods. From there, you'll move onto soft foods like canned fruit and soft-boiled eggs.
- Long-term diet. In the long term, you will need to limit your intake to around 900-1,000 calories a day, keeping in mind that you need around 60-80 grams of protein a day. Getting enough nutrient-dense food like vegetables and chicken breast and avoiding sugary or starchy foods can help you establish the long-term habits you need to thrive.
Physical Changes To Keep in Mind
- Weight loss. Everyone's experience is different, but gastric bypass patients lose an average of 60% of their excess weight, while sleeve gastrectomy patients lose around 40% of their excess weight on average.
- Fertility & Pregnancy. Birth control pills might not work as well as your weight fluctuates post-surgery, so it's important to talk to your doctor about alternate contraception methods. Should you choose to get pregnant, it's recommended that you wait 12-18 months after surgery.
- Dumping syndrome. Bariatric surgery changes the way your body processes food. When you eat too much, too quickly, it's possible for food to move too quickly through your digestive system — leading to vomiting or diarrhea. To prevent this, eat slowly, don't overeat, and avoid drinking and eating at the same time.
- Hair loss. Don't be alarmed if you experience some hair loss between 3 and 6 months after surgery as your body adjusts. Most hair loss of this type is temporary and will correct itself with time.
Mental & Emotional Changes
Weight loss doesn't only affect your body — it can lead to a whole host of emotional changes. You will need to give yourself time to adjust to your new body as you lose weight. It might take time to connect with your changing body. Your friends, family, and significant other will also have to adjust to your "new normal," which will require honesty and open communication about your needs and feelings along the way.
Remember that bariatric surgery will help you lose weight — but it won't necessarily address any underlying issues that may trigger mental health issues like depression or anxiety. During this time, it's important to keep track of your emotional well-being and possibly speak to a therapist to get a better grasp on your mental health.
For example, a therapist can help you explore if overeating in your past a way to cope with troublesome feelings. Do you feel like you might turn to another addiction to help you cope with underlying issues? It's important to seek a qualified counselor if you find yourself struggling with changes. In addition, seeking help from a support group can help you connect with individuals experiencing the same things as you.
Prepare for Positive Changes
When you make the decision to undergo bariatric surgery, you're taking an important step in reclaiming your confidence and improving your quality of life. As your body changes post-surgery, it's important to give yourself the emotional, mental, and social support you need. At the same time, making adjustments to diet, exercise, and lifestyle can help you achieve long-lasting success. Want to learn more about what to expect after bariatric surgery? Please reach out to the compassionate team at My New Beginning for more information.