If you’re waiting for a visit form the diet fairy, it might be time to consider bariatric surgery. These procedures aren’t the same as waving a magical weight loss wand, but the results can be dramatic. Patients who follow the right diet and exercise routine after gastric bypass or gastric banding surgeries usually enjoy significant weight loss, along with a host of other health benefits. Losing that weight—and keeping it off—requires a period of adjustment and a commitment to maintaining a new lifestyle.
Why All Those Changes?
Bariatric surgery fundamentally changes the way that the body digests food. Not only can patients eat less food at a time, but their bodies may actually process that food differently (depending on their procedure). That means patients must be mindful of portion size and the kinds of foods they’re eating. After surgery, patients gradually move from an all-liquid diet, slowly integrating solid foods one at a time. The body may not tolerate some foods after surgery.
Meanwhile exercise plays a central role in weight loss. After surgery, patients usually start their new exercise routines on the same day as their surgery—with a short walk around their hospital rooms. From there, patients slowly build up to at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. Most bariatric surgery patients are inactive prior to surgery, and adding in exercise not only helps maintain the weight-loss momentum, but it also confers other health benefits like lowered risk of heart disease and stroke.
Adjusting to a New Lifestyle
Most doctors recommend that patients begin their transformation before they ever head in for surgery. Patients often attend support groups and start modifying their diet weeks before their procedure. But it can be tough to maintain a strict diet and more rigorous exercise plan—sometimes daily life just gets in the way. A few tips and tricks can make it easier to keep up those healthy habits, even years after surgery.
- Find ways to make exercise more social. Get a group of neighbors together for nightly strolls, or join an adult sports league. The accountability will keep you from skipping out, and the social component helps you forget that you’re even exercising!
- Think of exercise as a daily ritual, like sitting down to supper or sitting down to watch the news. Doctors recommend a mere 30 minutes of exercise every day. That’s a quick walk on the treadmill during a favorite television show, or some quick laps in the pool before work in the mornings.
- When you attend parties, offer to bring a few “bariatric friendly” items for the buffet. That way you will be less tempted to take advantage of less healthy options—or altogether stuck without any choices that fit with your diet.
- Eating out can be a challenge, even for patients with extremely strong will-power. Resist that “urge to splurge” by checking out the menu online before you go. Choose a few items that sound healthy and delicious. Getting into that mindset can help you overcome the desire for a big juicy burger. And don’t be afraid to ask the server to prepare something in a different way, or box up most of the meal before serving it.
- Keep the pantry and refrigerator stocked with healthy snacks and the ingredients for simple meals. If you know there’s a quick snack waiting at home, you’re less likely to flee to the drive-through window on the way home from work.
- Consider preparing meals in advance. Many patients find that making their meals for the week on Saturdays or Sundays means that they find their way to unhealthy restaurants and microwave meals much less often.
Bariatric surgery represents the first step to a lifetime of improved health and happiness. If you have questions about weight loss or weight loss surgery, please contact us at St. Petersburg General Hospital. Visit us online or call 727-341-4869 for details about local support groups and free educational seminars.