More than one-third of US adults are obese. Many also contend with heart disease, type 2 diabetes or other obesity-related conditions. Some struggle to lose weight for years, even decades. Overweight, but not sure if weight-loss surgery is right for you? We answer 10 common questions about weight-loss surgery.
Bariatric surgery is permanent and will change the way you eat for the rest of your life. For that reason, mental preparation and commitment to lifestyle changes are essential. You’ll forever give up foods your body won’t tolerate after surgery, such as some meats and fried foods.
Bariatric surgery is not done for cosmetic reasons. It is done to improve failing health, and is for those with 100 pounds or more to lose. There are specific medical criteria you need to meet before you are considered a good candidate for the surgery.
Your doctor may require you to follow a liquid diet for 10-14 days before surgery. This is done to reduce the amount of fat around your liver and spleen. This is essential because if the liver is too large your surgeon cannot see the anatomy properly and surgery becomes unsafe. In fact, your surgeon may even cancel and reschedule your surgery.
Surgery takes approximately 60 minutes and you’ll be in the hospital for one to three days. There’s no eating or drinking for 24 hours after surgery. You will be sore at first, but you will still be encouraged to get up and walk the same day as your surgery. Physical activity will speed up your recovery process. Video: "The day after bariatric surgery"
Follow the prescribed diet – you will be limited to liquids for two weeks after the surgery. Eventually you’ll be able to eat chicken, fish, shrimp, eggs, cottage cheese, bananas and more. Foods need to be soft and moist. Things to avoid: alcohol, dry foods, bread, rice, pasta, fibrous fruits and vegetables (especially celery and pineapple), fried and high-fat foods, tough meats and sugary or highly-caffeinated drinks.
Bites have to be the size of a pencil eraser, and need to be chewed very thoroughly, or it will hurt going down. This is something you’ll start practicing before surgery, so you will learn to eat more slowly.
In the weeks after surgery, you may have “head hunger.” This is the little voice that tells you to eat, or keep eating, when you don’t need to. Patients learn to cope by learning to listen to their bodies and using distractions when head hunger strikes. Many patients find their relationship with food changes after surgery. Some say food no longer controls them, and instead they feel in control for the first time in their lives.
Energy comes and goes for the first six months after surgery because you’re taking in fewer calories. You may alternate between high energy and moderate fatigue. This will improve with time. You may also experience some hair loss due to the drastic change in your diet. It’s important to get enough protein and take vitamins to counteract this side effect.
Most weight is lost steadily during the first year or two after surgery. You can reach a much healthier weight, but you most likely won’t lose all your excess weight. Your health can improve significantly, however, and many are able to stop taking high blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes medications.
Bariatric surgery is not a guaranteed fix. You can regain weight. Success requires behavior modification and a lifelong commitment to good nutrition and exercise.
Learn more about bariatric surgery and if you’re a candidate.