Some people have the mindset that weight-loss surgery is “cheating,” and that if they tried hard enough with diet and exercise, they would be able to lose weight and keep it off. The truth is, weight-loss surgery can be very effective in helping you lose weight and keep it off. But it’s not easy.
To start, it’s a surgical procedure. “Minimally invasive techniques and laparoscopic tools can make it less invasive, with less risk of complications and a faster recovery. But it’s still an operation that changes your anatomy, and you’ll need time to heal,” said weight-loss surgeon Timothy Kelly, MD.
You need to be mentally prepared for weight-loss surgery as well. You’ll need motivation to stick with your healthy lifestyle and patience and perseverance—it can take 18 to 24 months to reach your goals, and the rest of your life to maintain that weight.
And weight-loss surgery doesn’t give you the all-clear to eat whatever you want, whenever you want, and as much as you want. “After weight-loss surgery, you need to be especially careful to eat foods that are high in nutrients, so you don’t develop any deficiencies,” said weight-loss surgeon Watson Roye, MD.
You’ll need to start shifting your diet toward the foods you’ll be eating after surgery. Plus, your doctor may want you to lose some weight before surgery. So, you may need to cut back on full-fat dairy, fatty meat, fried food, sugar, and refined carbohydrates. You may also need to stop smoking and drinking alcohol.
Your healthcare team may get you started on an exercise plan, and you may need mental health support to help you develop coping skills or address body image issues.
RIGHT AFTER SURGERY
As you heal from weight-loss surgery, you’ll need to follow a clear liquid diet for a few days. Gradually, you can add in other liquids like decaf coffee and tea, skim milk, broth, and unsweetened juice. The next step is a pureed diet, where you can eat certain liquified fruits, veggies, and proteins for a few weeks. From there, you can move on to soft foods such as white fish, canned fruits, and soft-boiled eggs. About two months after your surgery, you can slowly start eating solid foods again.
You may be encouraged to walk, stretch or practice some easy yoga poses as you recover.
“About four months after surgery, you should be able to eat normally. But your way of eating will be a ‘new normal’,” said weight-loss surgeon Mazen Iskandar, MD. You’ll have to eat small portions and stick mostly to produce, lean protein, and healthy carbohydrates. You’ll want to eat without drinking at the same time, so you don’t take in too much volume. And it’s a good idea to take 30 minutes to eat your meals, so the food enters your stomach slowly.
You’ll also want to add exercise into your routine once you heal from surgery. As you get stronger, you may want to walk faster and for longer distances, and you might want to include other types of cardio or strength-training activities.