Recovering and succeeding after bariatric surgery

Amie Dent, RDN, CD, registered dietitian nutritionist, Parkview Weight Management & Bariatric Surgery, answers your questions for success following bariatric surgery.

What is the recovery like after bariatric surgery?

Bariatric surgery is typically performed using the laparoscopic approach, which greatly reduces recovery time. Patients typically spend one night in the hospital following bariatric surgery. They begin walking the day of surgery and are encouraged to walk frequently when home. Most patients are back to non-strenuous work duties within two weeks of surgery. Patients are released from activity restrictions at six weeks post-op and encouraged to begin aerobic and weight-lifting regimens at that time.

What are some things that surprise patients after bariatric surgery?

Undergoing bariatric surgery is life-changing. Patients can be pleasantly surprised by increased energy and a positive outlook on life very soon after surgery. As patients begin to lose weight, aches and pains diminish. Patients have typically worked toward surgery for several months. During these months, they have surrounded themselves with a support system – including their bariatric surgery team, dietitians, weight management providers, family members, support group friends, etc. This strong support system will be key to the patient's overall success and to help overcome expected hurdles and setbacks along the way.

What role does diet play after bariatric surgery?

Bariatric surgery is a great instrument to help individuals lose weight and keep the weight off. However, bariatric surgery is only a tool. It still takes work on the patient’s behalf after surgery to lose weight and maintain the weight loss, and diet plays a very important role in achieving desired weight loss.

After having bariatric surgery, it’s important to stick to a post-op bariatric meal plan, focusing on decreasing portion sizes and picking nutrient dense foods. Our team works closely with each patient to provide a structured post-op meal plan for multiple stages of the recovery process, weight loss and weight maintenance. 

Some tips for healthy meal prep and planning include:

  • Keep a daily food diary
  • Eat slowly
  • Eat off of smaller plates and bowls
  • Drink an adequate amount of water
  • Eliminate soda, juice, alcohol and sugar-containing beverages
  • Increase fruit and vegetable intake
  • Decrease junk foods
What role does movement play after bariatric surgery?

Movement and exercise play a key role in both weight loss and weight maintenance after bariatric surgery. We encourage our patients to start walking the day of surgery and are encouraged to walk frequently when home, aiming for a goal of 20 minutes of walking every day, if possible. 

Once the patient has been cleared by our surgeon to return to normal activities, we encourage the patient to increase their exercise, when possible. The more exercise a patient is able to do, the faster the weight loss tends to occur. Our team works closely with exercise specialists that can provide the patient’s personalized exercise routines to help them achieve their exercise and weight loss goals.

What role does social support play for success after bariatric surgery?

Many social activities in our culture surround dining out in restaurants. After bariatric surgery, a person’s relationship with food abruptly changes. He or she may experience a sense of loss, which can be worsened without adequate social support and alternative healthy social activities. It is important for patients to communicate what support looks like for him or her. A patient shouldn’t isolate themselves from social activities, but plan ahead for them and communicate to friends and family how they can be encouraging, which can look different for each person. 

What role does mindset play after bariatric surgery?

When not sufficiently treated, depression and anxiety symptoms may hinder patients from obtaining adequate weight loss. Being mindful of how one feels emotionally and seeking additional therapy and/or psychiatric medication treatment can help prevent symptoms from spiraling to a point where they hinder a patient’s success. It’s important to continue touching base with the treatment team as more contact and accountability increases the likelihood of a patient’s success.


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