Bariatric surgery is a surgical option for morbidly obese individuals who have not had success with other weight loss therapies such diet, exercise or medications. However, bariatric surgery is just a tool and requires a lifelong committment to lifestyle change. Dr. Mitchell shares the four things a bariatric surgery patient must do in order to be successful long-term.
In my opinion, if you just have bariatric surgery and do nothing else, you will not be successful. However, if you are dedicated to following these four keys to success you will be able to meet your weight loss goals and transform your life. It’s up to you!
1. Choose the appropriate operation: Take the time to thoroughly research each surgical option to learn the advantages and disadvantages, risks and required follow-up. Talk with your surgeon as well as individuals who have had bariatric surgery or attend a local support group for post-operative patients. Be sure to discuss your decision with your family and/or other supporters. I like to joke with my patients and say, “I’m just the justice of the peace who performs the ceremony to marry you to your surgery.” Surgeons can provide all the information (good, bad and ugly) for each surgical option and make a recommendation, but you have to live with your decision for the rest of your life. You need to be happy with it and committed to following the nutrition, exercise and supplementation recommendations for the rest of your life.
2. Change the way you eat – forever: Bariatric surgery patients must follow the nutrition recommendations prescribed by their surgeon and/or dietitian during each phase of their post-operative care. For example, a patient two weeks out from surgery will have different nutrition recommendations than a patient 6 months out from surgery. Bariatric surgery limits the amount of food you can consume and in the case of gastric bypass, limits the amount of calories and nutrients your body can absorb. Therefore, it is very important that you follow the recommendations of your surgeon and/or dietitian. Choose healthy, nutrient-rich foods and stay hydrated.
3. Move: After surgery, it is important to monitor your weight loss to ensure you are losing the right kind of weight: fat mass, instead of fat free mass (muscle) and water mass. Regular exercise will aid in the loss of fat mass and prevent the loss of fat free mass or muscle. In fact, for every pound of muscle you build, your body will burn an additional 50 calories every day, so you want to increase your muscle mass through regular exercise.
It’s perfectly acceptable to start slow. For example, start by walking 10-15 minutes a day. After a week or two, add five minutes to your daily walk until you can walk for 45-60 minutes. When you feel you are ready, start adding strength training exercises or other types of cardiovascular exercise to your routine such as swimming, biking or another activity you enjoy. It’s important that you find an activity you enjoy and incorporate it into your daily routine.
4. Take supplements, come to follow-up appointments and attend support groups: Due to the restrictive and mal-absorptive components of bariatric surgery, patients must take bariatric vitamins and supplements for life – no exceptions. Ignoring this requirement can have serious health consequences such as hair loss and nutrient deficiencies. It is important to attend your regular follow-up appointments to check for any nutrient deficiencies, have a physical exam and address any questions you may have. It is helpful to attend the support group associated with your program to talk with other bariatric surgery patients. Bariatric surgery patients who attend support group on a regular basis tend to lose more weight and are more successful at keeping it off than patients who do not attend.
Stay tuned… in my next three posts, I’ll provide a brief description of each surgical option, the advantages, disadvantages and risks for each and advice for how to choose the option that is right for you.
Learn more about Roper St. Francis Bariatric and Metabolic Services.