Weight loss surgery can improve your life in three distinct ways.
For one, you stand to lose a significant amount of weight. Gastric sleeve and gastric bypass patients can both look forward to a loss of up to 75% of their excess weight within the first two years.
With all that weight gone, you stand to gain more mobility. Weight loss surgery patients report doing more than they did when they were obese. Many are able to play with their grandkids, go on hikes, and even run marathons. Some go skydiving. The sky is the limit when you’re not putting so much pressure on your heart, lungs, and joints, which are common negative effects of being obese.
Lastly, for obese individuals suffering from comorbidities like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, there’s good news. These ailments tend to diminish or disappear entirely as yet another beneficial side effect of losing so much weight.
It’s clear that weight loss surgery is life changing. But it is not a “cure”. While it’s true that the weight tends to fall off rapidly immediately upon having the surgery (most of the weight comes off within the first six months), you still must do your part.
This is why many refer to bariatric surgery as a “tool” that can help you lose weight if you follow the necessary protocols. Here is what to expect as you recover from weight loss surgery and the parts you must play to maximize your results going forward.
What is Bariatric Surgery Recovery Like?
The three most common bariatric surgeries include the gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, and adjustable lap band. All three procedures affect your stomach in some way.
With the gastric sleeve and gastric bypass (also known as the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass), some of your stomach is removed before a small pouch is created. With the lap band, an adjustable device is wrapped around the stomach. These acts limit the space available for food, causing you to eat less.
The gastric bypass is a bit more extensive than both the gastric sleeve and lap band. During the Roux-en-Y, your new stomach pouch or “sleeve” is rerouted to your upper intestines. Not only do you end up eating less, but your body absorbs fewer nutrients at the same time. The result is rapid and significant weight loss.
In the past, surgeons would have had to “open you up” like you imagine most surgeries to be. Today, thanks to advancements in medical technology, these surgeries are performed laparoscopically. That is, they are performed internally using specialized tools and a serpentine camera that shows all the action on a monitor. Your surgeon is able to perform the surgery using tiny incisions, which act as entry points for the tools. This limited cutting helps to shorten recovery times.
Of the three surgeries, the gastric sleeve is becoming the most common. The lap band can slip, leading to the need for bariatric revision surgery. The gastric bypass can lead to more weight loss than the gastric sleeve over time, but the rerouting of the digestive system can increase the chance of complications.
Many surgeons today are choosing to perform the gastric sleeve on their patients because of the lowered complication risk. And because there is minimal cutting, the time to recover is shortened as well.
Gastric Sleeve – A Common Procedure with Low Complication Risks
The Laparoscopic Gastric Sleeve (LGS) or vertical sleeve gastrectomy involves tiny incisions, about an inch long, along the upper abdomen. During this procedure, around 80% of the stomach is removed. The rest of the stomach is stapled to create a banana-sized pouch. This “sleeve” is where the food you eat will travel on its way to the intestines. Since the sleeve is of limited size, you end up eating less, leading to rapid weight loss.
Recovery from gastric sleeve requires a couple days in the hospital followed by rest at home. You will be placed on a liquid diet at first. This progression from solid foods to liquids like shakes and smoothies allows your body to get used to your decreased stomach space.
Your surgeon will advise you on the proper amount of rest and when you can resume exercise. You will learn how to care for your surgical site, and how to address any complications that occur. Common complications can include excess bleeding and infection, along with a few others. All surgeries come with risks. You can minimize complications and mitigate risk by choosing the best bariatric surgeon with an excellent track record performing the gastric sleeve.
Get “Full” Faster
With less available space in your stomach, you will be forced to eat smaller portions during meals. This may be a drastic change from how you ate prior to your procedure. If you were used to gorging yourself, this will no longer be possible after the gastric sleeve has been performed. Eating too much will cause you to feel stuffed. Overfeeding may even induce indigestion and vomiting. Before long, you will become accustomed to your new eating habits. And hey, just think of all the money you will save on food by eating less than you did before.
Feel Less Hunger
A side effect of the gastric sleeve is that it affects the production of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. This makes you feel less hungry overall. Many weight loss surgery patients report feeling an insatiable need to eat prior to surgery. This constant level of hunger can make dieting difficult, which is why many obese individuals turn to weight loss surgery as a much-needed remedy.
With less ghrelin in the body, you won’t feel deprived when eating smaller meals. You’ll also want to stop eating the moment you feel full.
Experience Fewer Cravings
The fact that bariatric surgery helps with food cravings is not common knowledge. One of the reasons people talk themselves out of surgery is because they don’t want to leave behind their favorite foods. You can still eat your favorite foods, in moderation, but you may find you no longer have a taste for your faves like cake, ice cream, and french fries.
Another side effect of bariatric surgery is a reduction of “bad” food cravings. Over time, you may not miss eating sweets and fatty foods, and you may even find yourself craving healthier options like kale, broccoli, and lean meats – the foods your body needs for health.
Your bariatric surgeon will explain how to maximize your weight loss following your weight loss procedure. One of the ways to lose the most weight – and feel great – is to drink plenty of water at the appropriate times. Drinking water is critical after weight loss surgery to flush out toxins and help you heal.
Proper hydration is simply good for your body. It aids in proper bowel function and decreases your risk for kidney stones. Drink lots of water throughout the day and you’ll feel less hungry, think better, and feel less depressed.
While you are allowed to drink other liquids after weight loss surgery, you should stay away from carbonated beverages, caffeine, and alcohol. Plan to drink water instead between meals and while eating (but try to eat before drinking so that you fill up on food and not liquids).
Your surgeon will advise you on how to navigate drinking fluids during meals. Generally speaking, it is recommended that you stop drinking 15 minutes before meals to ensure you absorb the maximum amount of nutrients. Then wait 30 to 60 minutes after meals to resume liquid ingestion. You can determine if you are drinking enough liquids by keeping an eye on your urine. The more hydrated you are, the clearer your urine will be.
To keep yourself hydrated throughout the day, carry a water bottle with you at all times. Try those Crystal Light packets that you drop into water bottles if you want some flavor – use these sparingly. You can also drink herbal teas, as long as you go easy on the caffeine.
The post-weight loss surgery lifestyle requires you to eat differently than you did before. This is one of the hardest transitions to make. Fewer cravings make things easier. However, you will have to make a conscious effort to stay away from fast foods and otherwise fatty foods.
Your surgeon will have you visit with a dietary specialist who can advise you on the foods to fill your plate with such as lean meats, fruits, and vegetables.
You will be required to eat more protein as part of your post-weight loss surgery lifestyle. Protein should be included in every meal as it aids in proper healing; keeps your skin, hair, and bones healthy; and helps your body fight off infection. Protein also helps your body build and maintain muscle, which helps to burn fat, even at rest.
Meal planning and prepping can help you adopt new eating habits with ease. A smartphone app to track what you eat throughout the day can also keep you accountable and on track to losing the most weight.
Experience Significant Weight Loss
The biggest change you will experience after weight loss surgery is all the missing weight. During the first thirty days following your procedure, you should experience a weight loss of up to five to fifteen pounds per week. By two months, the average weight loss amounts to a 20% loss of excess weight.
Your weight loss will continue to progress during the first six months, whereby it will taper off as you continue to drop the pounds over the next two years. At that time, your weight may stabilize. Your surgeon will give you a weight loss surgery timeline that describes how much weight you can expect to lose, and by when, as long as you follow your doctor’s recommendations.
Feel Better All Around
Aside from weight loss, one of the main goals of bariatric surgery is to treat obesity-related conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Believe it or not, it is not uncommon for these obesity-related ailments to improve within days following bariatric surgery. You may even find yourself tossing out your medications for these diseases.
Studies show that severely obese patients who undergo weight loss surgery experience less pain and greater mobility in the first few years after their procedures. This includes consistent improvements in walking ability, even in people with previously reported hip and knee pain problems.
Exercise to Lose Weight & Feel Great
Following a laparoscopic surgery like gastric sleeve, you should be able to start moving around after two to four weeks. You are encouraged to do light exercise during this time, such as walking to help you heal and improve your health. You can start swimming once your wounds have sufficiently healed and weight lifting can be resumed after four to six weeks, or when your surgeon tells you it’s okay.
Exercise may be the last thing on your mind as you are healing from surgery. You are encouraged to start slowly, such as ten minutes per day, working yourself up to twenty to thirty minutes a day, five days per week. Go for low-impact exercises at first like swimming, cycling, walking, light jogging, dancing, and yoga.
There are immense benefits to working out after weight loss surgery. You will achieve and maintain greater weight loss and you’ll give your metabolism a boost, which burns more calories at rest. You will have more strength, promote joint stability, and aid in your ability to keep up with life’s demands. Exercise also elevates your mood, reduces stress and anxiety, and improves your overall health and mental outlook. Work with your surgeon to find an activity lifestyle plan that works for you.
The time you spend with your bariatric surgeon does not stop after your surgery is complete. You will be scheduled for follow-up appointments with your surgeon. During these meetings, you will undergo physical exams that may include blood draws and other tests. Your surgeon wants to know how you are progressing after surgery and can alter your treatment plan to maximize your success.
Go Easy on Yourself
Some people look at weight loss surgery as an easy way out. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Your lifestyle is going to change, and you will be forced to adopt better habits. While there is a bit of a learning curve and you may struggle at times, know that you have a major support system to fall back on. Your bariatric surgeon will be with you every step of the way to help you navigate the changes you are required to make.
You are also encouraged to gather positive people around you, such as friends and family, who can all make the challenges you face easier. Whatever you do, don’t be hard on yourself. If your diet isn’t perfect in the beginning, so what? If you don’t drink enough water or get enough exercise, that’s okay. Remember, progressing gradually is the key to long-term success.
Live a Longer, Healthier, and More Fulfilling Life!
The fact is, once you get past the initial struggle, learning to live after weight loss surgery is easy. Once you experience weight loss and all the benefits that come with it, you will be motivated to move your body, eat better, and live life to the fullest.
To enjoy the most long-term success with bariatric procedures such as the gastric sleeve, work with the best weight loss surgeon in Los Angeles. Dr. Babak Moeinolmolki of Healthy Life Bariatrics is the area’s premier bariatric surgeon. Dr. Moein (as he is called by his patients) can help you achieve your weight loss goals.
Learn more about the gastric sleeve and get prepared to live your best life by calling (310)694-4486.