As you consider the many weight loss surgery options, it’s important to understand that any procedure is just the first step. The key to making it a lifelong success is understanding the personal commitment to change.
Sharon Howard R.D., who counsels weight loss surgery patients (pre-op and post-op) in her role at a certified Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence, believes there are several things that must be understood beforehand to maximize patients’ chances at long-term health and success after surgery.
To understand whether someone is truly mentally and emotionally ready for the life changes that come after bariatric surgery, here are 7 key questions she thinks you should ask yourself.
You Might be Ready for Bariatric Surgery IF….
1) You plan to eat a healthy diet the rest of your life.
Surgery to alter your stomach size will aid in your weight loss, but You still have to “work it.” You still have to make food decisions that are:
- Low fat
- Low sugar
- High protein
- High nutrient
- Small portions
You will need a balanced intake of fruits, vegetables, calcium-rich foods, as well as whole grains and lean proteins.
2) You change the way you eat.
Eating slowly, chewing thoroughly, and being mindful of the fullness your new anatomy brings you are eating behaviors to maintain. Learn to put your fork down between bites, chew more, and stop eating at the first sign of fullness.
3) You change the way you drink.
It’s a bit tricky, but you need to stay hydrated by sipping noncaloric, non-carbonated, non-caffeine liquids all day. But, you need to stop drinking 30 minutes before and wait 30 minutes after eating solid food. Drinking with solid food in your stomach can at the least make you uncomfortably full, nauseous, or even vomit; but this practice over time can limit the nutritious food you eat at meals and ultimately stretch your “pouch” (what your new smaller stomach is named) which allows you to eat bigger portions and limits your weight loss.
You need a minimum of 48 – 64 oz of fluid. Count protein drinks and milk. Juice is not recommended—liquid calories that delay your weight loss. Your urine should be very pale yellow; if darker, up your water intake. Dehydration is a top reason for hospital readmissions.
Constipation may be annoying and uncomfortable. More fluids, movement, fiber and perhaps fiber supplements may be needed.
Alcohol is an irritant to your pouch, and toxic to your liver. You should plan on giving up alcohol!
4) You plan to be active to burn calories and build muscle.
To prevent massive muscle loss during the fast weight loss phase, you will need strength training to keep muscle and eventually even build muscle. Muscle burns 8 times the calories that fat does on your body. Even though you will lose lots of fat mass faster than any diet plan, you still need to preserve your lean muscle mass to maximize your metabolism. View our Post-WLS exercise guide here.
When your weight is still high, just walking can give you a good aerobic workout! Moving that weight around the park is making your body calorie burning! As you get lighter and leaner, you want well developed muscles to emerge from under the disappearing body fat. As you lose more and more weight, celebrate your new body by embracing exercise as a way of life.
5) You take your supplements and medications as prescribed.
Your pills will, at first, need to be in crushable, chewable or liquid form. The digestive juices that dissolve pills are disrupted, so changing the delivery of the medications is more effective for a while. You will move back to swallowing whole pills when your surgeon directs you.
Supplementation with vitamins and minerals is for the rest of your life. A major alteration in your digestive system puts you at risk of long term nutritional deficiencies. Key nutrients are protein status, B 12, magnesium, calcium, and iron.
One of the many benefits of bariatric surgery is—less medications! You may not need as many diabetic medications, less blood pressure pills, and others.
6) You plan to self monitor.
What does this mean? Research on people who successfully maintain their weight loss continue to monitor their weight, food and fluid intake and/or their exercise. You can simply use a notebook to record your weight once a week, or get technical with a smartphone app for protein and calorie tracking, and have fun with a simple pedometer for step counting or a fitness tracker for calorie burning. It has become fashionable to wear devices that help monitor movement! Over the years, continue to step on the scale weekly or monthly—if you see your weight creeping up—take corrective action! The bariatric surgery will not guarantee your weight will maintain itself without you paying attention.
7) You plan to eat to live, not live to eat!
Food should be tasty, flavorful and enjoyed! However, using food as a coping mechanism for stress, boredom relief, or mindlessly watching TV, are weight gain habits. Address your food cravings. If you feel addicted to food, or compulsively overeat, you must address this prior to surgery with professional help. Bariatric surgery will not solve everything, but the benefits to your health, self-esteem, and longevity are significant!
written by Sharon Howard R.D.