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Minimizing Weight Gain After Bariatric Surgery

June 19, 2015

For those who chose to have bariatric surgery, the surgery itself is only part of the solution to maintaining a healthy weight for the rest of your life.

Exercise and a balanced diet are two crucial components to minimizing weight gain after surgery. One study in the journal Obesity, for example, found that people who became physically active after weight loss surgery lost about 13 more pounds than those who were not physically active.

Consistent diet and exercise can help you maintain your weight loss, but you don’t have to do it alone. Doctors, nutritionists and trainers can give you the support you need. After bariatric surgery, it’s crucial to use them as a resource, especially when you’re concerned you may slip back into unhealthy habits.

Aftercare with Your Doctor & Proper Nutrition

Immediately after surgery you must follow a restricted diet to slowly reintroduce your body to certain foods. This will give your digestive system time to heal and minimize your risk of complications.

Not following post-surgery guidelines could slow your healing process and make it more challenging to maintain your weight loss. During this period, it’s really important to visit your doctor. He or she will perform post-surgical evaluations and ongoing checkups to monitor your health and weight loss.

One of the most important resources you’ll have after surgery is counseling through a comprehensive program. A nutritionist or dietitian can help you prepare for the long-term diet and lifestyle changes required for long-term weight loss. Their main job is to help you be successful and to provide a roadmap for you to do it. This usually comes in the form of education. Rather than focus on counting calories, a nutritionist or dietitian will give you information about how to create healthy, balanced meals focused on whole grains, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables. They will outline substitutions to make, so that you can enjoy  healthier versions of the foods you previously consumed. They also may suggest gradual changes to ease you into your new diet and lifestyle.

One of the biggest concerns after bariatric surgery is making sure you absorb enough vitamins, minerals and protein. Your nutritionist or dietitian will give you information on what supplements you should take every day and work with you to ensure you follow these guidelines. Overall, their role is to create a supportive environment, answer any questions you may have and be a sounding board whenever you have concerns. Having this support team behind you could improve your post-surgery outcome. In fact, one study showed that people had more nutritional visits after gastric bypass surgery had greater declines in their Body Mass Index (BMI).

Exercise After Bariatric Surgery

Though exercise is crucial to maintaining a healthy weight, it’s important to ease into it after weight loss surgery.

You should get your doctor’s approval before you begin an exercise regimen. You should not exercise unsupervised or do rigorous workouts. Every patient is different and will have different capabilities after surgery. We suggest that two to three weeks after surgery you begin a twice weekly exercise regimen.

For the first six weeks of your program, light to moderate exercise is fine. Our goal is to have you start slowly and progress each week. For example, you may start off with a  25-minute workout with cardio and gradually increase to an hour long session with a trainer. You also could start with just 10 minutes of walking a day and slowly add more time until you’re up to 30 minutes several times a week.

Exercising can be difficult, especially if you were not very active before surgery. It helps to find something you enjoy doing, whether it be walking, water aerobics or yoga. You also could ask a friend or family member to join you when you exercise. This can keep you more engaged while working out.

If you plan to exercise at a gym or with a personal trainer, make sure the person has a background in exercise science and that their training style suits your workout goals and health needs. You want someone who is professional and who understands that you may have to follow a specific regimen after bariatric surgery.

Aside from weight loss, exercise also reduces your risk for heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. It helps you maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints and has mood-boosting properties that reduce stress.  It’s an important part of a successful post-surgery outcome, as one study showed that people who exercised consistently after weight loss surgery had 4.2 percent lower body mass index than those who did not.

Bariatric surgery doesn’t guarantee permanent weight loss. Your motivation and ability to stick to a consistent diet and exercise regimen are even more important than surgery. I know this is easier said than done, but with the help of your doctor, nutritional counselor, trainer, family and friends you can be successful at keeping the weight off long term.