Eat to Live, Don’t Live to Eat. The Post-Operative Recovery
Weight loss surgery is not a quick fix. It’s an ongoing journey toward weight loss through physical and lifestyle changes. After surgery, the difference in the body makes it physically easier to adjust eating and lifestyle habits. Fortunately, you will not have to go through the process alone. A team of professionals will be there to support your efforts. Positive changes in body, weight and health will occur, but you will need to be patient through the recovery process. There will be subtle differences in the recovery process between patients who have the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, the adjustable gastric band, or the sleeve gastrectomy. The basic principles, however, are similar, and success of all three types of procedures relies on adopting the correct post-operative mindset and behavior. To view video of some of our past patients describing their experiences, click here. To discuss weight loss surgery with other patients, attend one of our monthly support groups or find us on Facebook.
Waking Up In The Recovery Room
In the early days after surgery, you may not feel much different. Even though you have taken a big step, you may find yourself asking what has changed. In the recovery room, you can expect to have some discomfort and feel the effects of the surgery (this can last for several days). Roller Weight Loss & Advanced Surgery aims to make this recovery period as comfortable as possible, offering private rooms so you and your family can have time and space to yourselves.
All abdominal operations carry the risks of bleeding, infections, blood clots in the legs, lung problems (pneumonia, pulmonary embolisms), strokes or heart attacks, anesthetic complications, and blockage or obstruction of the intestines. These risks are higher in morbidly obese patients. Patients should be aware that some surgical side effects, such as blood clots (pulmonary embolism), can be life-threatening. However, the risk of death during weight loss surgery is less than one percent. Dr. Josh Roller, Dr. Yong Kwon, and Dr. Josh Mourot perform weight loss surgery laparoscopically and using this minimally invasive technique further reduces the risk of complications.
Wound Care After Surgery
With laparoscopic surgery, the incisions are very small and will need minimal care. We use dissolvable sutures, so there is no need to remove any stitches. Adhesive glue is used to protect the incisions and has a purple-colored appearance. Occasionally, we will place tape on the incisions called steri-strips. Do not remove these. You may shower with soap and water; just allow the water to run over the glue and the steri-strips. Do not use anything abrasive around the incisions, like washcloths. Eventually the glue and steri-strips will fall off on their own. If the wound has staples, also wash them with soap and water, and pat them dry. Staples will be removed in the office seven to 14 days after surgery. When you return to the Roller Weight Loss & Advanced Surgery for the two-week post-op appointment, the incisions will be checked. Most incisions are healed around this time.
Post Surgery Diet
Changes made to the gastrointestinal tract will require permanent changes in eating habits that must be followed for successful weight loss. You may hear about post surgery guidelines different from the ones you receive. It is important to remember that these guidelines will be different depending on the surgeon and type of procedure. What is most important is that you follow the surgeon’s guidelines. Dr. Roller, Dr. Kwon, Dr. Mourot and our registered dieticians will establish guidelines specific to your needs. The following are some of the generally accepted dietary guidelines:
- When you start eating solid food, it is important to chew food thoroughly and eat very slowly. Wait two to three minutes after swallowing before putting the next bite of food in your mouth. You will not be able to digest steaks or other chunks of meat if they are not ground or chewed thoroughly.
- Don’t drink fluids while eating. They will make you feel full before you have eaten enough food. Fluids consumed with meals can cause vomiting and dumping syndrome, and can lead to feeling hungry sooner after a meal.
- Don’t eat desserts and other items with sugar if they have more than three to five grams per serving size.
- Avoid carbonated drinks, high-calorie nutritional supplements, milk shakes, foods high in fat, and foods that have no nutritional value.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Limit snacking between meals.
Going Back To Work
The ability to resume pre-surgery levels of activity will vary according to your physical condition, the nature of the activity and the type of weight loss surgery that was performed. Patients who have had a minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure may be able to return to normal activities within a few weeks.
Birth Control & Pregnancy
It is strongly advised that women of childbearing age use the most effective forms of birth control during the first 16 to 24 months after weight loss surgery. Fertility may improve with weight loss, and additional forms of birth control are needed to prevent pregnancy during this time. Pregnancy is not safe during periods of rapid weight loss.
Long-term follow-up for weight loss surgery is extremely important. With close follow-up, complications can be prevented or minimized. Over time, you will need periodic checks for anemia (low red blood cell count) and Vitamin B12, folate and iron levels. Follow-up tests will initially be conducted every three to six months or as needed and then annually. Most of our weight loss patients are from Arkansas, but we also have many patients from Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri, and we attempt to keep a very flexible appointment schedule to accommodate the needs of individuals who need to travel further to see us.
Behavior Modification in Bariatric Surgery Patients
Changing behavior begins with awareness and education. Once the proper steps are known to begin a healthier lifestyle, the rest is up to you. Roller Weight Loss & Advanced Surgery is here to support patients in the journey. Below are some guidelines to help you better understand how changing behavior can be simple and effective:
- Always plan ahead for holidays, social events and even daily eating routines. Planning ahead allows you to strategize the most effective behaviors during parties. Some examples include: standing away from the food, enjoying friends/family.
- Eat meals at scheduled times. Meals should be eaten every four to six hours to stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent overeating.
- Avoid eating while watching TV or reading. Studies show that people who eat with distraction consume more calories per meal. Concentrate on eating, and only eating. Enjoy the taste of each bite.
- Eat in a designated area. Eating in one area of the house or office will decrease food cues in other areas of the house. For example if you only eat at the kitchen table, you will be less likely to have a desire to eat in other rooms of the house.
- Slow down! Eat small bites and always chew well. Slowing down while eating helps to eat less! After surgery, it is essential to eat slowly and chew food very well.
- When you feel satisfied, STOP! Put the food away immediately. Learn to feel comfortable after eating. There is no need to feel uncomfortably full or stuffed.
- Avoid all snacking in between meals. Snacking for non-hunger or emotional reasons just adds extra calories and doesn’t solve the problem.