What to expect in terms of food, losing weight and returning to activities after weight loss surgery
If you’re considering bariatric surgery, it’s common to question what happens after. You may be wondering if you can return to normal activities, how much weight you’ll lose and if you can go back to eating the foods you love.
While your doctor can always help with your customized approach, almost everyone’ s journey will include lifestyle changes. Here are answers to the three most common questions we get about what happens after weight loss surgery.
What do I eat?
Eating smaller, nutritious meals is a big part of enjoying successful weight loss and better health after bariatric surgery. Your diet changes will start right after you have surgery. You’ll eat differently as you heal and your digestive system starts working in new ways.
What you eat depends on the food plan your doctor helps you create. But, there are some common eating phases you can expect to follow. Here’s an example of how you might eat after your surgery:
- Weeks 1 and 2: Clear liquid diet of drinks like water, broths, juices, tea and sports drinks
- Weeks 3 and 4: Foods like yogurt, grits, oatmeal, protein drinks, pureed veggies, soups and applesauce
- Months 2 and 3: Soft foods like baked potatoes, eggs, rice, mashed and canned veggies, deli meats and shredded meats
- Month 4 and beyond: Nutritious, low-fat foods like salads, baked chicken and fish, fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains and cheeses
Your eating plan can also change based on what type of bariatric surgery you have. For example, if you have a gastric band procedure, you might be able to start eating whole foods earlier.
How much weight will I lose?
Seeing your body change is one of the exciting things to look forward to after weight loss surgery. The amount of weight you drop depends on a few different factors. Your starting weight and the type of procedure you have can both affect how much weight you lose and how fast you shed it.
For example, people who have gastric bypass surgery often lose about 60% of their extra weight. If you have a procedure called sleeve gastrectomy, on the other hand, you might expect to lose around 40% of your extra weight. That means you’ll lose about 40 pounds for every 100 extra pounds your body carries.
Weight loss can happen at different rates, too. In the first three or so months after your surgery, you might lose 3 or 4 pounds a week. Six months after surgery, your weight loss may slow to a consistent pound or two each week. By 18 months after surgery, most people are nearing their goal weights.
When can I return to normal activities?
Exercise and physical activity will become important habits after your recovery. You might even start gentle movements right after your surgery! But, you probably won’t be completely back to your regular activity level for a few weeks. Your energy levels may be lower than normal. Plan to take things easy and stay home from work or school for the first week or two after surgery. If you do need to head back to the office before then, talk to your supervisor about accommodations. Your doctor can help you figure out ways to make your work tasks easier for the time being.
While you might not be ready to run a marathon, moderate activity is important. Your doctor may want you to start exercising — slowly — right after your procedure. Walking is one of the easiest, safest activities to try. Once your surgery incisions are healed, swimming is also a gentle way to get moving. Avoid lifting anything heavy for a month or so after surgery. After about six weeks, you’ll likely be back to your normal routine.