Bariatric surgery is a serious procedure and the patient’s approach to recovery must be taken seriously. Patients learn pre-op that bariatric surgery is not a “magic pill.” While the surgery certainly makes weight loss a lot easier, the lifestyle and eating habits after surgery must change in order for sustained, lasting weight loss to occur.
What Happens Immediately After Surgery
Bariatric surgery is most often a laparoscopic operation, meaning that the surgeon does not need to make large incisions. The nature of laparoscopic surgery results in much shorter recovery time for the patient. Most bariatric surgery patients will need to remain in the hospital for two or three days so that the medical team can monitor the patient’s recovery. After that, the patient can usually go home for further recovery. In some rare circumstances, the surgery is “open” meaning that the surgeon cannot do the procedure as a laparoscopic operation. This type of surgery will require a longer hospitalization period and longer recovery time. With the more common laparoscopic operation, however, the patient can usually resume normal activity in about three to five weeks after the surgery.
The First Two Weeks
The first two weeks after surgery, you’ll be put on a liquid diet. No solid foods, caffeine or carbonated drinks are allowed at all. The two-week diet will consist of things like meat or vegetable broth, sugar-free gelatin, sugar-free puddings and protein-rich meal replacement shakes. In this second phase, you will be mostly confined to bed rest. This gives your body’s internal organs a chance to recover without added stress from movement. It’s important to drink plenty of fluids during this phase as well as all the other phases.
The Next Weeks
The third week begins the second phase of recovery from bariatric surgery. On the third week, pending your doctor’s approval, you may move onto soft solids such as avocados, bananas, melon, coddled eggs or oatmeal. Your doctor will give you a list of allowed foods, which you should strictly adhere to. During this second phase of your recovery from bariatric surgery, you will probably be advised to continue with the protein-rich shakes and meal replacements. This stage of soft foods will last for about four weeks. At this point, your doctor will likely encourage you to begin light exercise. The best forms are walking and gentle swimming if you have a pool available to you.
In the final stages of your recovery, you’ll be able to resume normal activity, including going back to work, exercising normally and eating solid foods. It’s important to remember that your diet can never go back to what it was before you had surgery. Lifestyle and diet changes are integral to the success of your bariatric surgery long-term.