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What to expect and how to prepare for life after weight loss surgery
The modifications made to your gastrointestinal tract will require permanent changes in your eating habits that must be adhered to for successful weight loss. Post-surgery dietary guidelines will vary by surgeon. You may hear of other patients who are given different guidelines following their weight loss surgery. It is important to remember that every surgeon does not perform the exact same weight loss surgery procedure and that the dietary guidelines will be different for each surgeon and each type of procedure. What is most important is that you adhere strictly to your surgeon's recommended guidelines. The following are some of the generally accepted dietary guidelines a weight loss surgery patient may encounter:
Your 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 you had. Many patients return to full pre-surgery levels of activity within two weeks of their procedure. Patients who have had a minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure may be able to return to these activities much sooner.
You need to find a way to increase your baseline physical activity level. You can start walking right after surgery and we strogly recommend starting a structured exercise program from 1 month following surgery, after your wounds are healed. This should consist of well planned total body exercises for at least three times a week, but preferntially more frequently. This is critical, especially during the first 6 months after surgery, when most of the excess weight will be lost. Delaying the exercise program may result in suboptimal overall weight loss.
The most difficult part of the weight loss journey comes later, after you achieved your long desired weight goal. That is to maintain the new weight. Weight loss surgery is not a miracle. It takes hard work, ongoing exercise and discipline to keep up with the physical activity level. People, who lose interest and slip back to old habits are at risk to gain a large amount of weight back.
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. The added demands pregnancy places on your body and the potential for fetal damage make this a most important requirement.
Although the short-term effects of weight loss surgery are well understood, there are still questions to be answered about the long-term effects on nutrition and body systems. Nutritional deficiencies that occur over the course of many years will need to be studied. Over time, you will need periodic checks for anemia (low red blood cell count) and Vitamin B12, B1, D, folate and iron levels. Follow-up tests will initially be conducted every three to six months or as needed, and then every one to two years.
The widespread use of support groups has provided weight loss surgery patients an excellent opportunity to discuss their various personal and professional issues. Most learn, for example, that weight loss surgery will not immediately resolve existing emotional issues or heal the years of damage that morbid obesity might have inflicted on their emotional well-being. Most surgeons have support groups in place to assist you with short-term and long-term questions and needs. Most bariatric surgeons who frequently perform weight loss surgery will tell you that ongoing post-surgical support helps produce the greatest level of success for their patients.
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