Just because Bariatric Surgery is an effective treatment for severe obesity, doesn’t mean that it’s a “quick-fix”. Oh no. It’s faaaaaar from the easy way out.
And although every journey is different (remember: you can’t compare apples and oranges), there are a few things that can be expected during your first year after weight loss surgery.
In this article, we’ll give you a few basic tips to help you navigate the challenges ahead.
Let’s start with the beginning: the road to recovery.
The immediate recovery period
Immediately after surgery, you will likely spend a few days in the hospital to recover. During this time, you’ll be on a liquid diet to help your stomach heal. Once you’re home, you’ll continue to follow a liquid diet for a few more weeks before gradually transitioning to solid foods. Your surgeon and dietitian will provide specific instructions on what and when to eat during this time (yep, the post-op diet is an absolute non-negotiable!).
The immediate recovery period after bariatric surgery can be extremely challenging, as you’re dealing with a few things that aren’t always obvious from the outside:
- (excruciating) Gas pain
- Mind hunger (constantly thinking about food, but not being able to “indulge” or eat a proper meal)
- Other physical pain related to your recovery
- Adjusting to not being able to use food as a coping mechanism for stress or emotional eating
It can be a lot to deal with.
Our no.1 tip is to take it one day at a time and understand that this is part of your (literal!) healing journey.
But first, let’s give you some pointers on how to navigate gas pain after bariatric surgery.
5 tips to help you manage gas pain during your recovery
- Walk around: Walking can help stimulate the digestive system and promote the passing of gas. Take short walks around your home or hospital room every few hours, as long as your healthcare provider has given you the okay.
- Drink plenty of fluids: Staying hydrated is important after bariatric surgery, and drinking fluids can help move gas through your digestive system. Aim to drink at least 64 ounces of fluids per day, but avoid drinking too quickly or using straws, as this can cause you to swallow air and worsen gas pain.
- Use a heating pad: Applying heat to your abdomen can help soothe gas pain. Place a heating pad or warm compress on your stomach for 15-20 minutes at a time, or as directed by your healthcare provider.
- Take pain medication when you’re instructed to do so: Your healthcare provider may prescribe pain medication to help manage gas pain after surgery. Follow your provider’s instructions for taking your medication and do not exceed the recommended dose.
- Avoid gas-producing foods: Certain foods can contribute to gas production and worsen gas pain. Avoid or limit high-fiber foods, beans, carbonated drinks, and artificial sweeteners during your recovery period.
It’s important to remember that some gas pain is normal after bariatric surgery and usually resolves within a few days. However, if your pain is severe, persistent, or accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, vomiting, or difficulty breathing, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
When you regret having Bariatric Surgery: “Buyer’s Remorse”
Can we talk about the fact that having bariatric surgery isn’t all sunshine and rainbows? When you’re in agony because of the excruciating gas pain, you can only think about food that you’re not able to eat and you’re struggling to get your protein and liquids in – it’s not uncommon to experience buyer’s remorse shortly after bariatric surgery.
Buyer’s remorse is referred to as a feeling of regret having the surgery. For most, this feeling passes as you start to heal. If you continue to feel down about your decision, there’s a few things you can do.
First, you can talk to peers who have been through a similar experience. Support groups can be very helpful during this challenging time. Second, don’t hesitate to reach out to your bariatric team if you continue to struggle. They’re there to provide you with professional guidance.
Adjusting to a new way of eating
After bariatric surgery, your stomach will be much smaller, and you’ll need to eat smaller portions of food. You’ll also need to focus on eating high-protein, high-fiber foods to help you feel full and maintain muscle mass. But it’s not just the nutritional guidelines that can turn your whole world upside down.
Mind hunger is not uncommon either.
Managing Nutritional Deficiencies
One of the potential long-term complications of bariatric surgery is nutritional deficiencies, such as iron, vitamin B12, and calcium.
It’s no surprise that research shows that up to 70% of bariatric surgery patients experience nutrient deficiencies within the first year after surgery at some point. What can you do actively combat this? Let’s show you how.
5 tips to prevent nutrient deficiencies after bariatric surgery
- Follow a balanced diet: Eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods is important after bariatric surgery. Your healthcare provider may recommend a specific eating plan or refer you to a registered dietitian to help you create a meal plan that meets your individual needs.
- Take supplements: Bariatric surgery patients may need to take vitamin and mineral supplements to prevent nutrient deficiencies. Common supplements include iron, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and multivitamins. Your healthcare provider will advise you on which supplements you need and how often to take them.
- Monitor nutrient levels: Regular blood tests can help detect nutrient deficiencies before they become severe. Your healthcare provider may recommend routine blood tests to monitor your nutrient levels and adjust your supplement regimen as needed.
- Drink plenty of fluids: Staying hydrated is important after bariatric surgery, as dehydration can worsen nutrient deficiencies. Aim to drink at least 64 ounces of fluids per day, as recommended by your healthcare provider.
- Attend follow-up appointments: Regular follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider can help you monitor your progress and detect any nutrient deficiencies early. Your provider can also adjust your treatment plan as needed to ensure that you are getting the nutrients your body needs.
Now keep in mind that even if you take all your supplements, go to your follow-up appointments and eat a balanced diet, nutrient deficiencies may still occur. This is especially the case after mixed procedures like the Gastric Bypass and Duodenal Switch.
Changing your digestive system the easy way out? We don’t think so! Let’s move on to one of the greatest (mental) obstacles after bariatric surgeries: dealing with weight stalls and weight regain.
Dealing with Weight Plateaus
Weight loss after bariatric surgery can be rapid in the first few months, but it may slow down or plateau after that. You may feel like you hit a brick wall. But it’s so incredibly important to honor your new habits and to stay focused on your main goals. Every small win is important and they can be your motivation when you feel like you’re not moving forward.
Your weight isn’t the only measurement of your post-op success. If you feel like your relationship with the scale is taking a hit, then it’s time to stop the scale from dictating your mood.
Weight plateaus and weight regain are common experiences after bariatric surgery. According to a study published in the journal Obesity Surgery, approximately 20% of bariatric surgery patients experience weight regain within the first 5 years after surgery, and up to 30% of patients experience weight plateaus or weight regain within the first 2 years after surgery.
Embracing the New You
Bariatric surgery can lead to significant physical changes, but it can also have a profound impact on your emotional and mental health. This is especially the case when food has been your coping mechanism before bariatric surgery. Having weight loss surgery can, in some way or form, take away that coping mechanism bringing deeper issues to light. Remember that it’s okay to not have everything figured out all at once.
When you don’t recognize yourself in the mirror: Body Distortion
Negative body image distortion is not uncommon after bariatric surgery and can have serious implications for your mental health. Your body changes rapidly in a short period of time and you may be dealing with excess skin.
Losing weight after bariatric surgery brings many advantages (that’s why it’s still the number one treatment for severe obesity).
But….the downsides can’t be neglected.
Negative body distortion can manifest like this:
- Avoiding or overly obsessing with the reflection in the mirror
- Constantly comparing your body to others, bringing you in a negative spiral of the comparison trap
- Not being able to accept genuine compliments from others about your appearance
If you need guidance with the way you’re perceiving yourself and work through the root cause of any emotional disruptions, don’t hesitate to ask for help.
Because you don’t have to do everything on your own, and you’re worthy of self-care. Both physically and mentally!
Your First Year After Bariatric Surgery at Glance
To say that the first year after bariatric surgery is a rollercoaster ride, is an understatement. From the euphoria of weight loss and crossing of your non-scale victories. From acquiring a whole new mindset and dealing with all the layers beneath the surface (mind hunger, emotional eating, grazing and healing your relationship with food altogether) – there’s so much to unravel.
And you know what?
Your bariatric journey doesn’t have a deadline. You’re not finished after 12 monhts post-op. Losing the weight is one thing, but holding on to your new habits is another ball game. And it’s not easy, but you’re more than worth it.
About Your Onederland
Welcome to the most compassionate bariatric surgery community out there. We don’t judge you for what is or isn’t on your plate and we give you the tools to help you make your Bariatric Journey work.
- Livhits M, Mercado C, Yermilov I, Parikh JA, Dutson E, Mehran A, Ko CY, Gibbons MM. Preoperative predictors of weight loss following bariatric surgery: systematic review. Obes Surg. 2012;22(1):70-89. doi: 10.1007/s11695-011-0472-4.
- Pardeshi R, Khanna P, Ekbote VH, Khatri V, Aggarwal S, Purandare H. Early Weight Regain and Weight Plateau after Bariatric Surgery- The Role of Body Composition. Obes Surg. 2021 Mar;31(3):969-976. doi: 10.1007/s11695-020-05007-9. Epub 2020 Aug 20. PMID: 32813044.
- Fink, J. W., & Borisenko, O. (2018). Management of common complications after bariatric surgery. American family physician, 97(5), 319-326.
- Magro, D. O., Geloneze, B., Delfini, R., Pareja, B. C., Callejas, F., Pareja, J. C., & Halpern, A. (2008). Long-term weight regain after gastric bypass: a 5-year prospective study. Obesity surgery, 18(6), 648-651.
- Mechanick, J. I., Youdim, A., Jones, D. B., Garvey, W. T., Hurley, D. L., McMahon, M. M., … & Brethauer, S. (2013). Clinical practice guidelines for the perioperative nutritional, metabolic, and nonsurgical support of the bariatric surgery patient—2013 update: cosponsored by American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, The Obesity Society, and American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery. Endocrine Practice, 19(2), 337-372.
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