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All the time, energy, and dedication you put into deciding to have bariatric surgery has led up to this: your post-bariatric surgery life. Your bariatric surgery education courses and counseling have given you all the tools and resources available up until this pivotal moment. Here’s what to prioritize in the days and weeks following surgery: recovery, exercise, and nutrition.
Understanding Your R&R: Recovering at the Hospital and Resting at Home
Recovering from bariatric surgery varies depending on which surgery you had. Typically, immediate post-operative recovery looks like a night or two in the hospital where you will be closely monitored by your health care team.
“It will take time for your body to adjust to your new digestive system process. While you’re recovering in the hospital, we will start you on a liquid diet, you will then build your diet to thicker liquids and softer solids,” said Bradee Rojas, M.S., R.D., C.D.C.E.S., Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Program coordinator at Inspira Medical Center Mullica Hill. “Within 4-6 weeks after surgery you will be back to eating solid foods, as tolerated”.
After you are discharged, you will have some new responsibilities while your body recoups, such as keeping the surgical area clean, bathing carefully and managing your pain medication.
“Everyone recovers from bariatric surgery differently. While you may have some pain or nausea after surgery, your health care team will provide you with medications and tips to help manage your symptoms to keep you as comfortable as possible,” said Keith Kreitz, M.D., F.A.C.S., medical director of Bariatric Surgery at Inspira Medical Center Mullica Hill.
Reach out to your doctor immediately if you experience:
- Nausea, vomiting and inability to drink fluids
- Redness, irritation, or bleeding from the surgical area
- Chest Pain or increased abdominal pain
- Leg pain or swelling
Expediting Recovery through Exercise
It’s no secret that exercise helps promote weight loss; however, there is a unique benefit to exercising after bariatric surgery: maintaining your musculoskeletal health.
“Being active after surgery is one of the best ways to help your body acclimate to its new digestive structure,” said Kreitz. “The goal of bariatric surgery is to achieve long-term weight loss by reconstructing how your body processes and digests food, but that is only half the battle. The other half is helping your body complete its digestive goals by taking care of your body and keeping it strong.”
After your bariatric surgery, three main exercise areas to focus on are:
- Cardiovascular health to maintain consistent energy
- Strength training to preserve and enhance muscle mass
- Flexibility training to prevent future injuries
Redefining Your Relationship with Food
And finally, we’ve reached the epicenter of our bariatric surgery journey: learning new, sustainable diet changes. Depending on your surgery, perhaps your stomach is smaller, or maybe part of it was removed. Regardless, it is critical to stick to a diet plan and ensure you are getting the nutrients you need.
“Protein is an essential nutrient after surgery. Protein is needed for wound healing and helps to build muscle as you recover and lose weight,” said Kreitz. “Additionally—and this was covered in your training modules—you will reintroduce yourself to food first conservatively with just certain liquids and soft foods and later, move onto larger and more solid foods.”
If you need to incorporate more protein into your diet immediately after surgery, try including:
- Protein supplements or shakes
- Nonfat milk or soy milk and Greek yogurt
- Pureed or soft beans
While your journey to a healthier lifestyle has not been an easy one, remember to celebrate every big success and every small victory. Mostly, remember to celebrate your body, regardless of where you are in your journey.
To speak with a Bariatric specialist or to request an appointment, visit InspiraHealthNetwork.org/Bariatric or call 1-800-INSPIRA