Lifestyle changes after weight-loss surgery

Surgery is the beginning of your weight-loss journey; commitment and hard work are needed after surgery to reach your weight-loss goals. Diet and exercise will be important in your recovery process.

To assist all Sky Ridge Medical Center patients in their recovery from surgery and through their weight-loss journey, we offer free support groups with Kelly Elliot, our registered dietitian, on the third Wednesday of every month from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Learn more about our bariatric surgery center and the qualifications to be eligible for weight-loss surgery.

To learn more about life after bariatric surgery, call one of our experts at (303) 662-1191.

Adjustments to your eating habits after bariatric surgery

The modifications made to your gastrointestinal tract will require permanent changes in your eating habits. Some of these changes include:

  • When you start eating solid food, it is essential that you chew thoroughly. You will not be able to eat steaks or other chunks of meat if they are not ground or chewed thoroughly.
  • Don't drink fluids while eating. They will make you feel full before you have consumed enough food.
  • Omit desserts and other items with sugar listed as one of the first three ingredients.
  • Omit carbonated drinks, high-calorie nutritional supplements, milk shakes, high-fat foods and foods with high fiber content.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Limit snacking between meals.
  • Maintain a healthy diet.

Exercise after weight-loss surgery

Following recovery from bariatric surgery, regular cardiovascular exercise and strength training must be part of your daily routine. Exercise is also vitally important to helping you reach your weight-loss goal.

Going back to work

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 six weeks of their procedure. Patients who have had a minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure may be able to return to these activities within a few weeks.

Follow-up after weight-loss surgery

Over time, you will need periodic checks for anemia (low red blood cell count) and vitamin B12, folate and iron levels. Follow-up tests will initially be conducted every six months or as needed, and then every one to two years afterward. Additionally, all patients are encouraged to attend regular free support group meetings with our registered dietitian.

Tips for dining out

Restaurant food can be very high in saturated fat, sugar and sodium. Here are some tips to guide you through the menu in order to make restaurant visits a healthier experience:

  • Don’t order foods you have trouble tolerating, such as tough meat, breads or fibrous veggies
  • Ask for healthy substitutions, such as steamed veggies in place of fries
  • Request sauces and dressings be served on the side
  • Order “lite” items or ones lower in fat
  • Choose baked, broiled or grilled over fried
  • Avoid desserts like puddings and ice cream as these count as liquids
  • Adult beverage: chose a drink with a lower alcohol content, such as a glass of red wine
  • Portion sizes:
    • Order appetizer sizes
    • Request child sizes or a child’s menu
    • Request half orders
    • Share your order with a friend
    • Automatically put half of your meal in a to-go container
    • Make a meal of side options (steamed broccoli, mashed potatoes)

The lifestyle change

By: Dr. Glenn Kaplan

Patients who are facing bariatric surgery need to make significant changes in their eating behaviors, exercise and other lifestyle habits. In part, the requirements for success rely on a person's ability to make psychological changes and behavior changes. As a psychologist working with bariatric patients, counseling addresses ways to learn how to make these behavior changes (habit change) and cognitive changes (one's thinking). Life is about choices, but habits often rob us of these choices by becoming involuntary responses rather than conscious decisions. It is important to sort out the good habits from the bad habits in order to bring control back into one’s life.

At what stage does an action become a habit?

A habit is a repetitive action that becomes so ingrained that it effectively turns into an automatic reaction. The question is, how do we differentiate the habits that are helpful from the ones that are destructive? Habits may become so ingrained that when we face emotional stresses in our lives we rely on the bad habit such as emotional eating (automatic response) because it has helped to sooth the emotional stress in previous situations.

However, bariatric patients need to learn new stress-management techniques that are more helpful, such as replacing emotional eating behaviors with more positive behaviors. It is important to remember that changing conscious thought or behavior is much easier than an unconscious thought or behavior. The first thing we need to do is develop our awareness of what is going on.

Be aware of actions and take note

One way to do this is to make a list of all the habits you think you have. Be aware of your actions and jot down those that seem to be repetitive. Just think about everyday habits. List the thoughts and feelings that are associated with those behaviors. These behaviors may include stress reactions, food, shopping, work, boredom, watching television, going out with friends or family, what you order in a restaurant or the way you perceive your body image. Now identify how often these habits occur. Once you have your habits listed, label each one good or bad. Determine whether these habits are helping you or hurting you. Now that you understand how to identify potentially harmful habits, begin to associate the thoughts and feelings related to that habit.

Think of ways to change related thoughts and feelings

Once you have brought your potentially harmful habits into consciousness, begin to think about ways to change your thoughts and feelings related to each habit. Ask yourself what you are feeling related to each habit and what you are thinking about at that moment. Ask yourself what you are gaining from that habit. What would you gain by changing the thoughts and feelings associated with each habit if you could now change the habit into one that is more productive? Then write down the thoughts and feelings you may have associated with the new habit (behavior change). This is the stage where you begin to feel a sense of control.

Next, compare the old habits with the new habits and choose which is more important for you. There is no right or wrong answer. This is about personal choice and to examine the priorities in your life. The next step is to substitute the more desirable behaviors, thoughts and feelings for the old. Removing or eliminating a habit without replacing it with a more appropriate behavior may leave a void that is sometimes filled by some other unintentional behavior, thought or feeling (such as a harmful habit). Remember that control is all about choices and these are YOUR choices. Successful habit change does not come overnight. It often requires lifelong practice.

Changing habits summary

  • Make a list of all of the habits, or repetitive actions, that you think you may have. Include both positive and negative habits.
  • Go through your list and write down the thoughts and feelings that are associated with these habitual behaviors.
  • Write down how often these habits occur.
  • Label each habit good or bad– determine if the habit is helping or hurting you.
  • Focus on the harmful habits, and think about ways to change your thoughts and feelings associated with each habit.
  • Ask yourself what you are thinking and feeling while you are engaging in the habit.
  • Question what you are gaining from the habit and what you could gain by changing it into a one that is more productive. Write down this new habit.
  • Jot the thoughts and feelings you would have if you changed this habit.
  • Look at your lists and compare the old habits with the new habits. Choose which is more important to you. This is YOUR personal choice.
  • Begin to substitute the more desirable habitual behaviors into your life. Remember that removing or eliminating a harmful habit without replacing it with a more desirable behavior can leave a void for another unintentional behavior (that may be just as harmful).

Dr. Glenn Kaplan is a board-certified clinical health psychologist who works with bariatric patients. He can be reached at (303) 434-6023.