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Maintaining Healthy Habits After Bariatric Surgery

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Woman blending a delicious and healthy smoothie with strawberries, bananas, celery, and water

For most weight loss surgery patients, success comes not only from surgery, but from lifestyle changes. Consistent diet and exercise habits are an important component of healthy living and weight management after bariatric surgery.

Changes to your body, everyday stress and adjusting to a new routine can make it challenging stay on track with healthy eating and exercise. As a result, it’s especially important to have a clear eating and exercise plan to ensure you’re making the healthiest choices possible. Aviv Ben-Meir, MD, a board-certified general surgeon specializing in bariatric and metabolic surgery, shares his advice for maintaining healthy habits after bariatric surgery.

Accept that food will be a smaller part of your life. Accepting the fact that food will be less of a focus in your life will make it easier to have long-term success. Enjoying the quality rather than the quantity of your food can help you manage this change.

Eat the same healthy foods every day. People who do well with their bariatric surgery often eat the same thing from day to day. This is helpful in two ways. One, it is very easy. Find a healthy meal or two that you like and repeat. By doing this you don’t have to calculate calories and protein every day. Second, it removes the emotion from eating. If you spend time each day thinking about what you want for breakfast or lunch rather than what you have ready to eat, you are more likely to make unhealthy choices.

Eat protein first. Eating lean protein first increases the likelihood that you will get enough of this important nutrient. Non-starchy vegetables should be the second type of food you consume at each meal. In addition to providing your body with the nutrition and fiber it needs, eating lean protein and vegetables increases satiety, which helps you avoid hunger between meals, and can help reduce the amount of carbohydrates you consume.

Count calories. If you want to lose weight you must take the time to count your calories and make sure you are eating fewer calories than you burn. There are apps such as Baritastic and My Fitness Pal for tracking your food consumption and associated calories. If you don’t like apps, you can manually record the foods and beverages you consume and calculate the calories. Although it may seem like a lot of work, knowing how many calories are in the food you eat is essential to making informed choices which will help you lose weight.

Avoid emotional eating. Emotional eating can lead to consuming high calorie foods that will interfere with your weight loss goals. If you have difficulty managing your emotional eating, therapy may be an option to consider. A therapist can help you recognize eating triggers and help you develop alternative, healthier ways to manage emotions.

Start exercising slowly. While exercise is important on your weight loss journey, patients should ease into exercise slowly after surgery to minimize the risk of developing hernias. Easing into exercise also helps minimize your risk of becoming dehydrated because replacing fluid lost through sweating is initially difficult after surgery.

For the first week after your surgery, we recommend walking short distances multiple times each day, not with the goal of burning calories or working up a sweat, but rather to reduce the risk of developing blood clots or pneumonia. When you can drink fluid easily enough to account for sweating, you can walk more vigorously or try cardio exercises such as using a treadmill, elliptical trainer, recumbent bicycle or jogging. We don’t want you to lift weights, swim or do abdominal exercises for at least 6 weeks after surgery. At that point, your muscles will be healed from surgery and your risk of hernia decreases drastically.

Stay connected. Maintaining contact with people who can provide support is helpful for staying on track. We encourage you to continue with regular post-operative appointments and stay connected to support networks. University Hospitals also offers ongoing education and a support group where you can find great connections with other patients.

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Whatever your weight loss goals, University Hospitals has a solution that will work for you. Our programs include weight loss surgery, non-surgical weight loss procedures, nutrition and diet-based programs. Our comprehensive team of experts can help you find the right program to achieve your weight loss success. Learn more.

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