Gastric sleeve surgery is becoming increasingly popular, but if you’re thinking about undergoing this type of procedure, it’s important to understand that successful weight loss requires more than just going under the knife. While surgery can be an extremely effective tool in your weight loss efforts, you’ll also need to commit to changes after your procedure. To be more prepared for what to expect after your gastric sleeve surgery, use this guide to commit to a healthier lifestyle while you manage the physical and psychological effects of weight loss.
What is gastric sleeve surgery?
Gastric sleeve surgery is a popular weight-loss operation in which your surgeon will remove part of your stomach and join the remaining parts together with surgical staples, which creates a new “sleeve” that’s about a tenth of the size of your original stomach. Because gastric sleeve surgery doesn’t require the reconstruction of the intestinal tract, it is a simpler, less invasive procedure than gastric bypass surgery.
Gastric sleeve surgery will cause you to eat less in two ways. Since your stomach will be considerably smaller, you’ll feel full much more quickly, and you will ultimately eat less. In addition, the part of your stomach that produces an appetite-boosting hormone will be removed, which is likely to reduce hunger pangs. As a result, you may lose up to 75 percent of your excess weight, which in turn may improve or cure obesity-related health problems such as type 2 diabetes.
Much of your excess weight will come off in the first few months after surgery, with weight loss continuing until at least the end of the first year.
Why is it important to prepare for recovery?
Patients anticipating surgery will often put a great deal of thought into preparing for the operation, but they tend not to focus as much on their recovery. In the short term, knowing what to expect after your gastric sleeve surgery will help reduce your risk of complications and facilitate your recovery. With adequate recovery preparation, you’ll be better able to understand and follow instructions that will assist you both in healing from the procedure and beginning your new way of eating.
After you recover from your surgery, you may feel as though you’ve reached the ending point, but this is really the beginning of lifelong changes in the way you eat and other health-related habits. Preparing for these life changes ahead of time can help you adjust more quickly to your new reality. After all, if you know what to expect, you’ll be better equipped to undertake what you need to do to lose weight and take care of your mind and body after your surgery.
You’ll also be able to set up and access needed support that will likely make your weight loss and recovery easier. This support can take many forms, including meeting with a dietitian and attending regular support group meetings with other people who have had gastric sleeve surgery.
What is recovery after surgery like?
Immediately after your surgery, you’ll probably stay overnight at the hospital or surgical center for one to three days. Your abdomen will probably feel sore and may be swollen, so you might receive medication to lessen your discomfort.
During this period, your vital signs (including your pulse, your blood pressure and your respiration) will be monitored, and you’ll be checked to ensure that you’re not experiencing any post-surgery complications.
Before you leave the hospital, the surgical staff will provide you with detailed instructions on how to avoid complications. You’ll also be told when you can resume certain activities and how your eating plan should change. If possible, have a friend or family member present to take notes and ask questions. After you’re discharged, don’t hesitate to call your doctor’s office if you have any questions or concerns.
What can you expect during your short-term recovery?
The following are some important elements related to your short-term recovery, as well as tips to make sure your recovery progresses smoothly:
Ask for assistance if you need it
It may be difficult to handle your responsibilities around the house in the immediate aftermath of your surgery, so ask for assistance from friends or relatives if you need it. You may also want to look into temporarily bringing in hired help.
Follow your new eating plan
During the first six weeks after surgery, your staple lines will be all that’s holding your new sleeve together, so it’s important to follow your eating plan and give these staple lines a chance to properly heal.
You’ll drink clear liquids for the first day after surgery and will then probably be placed on a liquid-only diet for the first week or so. After that, you’ll transition to soft pureed foods for two weeks. It’s very important that you don’t transition to solid foods too soon, as this could damage your stomach and lead to side effects such as nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps.
For the first two weeks after surgery, you will need to restrict yourself to an intake of about 400 calories. This may have been daunting before your procedure, but because of the gastric sleeve surgery you will now naturally have decreased hunger which will make it easier for you to commit to the restricted portion sizes. As your body adjusts to the reduced number of calories while your recover from your surgery, you may feel more tired than usual, but don’t worry: Once you begin to gradually eat more calories, you’ll feel your energy returning.
Give yourself time before resuming normal activities
Take at least two weeks to recover after your surgery before you return to work, especially if you have a physically demanding job.
Walking as soon as possible after surgery will help prevent deep vein thrombosis, which is a potentially dangerous condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein deep inside the body. Your doctor may even encourage you to walk as soon as a few hours after surgery.
That said, give yourself time to recover and don’t do too much too soon. Remember, you may find that you become tired more quickly than usual. Although you can gradually increase your amount of cardiovascular exercise, you should wait at least four weeks after surgery before you do any weight-lifting or other forms of extremely strenuous activity. Overexerting yourself could lead to a hernia developing in your surgical wound, which occurs when muscle, internal tissue and/or part of the stomach pokes through the healing incision.
Work through short-term psychological effects
You should expect to potentially experience some mood fluctuations as your body adjusts to fewer calories. Keep in mind that this is a common psychological side effect that will likely pass fairly quickly.
How about your long-term recovery?
Getting gastric sleeve surgery affects not only what you eat but also the way you eat for the rest of your life. It is important for you to understand that while undergoing surgery is a great starting point, you’ll also need to make other changes to get—and stay—as healthy as possible.
The following tips will help you prepare for and navigate your post-surgery life:
Stick with your new eating plan
You’ll have to significantly alter the way you eat after your surgery, which will likely be a large adjustment. Here’s a short list of the changes you can expect:
- Eat very slowly
- Eat only small quantities of food at a time, and keep in mind that your new stomach is much smaller
- Chew thoroughly and don’t swallow your food until after you have thoroughly chewed it to a mashed consistency
- Don’t eat and drink at the same time, as this can cause food to move through your new stomach too quickly; instead, drink a beverage about 30 minutes before you eat a meal
When your surgeon gives you the OK, you should start a post-surgery exercise program. Not only will this be an important part of keeping off the weight you lose, it will also help lower your overall percentage of body fat. Moreover, getting active will facilitate your adjustment to life after surgery and increase your energy.
Take vitamins and supplements
Although your body will still absorb nutrients after your surgery, it will be getting far fewer nutrients than before—after all, you’ll be eating substantially less food. Your doctor will let you know exactly what vitamins and supplements you should take, but you’ll most likely need an array of multivitamins as well as additional doses of B vitamins.
Meet with a dietitian
As you’ll be taking in less food, it’s even more important to make healthy choices that lead to you receiving as many food-based nutrients as possible. A dietitian can help you devise and maintain a healthy eating plan over time.
Your doctor will let you know how many calories you should be getting, which will most likely be around 900 to 1,000 calories a day at six months post-surgery. Note that eating foods or drinking beverages that are high in calories, sugar or fat should be avoided.
Keep your follow-up appointments with your doctor
You’ll need to set and keep follow-up appointments with your doctor to ensure you’re recovering well and progressing as you should after your surgery. During these appointments, you can ask questions and discuss concerns about your diet, exercise, weight loss and psychological recovery. Likewise, your doctor can ascertain that you’re on the right track and suggest any necessary adjustments to optimize your recovery.
Prepare for longer-term psychological effects
You obviously expect your body to change after gastric sleeve surgery, but don’t forget about the psychological side of the equation. First off, you may find that you crave unhealthy foods, which can be stressful. Joining a support group for gastric sleeve patients will help you adjust to this and other changes you may be experiencing, and finding a therapist with experience in counseling weight loss patients may be valuable as well.
In addition, be aware of the fact that some of the activities you previously enjoyed with friends may no longer be realistic for you post-surgery. You’ll still be able to socialize, but you’ll need to do it in a healthier way. For example, if you’re used to going out to lunch with friends or having drinks with your colleagues after work, why not find some new and more physical activities to share? Try starting a walking group at lunch or ask your friends to meet for a bike ride or a hike instead of post-work dinner and drinks. Chances are good that they’ll welcome the chance to pick up some healthy habits themselves!
While you may experience some positive psychological effects as you lose weight and assume a greater role in taking care of yourself and maintaining your weight loss, you may also encounter feelings of depression. Keep in mind that although getting gastric sleeve surgery can certainly prompt dramatic life changes in some respects, it won’t solve every single one of your problems, and it’s unrealistic to assume that you won’t experience some periods of feeling down or having low self-esteem.
In addition, your friends and family may react to you differently as you lose weight, and some may even try to sabotage your weight loss efforts. It can be difficult to adjust to this type of reaction, which is yet another reason why post-surgery counseling and joining a support group can be so helpful.
Are you ready to begin your journey?
For more information about gastric sleeve surgery for weight loss, contact BMI of Texas today. We’ll assist you in determining whether this procedure is the best option for you, and if you decide to move forward, our caring staff will ensure that you understand what to expect during your short-term and long-term recovery.
At BMI of Texas, our nutrition team and fitness center staffed by exercise physiologists and designed specifically for bariatric patients will help you meet your post-surgery goals. Just like your weight-loss journey doesn’t end with surgery, our job doesn’t end with your surgery either, and we’re dedicated to providing you with the support you need to succeed.