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Recovering from Bariatric Surgery: Your Questions Answered

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Common recovery fears and how to overcome them

Posted by Neil A. King, MD

Bariatric surgery can sometimes seem like a big unknown. After all, it’s a surgical procedure and recovery can take some time.

Though thousands undergo successful bariatric procedures every year, the thought of committing months to an overall lifestyle change seems daunting to many. Questions such as, “Will I be hungry during the recovery period?” and “Will I be in pain after surgery” may loom in your mind. When in doubt, the best defense is information.

As a Temple bariatric surgeon, I help patients understand as much as they can about the benefits of bariatric surgery and the process of undergoing a bariatric procedure.

Here, I explore what might be some of your most common fears and reassure you with some encouraging realities.

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I’ve heard most people gain the weight back after bariatric surgery, or lose very little. Is that true?

The truth is, successful weight loss after bariatric surgery depends a lot on you. You should expect to lose anywhere from 40% to 70% of your excess weight in the first year or so after surgery if you:

  • Follow the program
  • Take advantage of support groups and resources provided to you
  • Stay connected to your weight-loss team

Within 2 years, some people do gain back about 5% of their original weight loss, but the overall weight loss is usually significant.

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I’ve been either overweight or obese all of my life, and it’s taken a toll on my self-esteem. Will I finally be able to feel good about myself after bariatric surgery?

It’s common for bariatric surgery patients to have struggled with depression and anxiety throughout their lives. And bariatric surgery is a full-time commitment.

If you do choose to have a bariatric procedure, my advice would be to make sure you’re partnering with a comprehensive bariatric surgery program. At Temple, for example, we make sure all of our patients are connected with the resources they need to make significant lifestyle changes, like:

There is a metabolic component to your feelings. But as you start to change your body’s composition, choose healthier foods, and increase your “feel good” hormones with exercise, you’ll naturally feel better.

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I understand bariatric surgery is a big commitment. What lifestyle changes can I expect to make?

The main thing to understand is that your lifestyle change has already begun. The fact that you’re seriously considering bariatric surgery means you’ve already taken the first step on your emotional journey. The rest is just about taking action on your positive thinking.

Before Your Procedure

A great first action is to meet with your bariatric surgery team to talk about your options and get all of your questions answered. At Temple, we offer a free seminar where you can meet the team and ask questions.

If you do qualify for surgery, your first lifestyle change would be to start losing weight before your procedure. And we have people to help you with that. You’re never on your own with our program.

After Your Procedure

After surgery, you’ll work with a nutritionist on a step-up diet, starting with liquids and slowly incorporating textured, pureed foods until you’re ready to start eating more normally. You’ll also have a list of foods to avoid, though everyone is different and you’ll want to experiment to see what works for you.

Supplements are also important to help you avoid nutritional deficiencies. We advise our patients on that, and follow up with blood tests for a year to make sure they’re getting the nutrients they need.

Finally, while this will be a lifestyle adjustment, patients often find a greater sense of control. Being a part of a larger support group and working through the ups and downs of nutrition and exercise — and also starting to look and feel better — will be an adjustment, but one that is often welcome.

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Where can I get more information about the bariatric surgery process?

Join us on Facebook Live or register to watch one of our online seminars from home anytime. All of these options are free and you’ll learn quite a bit about the types of bariatric procedures and what to expect before, during and after surgery.

I’d recommend listening with an open mind. Then, you can follow up with us afterward with questions or schedule an appointment with one of our bariatric surgeons.

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Neil A. King, MD

Dr. King is Assistant Professor of Surgery at Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, specializing in bariatric surgery. His clinical interests include metabolic and bariatric surgery, robotic surgery, hernia surgery and minimally invasive surgery.

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