Photo: Kizmet Byrd
Roughly 200,000 Americans undergo bariatric surgery every year. While these surgeries are a solution for people who need medical intervention to lose weight, it’s important to know that gastric bypass, gastric band and similar surgeries are not an end-all-be-all solution for healthy living.
As a bariatric patient myself, I can vouch for how difficult living life post-surgery can be. In fact, after losing 187 pounds, I struggled with unhealthy eating, vitamin deficiencies and just plain feeling bad. But after taking some advice from my doctor and practicing healthy living, I turned it all around. Here’s what I wish I’d known at the beginning of it all.
1. You’ll have post-surgery highs and lows.
In 2009, I underwent a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery to improve my health. For more than a year after surgery, I felt that my recovery was going great. I had lost almost 200 pounds and was practically unrecognizable. But after another six months, I started to fall into bad habits: I didn’t take my supplements, ate too many bad carbs and didn’t exercise. I quickly gained back 20 pounds, then slowly gained more weight and began feeling unwell. After my primary care doctor ran blood tests, I found out that I had deficient levels of iron, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. This was my wake-up call!
2. You still need to change your lifestyle.
Instead of treating the procedure like a magic bullet, I had to reframe my perspective: Weight loss surgery is a tool to help you keep weight off. But it’s not the only tool—you also need to eight right and exercise. So take my tips on how to really thrive post-procedure.
- Make healthy ingredient swaps in your favorite recipes. After surgery, my advice is to have fun making healthy changes in your recipes. Reinvent old classics by swapping out veggies for pasta (these zoodles come to mind). Or try a new twist on a favorite, like hot wings for Buffalo-style cauliflower. Even try cauliflower rice in your favorite stir fry to add more vitamins and nutrients. Don’t know how to rice cauliflower? Don’t worry—it’s easy!
- Eat protein first: To get the most protein out of your meal, try to eat most of your proteins first (rather than empty carbs). I like salmon because it’s high in B vitamins and potassium. Try one of these fantastic salmon recipes.
- Opt for veggie snacks: Keep snack time healthy by munching on vegetables. Add a little more flavor with this yogurt dill dip (filled with Vitamin D and calcium!), but be sure to eat the appropriate serving following your bariatric weight management center guidelines.
- Guzzle that water: Staying hydrated is important for your overall health. To jazz up your intake, infuse your water with different flavors. My go-to recipe is orange, ginger and vanilla. Add a sliced orange, half teaspoon of vanilla extract and a pinch of ground ginger to two liters of water and chill. Or you can try these infused waters!
- Watch your carbs: You have to have a good balance of good carbs as part of the bariatric diet, but too many of the wrong carbs can mean weight gain. Instead of relying on the empty calories of comfort food, try satisfying but healthy substitutions like these recipes—so good and satisfying!
- Keep moving: Exercise daily and get your energy up by downloading some great tunes to keep you inspired.
3. Keep listening to your doctor.
Above all, make sure you take your multivitamin and supplements according to your bariatric weight managements centers guidelines, as well as follow the eating plan designed for you. This is so very important. And please get help if you need it! We all can be fragile and face some stumbling blocks along the way.
With these tips along with advice from your doctor, you should be able to see your way to a healthy lifestyle post-surgery.