Bariatric surgery is not a sprint but a marathon.

Your success after bariatric surgery is going to be decided by choices made after the operation. Maintaining healthy lifestyle choices is imperative if you wish to achieve full and lasting benefits from your bariatric surgery. Living with your choices has to become a habit so that you can look forward to a life of better quality, bolster self-image and self-esteem.

Replace Convenience with Ritual

Flipping grilled vegetables
Convenience foods are the bane of healthy living. Successful weight control requires you to command the way your foods are prepared. While food preparation is more time consuming, it is a way to avoid hidden calories that sabotage long-term success.

Developing a habit takes practice. For the first few months, you will be stress-testing your plan. Whenever you start a new habit, you are likely to encounter some challenges. When you do encounter a challenge, you will need to figure out a way to work through it and overcome the necessary obstacles. Even though we speak in terms of maintaining healthy choices through habit, we need to keep in mind that there isn’t much choice; the alternative to following a healthy lifestyle is seeing the benefits of the surgery slip away.

The challenges to sticking to your new lifestyle may stem from your age, predilections to certain food items, your expectations from the surgery, dislike for physical work, and such factors. You have to be mentally be prepared for these challenges and obstacles so that when they manifest themselves, as they invariably will, you are prepared to tackle them. Making drastic lifestyle changes is not going to be easy but some changes have to be made in order to first recover from the surgery and then get down to accruing and enjoying the benefits of a healthy lifestyle – centering on a healthy diet and exercise.

Your post-surgery routine must be personalized to meet your needs. For example, if you prefer taking a walk in the evening and not in the morning then have it written down in your exercise plan. The more individualized the plan, the easier will it be for you to get used to the plan, follow it, live by it, and benefit from it. However, obstacles will arise.

Example of coping with a diet obstacle:

You and your friends meet up at restaurants for get-togethers, and you’re not sure what to order.

Here is an example of how a diet plan can proceed and the positive intent that you need to show in your thinking.

  • Check the restaurant’s website to get a jump start on ordering.
  • If you order an entrée, ask your server for a to-go box when it comes out and put half of your entrée in it immediately.
  • Restaurant appetizers are often closer to an appropriate portion size than the entrées.

It can be a good idea to keep the diet plan simple so that it is easier to follow. A complex diet plan can create a heightened feeling of the difficulty in keeping track of food items eaten and calories consumed. This said, not all obstacles to a diet plan will be psychological. You may have to face attacks on your resolve everyday. By following diet rules that are easy to remember and implement you increase your chances of success. When you feel weak and want to allow yourself a calorie-laden luxury, think of the surgery that you have gone through and the effort that it takes to burn calories.

Experiment with Spice

Chef spicing food
Maintaining a healthy diet can be helped by experimenting with different flavor. Your sense of taste and smell will change after bariatric surgery and the months after an operation represent a time where you can replace the banal pleasures of sugar and fat and reprogram your palate with healthy choices.

Educate yourself on the healthy choices that you can make. Not all of these have to be food or diet-related. For example maintaining good posture and correct breathing technique is also a health-related choice. Women should consider wearing flat footwear instead of heels as it helps in maintaining correct posture.

Example of coping with a fitness obstacle

You schedule a 30-minute fitness activity for Tuesday afternoons, but find that you consistently miss it or do not have enough time for the full 30 minutes.

  • Exercise an additional 15 minutes two other days of the week or 10 minutes three other days.
  • Split your Tuesday physical activity into two sessions: Exercise for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening.

The above scenario is just a representative example of what you will face as you set out to lose calories through exercise and get in shape after your bariatric surgery. Lethargy and laziness could well be your major enemies. See if you can a partner to join you on your walks. Set realistic targets and be flexible in your aim. Do not fret if you feel you’re lagging behind. And do not overexert yourself. Keep track of your progress, there will be activities in your exercise routine that you may not particularly like such as walking on the treadmill, you’d rather do weights to develop your muscles. But remember that your exercise and fitness regimen is designed to give you both benefits.

Long term decisions need to be maintained

Exercise is a good example of something that needs to be practiced and embraced for the rest of your life. Exercise is a way of keeping your muscles, joints and bones healthy and functional for the long term. Exercise is not something you can stop once you reach a particular goal such as reaching a particular clothing size or fitting into a favorite outfit.

Speak to people who have already trodden on this path and have faced the obstacles that you are now facing. You can learn from their experience. There is an element of proactivity involved in altering your lifestyle and maintaining the healthy choices after surgery. Be enthusiastic in learning about the options you have to stay healthy, lose weight, keep obesity-related conditions at bay, and lead a normal life at work and home.

Understand your strengths and weaknesses

Obese person checking weight on scale
Most patients loose weight rather quickly in the first few months after an operation. The weight loss unfortunately slows down and becomes more difficult as time passes from your operative date. Understanding healthy eating, portion control and the need to exercise will help you maintain a steady healthy weight for the years to follow.