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Written by Trish Fine, RD, LD
on April 19, 2018

The decision to have weight loss surgery should not be taken lightly. We encourage patients to research different procedures, speak to their surgeon, and speak to others who have already had surgery. We want our patients to fully understand the process and have realistic expectations for both their weight loss and the changes they must make to be successful long term. Having weight loss surgery is not an easy solution, but with proper education and support we know that patients can change their lives and health forever. In fact, we get to witness success stories every day!

In the months and weeks prior to surgery, there are some steps patients can take to help prepare both their bodies and minds for the changes to come. The better prepared the patient is, the better we expect them to do.

What to Expect When Preparing for Weight Loss Surgery

Vitamins

VitaminsAfter surgery there is are very specific guidelines for vitamin and mineral supplementation for patients, which depends on the type of surgery performed, including the following: gastric band, gastric bypass, gastric sleeve, and duodenal switch.

Our Registered Dietitians review these guidelines for vitamin and mineral supplementation with the patients in detail during the pre-op nutrition class and again right after surgery. One recommendation we also make is for patients to start taking a multivitamin with iron when they begin the process of pursuing surgery. Although a patient may not be clinical deficient in a particular vitamin or mineral, he or she may be below normal, thus taking the multivitamin should bring those levels to normal before the surgery. We want our patients to go into surgery in the best possible shape nutritionally.

Healthful Habits

Many of our patients have developed habits that are difficult to break, including drinking sugar sweetened beverages, skipping meals and grazing throughout the day. All of these are habits that need to be changed for successful long term success after weight loss surgery.

We encourage patients to start working on these behaviors before surgery. We also encourage patients to focus on the positive when making changes. For example, a good goal might be to start eating breakfast 4 out of 7 days per week (positive) vs. don't skip breakfast (negative).

Change doesn't happen overnight so working towards these changes during the months and weeks leading up to surgery helps ease the transition to the new healthy eating regimen.

Mental Preparation

In our experience, the hardest part of surgery for most patients in not the physical part, but the mental challenges that accompany weight loss surgery. Many patients have used food to cope with the inevitable frustrations of life. Some have used it to alleviate boredom and consider food to be their friend.

After weight loss surgery, the relationship with food and other people can change drastically and we recommend that our patients take advantage of the time prior to surgery to start addressing these issues. Therapy, group support, and self-help books specific to weight loss surgery are all great ways to begin the mental part of the weight loss journey. We host monthly support groups for our patients and our psychologist Dr. Connie Stapleton hosts online and live support groups and also published several wonderful books on the subject.

psychologic session for weight lossPre-Op Liquid Diet

In our practice, one thing that we require is that our patients do a 2-week liquid diet before having any weight loss surgery. The liquid diet consists of specific protein shakes, sugar free beverages, sugar free gelatin and sugar free popsicles. There are risks involved in any surgery and we are extremely dedicated to reducing them in every way possible.

The majority of weight loss surgery patients have excess fat stored in their livers, which causes the liver to become enlarged and often times surrounded in fat. To perform the surgeries, the physician needs to gently move the liver out of the way. However, if the liver is too large, it can get in the way and take extra time to move. This extra time means that the patient is under anesthesia longer than necessary, increasing the risk of complications.

When a patient follows the 2-week liquid diet, he or she loses weight rapidly and the liver shrinks so that the time under anesthesia is reduced. Although the liquid diet isn't fun for most patients, it is one way that the patient can have a safer surgery.

Talk About It

Lastly, we recommend that our patients discuss the surgery with their family and close friends. Weight loss surgery patients need support and having the support of their surgeons, medical team, and family and friends is essential to success. Having support and getting a head start on making changes can make all the difference.

To find out more about the steps leading up to weight loss surgery, call our office at (706) 922-0440 or schedule an initial consultation. 

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