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What to Expect Ahead of Weight Loss Surgery

May 19, 2023

If you’re seriously considering weight loss surgery, you may be wondering what to expect.

When will you be able to eat normally? Will you have to stay over at the hospital?

We asked Mia Shapiro, MD, a bariatric surgeon at Backus Hospital, what life is like before, during and after bariatric surgery.

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Before surgery: Kick-start lifestyle changes

It’s never too early to start making positive lifestyle changes. In fact, Dr. Shapiro recommends that patients start making changes before weight loss surgery.

“Patients who are interested in bariatric surgery need to show a commitment to making a lifestyle change. Your success after the operation will depend on several lifestyle changes, so we ask patients to start making those changes before the surgery,” says Dr. Shapiro.

This could mean decreasing sugar intake, increasing protein intake and eating meals at regular times.

But don’t worry. You’ll have a team of experts – including nutritionists, psychologists and physical therapists – to help you learn to create and sustain healthy new habits.

> Related: 6 Common Misconceptions About Weight Loss Surgery

During surgery: A short and safe procedure

Your surgeon will identify the best type of bariatric procedure based on your anatomy and medical history. But they do have certain things in common.

“Almost all procedures are performed laparoscopically under general anesthesia, and take anywhere from one to three hours,” says Dr. Shapiro.

And although all surgeries have risks, bariatric surgery is considered generally safe – even safer than common operations like hip replacement and gall bladder surgery.

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After surgery: Road to recovery

Everyone’s post-op journey is unique, but there are a few things you can expect:

  • One- to two-day hospital stay
  • Protein-based liquid diet after surgery that progresses to a normal diet over a month
  • Regular check-ins with your weight loss team

“My patients typically take two weeks off work for the surgery, but feel pretty good one week out from the procedure,” says Dr. Shapiro.

And more good news – most patients start to lose weight soon after surgery.

“This is because they go from a regular diet, ingesting around 2,000-2,500 calories per day, to about 1,000-1,200 calories per day.”

The road to a healthier life

But sustained weight loss is just one piece of a much larger picture. After weight loss surgery, patients see improvements in their diabetes, blood pressure, respiratory status and joint pain, just to name a few.

“I think one of the most common misconceptions is that weight loss surgery is cosmetic. But actually, it reduces the risk of premature death and improves conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, joint pain and sleep apnea, just to name a few.”

And the list doesn’t end there. New studies out show that patients who undergo bariatric surgery have a decreased risk of developing a host of cancers, likely due to a decrease in systemic inflammation.