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Weight Loss Surgery: What to Expect the First Year

With bariatric surgery, the most dramatic changes happen in the first year. Here's what to expect.

Medical Milestones After Weight Loss Surgery

Follow-up with your surgeon is critical after bariatric surgery, says Madan. "These checkups help to identify nutritional deficiencies and to ensure you're losing weight at a normal pace."

  • With gastric bypass surgery, visits are scheduled for the 3-month, 6-month, and 1-year mark (and possibly at the 9-month mark). 
  • With gastric banding surgery, follow-up visits occur more frequently, typically monthly -- especially during the first year, says Madan. "We see patients often to make sure it's not too loose or too tight -- and to make sure they're eating right." If the band is too tight, it can cause vomiting.

 

2 Keys to Surgery Success: Healthy Food and Exercise

Your food choices must change, too, to ensure that you're losing weight -- and that you're getting proper nutrition. Too much of a sweet, sugary food will move through the small intestine too quickly. This causes "dumping" -- running to the bathroom with diarrhea, or simply a feeling of nausea.

You can't ignore exercise any longer. "If you've always been a couch potato, you'll have to do things differently after surgery," she adds. "When you expend more calories, you keep weight off. We see people who have gotten their lives back. They're in aerobics classes, yoga classes. They become an inspiration to others."

Getting moral support is definitely a plus. Organize a circle of friends to cheer you along the way, advises Joy R., a member of WebMD's message boards. "My friends made it much easier ... just being there and telling me I was doing great!"

Your Relationships After Weight Loss Surgery

Be prepared to explain your new eating habits to family and friends, Madan says. "No matter what you tell Grandma, she's going to know better. Be respectful, but learn to ignore it."

  • Tell them: "Four ounces is the normal amount of food I can eat now. Be glad that I'm going to lose this weight. If I don't lose the weight, there's a good chance I'm going to get diabetes [if you don't have it already]." 
  • Emphasize other positives: If you have sleep apnea, you likely won't have to deal with that anymore. If you've been too heavy to play with your kids, that will change.

If a friend or family member is overweight, you may feel their jealousy, Madan says. If your social life has been built around food, things will have to change.You may need new friends. You definitely will have to change your social activities.

  • Go to the movies instead of a restaurant. Find interests and activities that aren't focused on food. You can still dine out, but order an appetizer as your entrée -- or box most of your dinner to take home, he suggests. 
  • Prepare for changes in intimate relationships. A bad relationship may get worse. A good one will become stronger. If your mate liked your old weight -- or liked the control they had because you were overweight -- he or she may feel insecure or jealous. You may need a counselor to deal with these changes.

Your children will be affected -- in a good way. "They develop healthier eating patterns, eat healthier food," Madan tells WebMD. "A teenager is smart enough to see that if Mom or Dad is going through major surgery to lose weight, they don't want to be there themselves."

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Reviewed on February 12, 2009

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