Many people struggle with their weight and experience fluctuations in weight gain and loss. For people who have tried a variety of weight loss and dieting tactics with disappointing results, or people who suffer from chronic conditions that lead to weight gain, bariatric surgery can provide amazing benefits.
Note: This is part two of a two-part series about bariatric surgery. Read part one about who is the best candidate for bariatric surgery and how they should prepare for the procedure.
What to Expect After Surgery?
Bariatric surgery patients typically spend one night in the hospital after their procedure and can return home to rest and recover for about two weeks. During the first four weeks, Dr. Hymel says, they are on a modified diet that progressively returns them to traditional solid food.
The process starts with a clear liquid diet for the first week — things like broth, water, juice and popsicles without added sugar. Vitamins will be part of that diet to account for any missed nutrients. Protein shakes and softer foods are added next until the patient can resume a normal diet.
Though, hopefully, patients are consuming a “new” normal diet after that with healthier choices as guided by their dietitian, Dr. Hymel says.
Patients are usually cleared to resume any and all physical activity two weeks after surgery and are encouraged to increase their physical activity to stay healthy.
Follow-up appointments are every other month in the first year and annually after that.
Dr. Hymel stresses that every patient has the help and support of the team throughout the process, from a patient coordinator for assistance with paperwork and insurance to a registered dietitian, who is available for email questions and phone calls, in addition to the in-person visits.
For physical therapy needs after surgery, Dr. Hymel’s team can refer out to a physical therapy group.
Does the Weight Stay Off?
Bariatric surgery is a relatively young field, with not a lot of long-term data to show conclusive trends in weight gain or weight loss after the procedure.
“At the end of the day, it usually boils down to patient habits and whether they are maintaining their diet and physical activity,” Dr. Hymel says. “There’s not much that can fully counteract poor habits and a sedentary lifestyle.”
The weight loss rate is at its highest immediately after surgery, with the maximum weight loss seen usually a year after surgery.
Side effects tend to include thinning hair, though vitamins can help with that. A more troublesome side effect is the development of loose skin from rapid weight loss. Many insurance companies will pay for excess skin removal in the abdominal area if patients meet certain requirements.
What most insurance companies won’t cover is another bariatric surgery procedure for weight regain.
The Benefits of Bariatric Surgery
Dr. Hymel says a lot of patients don’t realize how helpful bariatric surgery could be for them — or that it’s even an available option.
They are also surprised to learn how much of a group effort is involved from their care team to ensure each patient has the support to change their lifestyles and habits for success.
Dr. Hymel knew even as an undergrad at LSU that nutrition would be part of her work. She jokes that it wasn’t until her second year in college that she finally learned the differences between carbohydrates, protein and fat. That inspired her own passion to help educate people about diet and healthy habits in their daily lives.
“It’s incredibly satisfying seeing the incredible results so many of our patients have,” Dr. Hymel says. “They are losing 100 to 150 pounds and also adding many years to their lives in the process.”