Gastric bypass is a major surgery. And recovery is not fun. You’ll be tired, uncomfortable and hungry for the first couple of weeks after surgery. You will likely be depressed and second guess yourself every single day. “Did I make the right choice?” “Is this really worth it?” Your clear liquid diet is not fun at all. “More chicken broth for lunch?”
But listen, you’ve gone through surgery. You’ve made the tough decision to have surgery. You’ve weighed the risks and benefits and this is the path you’ve chosen. You’ve prepared your family and friends. You’ve suffered for years because of your weight. You’ve made the right choice. Now you have to stay the course and get through the toughest time after gastric bypass surgery. The first month is a struggle emotionally and physically.
It’s important to start your new life on the right foot. This is not a New Year’s resolution. This is a new life and a new you. You can’t give yourself the option to fail. And yes, its possible to fail in the first month. Here’s how. You don’t follow the guidelines. You don’t incorporate exercise into your daily routine. You continue to take the elevator or find the closest parking spot. Guess what? You’ll still lose weight. Gastric bypass will make you lose weight the first year. That’s the beauty of the procedure. But you’ll still fail.
You haven’t made changes, you’ve given yourself options. New Year resolutions are meant to be broken. They are nice but they aren’t permanent. Gastric bypass is a change that has to be permanent. Don’t give yourself the option to cheat. Have you heard the people say, ‘Everything in moderation’? That is not true for people who suffer with obesity. Moderation leads to cheating and cheating leads to failure. Do not give yourself the option.
Enough of my rant. Below are 5 steps that will start you on the path to a successful gastric bypass recovery.
Tip 1 – Walk
Start walking as much as you can after surgery. Your surgeon will likely advise this. You’ll need to take it easy the first few days after surgery. But don’t sit in your bed waiting for the pain to go away. Get used to pain and start changing your mindset. A workout, sweat, and tired muscles, are good things. Power through the pain and walk – you’ll likely walk around the house for the first few days. But start to make it a habit.
After the first week, start your day with a walk. Or end your day with a walk, but don’t skip it. Let your family members know that this is an important part of your new life. And you’ll be doing it daily. Put your shoes and your workout clothes by the foot of your bed. Do not use your snooze button. Every time you want to hit snooze, remember your life before surgery. Remember the struggle, the embarrassment you felt from obesity. Use it as your superpower, your motivator. Walk.
Tip 2 – Follow Your Post Op Diet
Don’t just read over your post-op diet and follow-it for the ‘most part.’ Follow it to the ‘T.’ Why? Because this is the new you. You might not be the CEO of a major company or have the career you want. Your love life might be in a rut. But you can control your diet. You can succeed at being healthy. You can be proud at the end of the worst day at work because you didn’t cheat. You stuck to your diet. You can feel horrible, but if cheating on your diet is not an option, then you won’t turn to food for comfort. You’ll sit in your bed, feel horrible, yell at your spouse, routinely be mean to everyone around you for no reason. But that is better than cheating on your diet. And tomorrow you won’t feel so bad. Tomorrow is another day. And if you wake up with your walk and a healthy breakfast, the day becomes different. It becomes better.
Once you have control over your diet, you will feel a sense of accomplishment. You’ve won and you’re winning. When I decided to go gluten free, I didn’t have to remove everything in the house that was laden with gluten. Gluten wasn’t even an option. I stocked more nuts, fruits, vegetables and quality proteins. Diet becomes very easy when you don’t give yourself options.
I’m dead serious about this. People say that food is meant to be enjoyed. I agree to an extent. Here is what happens after a few months of changing your diet. When you eliminate refined sugars and high-fructose corn syrup, your tastes change. It takes time. I’m not saying you’ll never want these foods. A piece of cake is delicious. I am saying that healthy foods will taste better. You’ll start to feel full with less food. You’ll start to realize that even the worst days at work aren’t that bad when you have mastered your diet. Yeah, you’ve lost your biggest account at work. But you’re healthier today than you were since you can remember. In the face of despair, you didn’t turn to unhealthy food. You won.
Wonder why some cultures are very content eating diets that include fish and rice and pickled vegetables? Their tastes have become accustomed to the simple flavors in these foods. They love simple balanced tastes. Refined sugars become too sweet. They mask the true flavors in food.
Your surgeon will probably recommend a clear liquid diet your first week after surgery. This is extremely tough. Its low calorie and not very tasty. But use it to start your new life. You’re already miserable recovering from surgery, hunger pains, and withdrawal from carbohydrates. Use this to your advantage. Know that you’ll be miserable anyway, and tough it out. Don’t waiver, don’t give yourself the option, excel and show the world what you can do.
Tip 3 – Stay Positive
Surgery is easy compared to the depression that you’re likely to feel after surgery. Do everything in your power to prevent this and to stay motivated. Buy a Fitbit device and track your steps. Compete against others. Find ways to motivate yourself. You don’t have to run marathons or start Crossfit. You don’t need to be a world-class athlete. You need to stay positive and motivated during your first month after gastric bypass. So set yourself up. Read books, subscribe to podcasts – here are a couple of my favorites; Happiness Through Self Awareness, The Daily Boost . Do something you never thought you’d do. Create a blog and show the world what you’re doing. Check-in with regular photos. Maybe one or two people will visit your website. That’s ok. Now you’re accountable.
More than anything, don’t sit down. Do one more activity. Clean the dishes, pick up after the kids, replace a light bulb. Activity breeds positivity. Why? When you are sitting, your mind wanders and thinks too much. In this case your mind is a terrible thing to use. Being active is an amazing way to shut off your mind. Yoga and meditation are popular for this very reason. But the very same thing applies to most activities. When you’re trying to clean the house, you’re focus is not on food, or on how you didn’t expect recovery would be so difficult. Your focus is on the task at hand.
This leads us into our next tip.
Tip 4 – Go To Support Groups
Yes, support groups are cheesy, kind of uncomfortable and not the way you want to spend a weekday evening. Many are filled with topics that are pretty obvious. Eat this, don’t eat that. But some of them are really good. Topics like, ‘Sex After Weight Loss Surgery,’ ‘Surviving The Holidays,’ and other great subjects are discussed.
Maybe you’ll learn something and maybe you won’t. The key to Support Groups is finding a friend in the same situation as you. Exchange numbers and start texting each other on a regular basis to check-in. This is your Accountability Partner. Both of you should get Fitbits and create a group so you can see who has taken more steps each day. Create a contest within your support group.
An Accountability Partner is very valuable to your success. Your family is a great support network and they need to be involved and aware of the struggles you’re likely to face. But they can’t fully understand what you are going through like someone else in the same situation. Text on a regular basis. Trust me. You need a friend.
I should mention, any reputable weight loss program offers support groups on a monthly basis. And you should start going before you actually have surgery. Start learning, seeing the progress others have made. Make friends, find your Accountability Partner.
Tip 5 – Ask For Help
If you’re truly serious about your health and you subscribe to ‘Cheating is not an option,’ and you know that moderation is not the key, then you’ll be successful. Moderation opens the door for cheating. Cheating deflates your progress and lowers your self-confidence. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that already, but its worth repeating. Don’t cheat.
However, we all have weak moments when we do we need help. Didn’t find an accountability partner? Then reach out to anyone. Seriously. Sometimes, its best not to reach out to family. Its likely that your family is supportive but they may not have the best eating habits. And they probably believe that everything in moderation is ok. They don’t understand your struggle.
Empower a co-worker or a friend. Tell them where you are and that you’ve cheated on your diet. You feel like you’re losing it. You’re depressed and unmotivated and you should have never had surgery. Vent.
Here’s the thing. When you talk to friends or even co-workers about your struggle, they are likely to feel privileged that you’ve confided in them. And because they may not see you daily, they are acutely aware of your progress. When you look into the mirror daily, you may forget how far you’ve come. So take pictures, and confide in others when you need help. Will they understand and give you the best advice? Probably not but that’s ok.
When you put it out there that you need help and you need to change, it creates a level of accountability. This is similar to posting your progress on a blog. You’ve told someone that you need to make a change. You may not see that person for another month. But when you do, you’ll know that you confided in that person. They’ll expect progress and they’ll expect change.
And almost everyone wants to be healthier. When I told a friend I was going to go gluten free. My friend said, ‘I’ll do it too.’ And now neither of us has the option to quit. Its been so long since we started our diet that it’s fun to check in from time to time, share recipes and progress. You’d be surprised at what you find when you talk to others about diet. Ever heard of Bullet-Proof Coffee? Neither did I until I told someone I was eating for energy (sounds ridiculous, I know). But you’d be surprised that you’re not the only one trying to be healthy. Skinny or large, we all struggle with our health and we all want to have a friend in the journey to a better life.
I realize that much of this article is not what your doctor will tell you. I realize that a lot of it is extreme. But morbid obesity is an extreme condition. It’s a disease. And it takes extreme measures to change. Moderation is for wimps – yep, I said it. I know you’re not a wimp. You made a scary decision to have gastric bypass. Make another scary decision. Decide to be the best possible you – physically and psychologically. It has to start the day after surgery. Gastric bypass recovery is full of ups and downs. Expect them, prepare for them, conquer them. Believe.