Preparing for Surgery
Follow these guidelines to help you get ready for surgery.
- Practice Eating Slowly
Learn to chew your food. Your rhythm of eating will drastically change after surgery. Many people do not chew their food well. Practice taking a bite of food, putting the utensil down, and chewing food until it’s soft and mushy. Notice the texture, taste and aroma. This will require focus for the first few months after surgery. Start practicing now.
- Be Aware of Hunger Levels
Satiety, or fullness, is a biofeedback mechanism absent in most morbidly obese individuals. Feeling full happens when you no longer feel physical hunger (i.e., growling stomach or empty stomach). It may take several months after surgery to understand the sensation of being full or satiated. Train yourself to stop eating immediately when starting to feel full.
- Sip, Don’t Gulp
It will take about one hour to sip an 8-ounce cup of fluid immediately after surgery. Practice sipping all day with a sport top water bottle or sippy cup.
- Eat Three Meals a Day
Develop a normal eating pattern. If you don’t currently eat three meals a day, start now.
- Drink Less While Eating
If you drink 2 or more cups (1 cup is 8 ounces) with meals, start cutting back. Reduce by ½ cup (4 ounces) each week until surgery. If you are drinking 4 cups, reduce by 1 cup per week.
- Plan Your Meals
Start planning your meals using the “Grocery list” handout from the office. You can prepare many meals and snacks, including meats, vegetables, fruits and soups ahead of time. Use fat-free gravy for meat. Freeze gravy in ice cube trays and store in freezer bags. Heat up as needed. Remember to label the contents of each freezer bag.
- Buy Vitamin and Protein Supplements
Take your vitamins/protein supplements shopping list with you so you don’t forget anything. Stock up early.
- Take Before and After Pictures
Many people do not like taking photos of themselves, but pictures can help your mind adjust to the rapid changes you’ll experience the first year after surgery. The mirror can be deceiving and you may have difficulty seeing the weight loss. (You never have to show your pictures to anyone!) Also, save one article of clothing to wear in the photo you’ll take one year after surgery. Pants are a popular choice.
- Have a Good Support System
People will react in different ways. Spouses/significant others or friends may feel threatened by the smaller you. Rely on someone you trust, such as a close friend, relative, clergy member or psychologist, to help you work through various issues.
In-person support groups can help reinforce new behaviors and boost your motivation. We strongly suggest attending a support group during the first year post-surgery. Research shows that people who do so are more successful. You may also want to consider online support groups like OSSG (obesity surgery support groups) and sites like obesityhelp.com.
- Increase Your Physical Activity
Staying active will be an important part of your new, healthy lifestyle. Physical activity keeps your heart, lungs, and muscles strong as you age. If your feet hurt, try chair-aerobics or walk in a pool. Walk every day as far as you can. Increase your time by two minutes each week, working up to at least 30 minutes daily. If you can only do a few minutes, do that two or three times throughout the day. Invest in inexpensive dumbbells and do strength-training exercises at home. If you don’t know what exercises to do, get a video or search free videos online. You cannot eat well and maintain weight loss without exercise.
- Take Deep Breaths
Doing so helps strengthen your lungs, especially for smokers and asthmatics. Take a deep breath through your nose and let your lungs fill all the way down into the bottom of your chest. Slowly release the air through your mouth. Deep breathing and coughing are important to clear your lungs of fluid that can cause pneumonia after surgery.
- Rethink Your Soda
Replace soda with non-carbonated, sugar-free, caffeine-free beverages. Post-surgery, you should avoid all carbonated drinks. Carbonation tends to make post-operative individuals feel bloated and gassy.
- Keep a Journal
Write down all the reasons why you’re having surgery and include what you can't or won't do because of your weight. Use this to help set goals (e.g., go to the movies or play with your children). Mark off your goals as you achieve them and celebrate small successes along the way. Document your feelings, progress and struggles along the way. Make sure to check in with yourself one year after surgery and see how far you’ve come.