5 Best Tips When Preparing for Bariatric Surgery

After meeting your surgeon and learning more about bariatric surgery, you are likely excited and maybe a little nervous. It is exciting! Surgery is a powerful tool that will help improve your health and quality of life as you gain control over your weight. When you use the time between consultation and surgery to prepare, you’ll feel more confident and ease those pre-surgery jitters.

What to Do Before Bariatric Surgery?

Taking 5 simple steps as you prepare for bariatric surgery will help you implement a lifestyle that enables you to reach and maintain a healthy weight after bariatric surgery.

Tip 1 ) Take Vitamin Supplements

Preparing for bariatric surgery should include vitamin supplementation. After all, even the healthiest eaters rarely choose a daily diet with all of the vitamin and minerals they need. You will want to include multi-vitamin, calcium citrate, and vitamin D3 supplements.

Multi-Vitamin

Start with a multi-vitamin. After surgery, this will be in chewable form – at least for several weeks. The most popular supplements are Flintstones Complete or Centrum Chewable. Multi-vitamins made explicitly for bariatric surgery are also available. Look online for companies such as Celebrate Vitamins, Bariatric Advantage, Bariatric Fusion, and others. Before weight loss surgery, you can try out a chewable supplement or take a multi-vitamin in pill form.

Please note that gummy multi-vitamins are NOT recommended. They are missing essential B vitamins that your body needs.

Calcium Citrate

Many people do not meet their body’s need for bone-building calcium. If you consume 3 cups of low-fat milk or yogurt daily, you’re getting enough. If not, you may want to start a calcium citrate supplement (1500 mg). Tip: calcium citrate pills are large, you may prefer a chewable supplement, and in this case, gummies are okay. Look for the citrate form of calcium (it’s better absorbed after surgery) and keep added sugar to 2 grams or less per serving.

Vitamin D3

Many calcium citrate supplements also contain vitamin D3. Check the label. If not, you can get a separate vitamin D3 supplement. Look for 1000-2000 IU or International Units and take daily.

To prepare for bariatric surgery, take a complete multi-vitamin/mineral supplement (pill or chewable, but not gummy), calcium citrate (1500 mg), and vitamin D3 (1000-2000 IU).

   Tip 2) Increase Your Activity

Regular exercise is crucial for good health before and after surgery. Even if you have physical limitations, there are safe ways to increase activity. Check with your primary care physician before starting an exercise program. Your doctor may even be able to refer you to a physical therapist if you have particular concerns, such as a bad back or injured knee. It is tempting to wait until after surgery to increase your activity, but starting an exercise routine before surgery has many benefits.

  • Exercise raises the “feel good” hormones – dopamine and serotonin. It also lowers stress hormones. Feeling better and less stressed can decrease food cravings and help you make better food choices.
  • Increasing activity will get your heart and lungs in the best shape for surgery.
  • Exercise can help you shed a few pounds prior to surgery.
  • You will establish a healthy routine that will help you reach and maintain your weight goal.

Work time into your daily schedule for exercise – a consistent time works best for most. Start slowly from a comfortable exertion level and build from there. Increase time or exertion in small increments. Avoid strenuous exercises that may cause injury.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Walk to better health. Track steps to get a baseline of your current step count, then work to build in more steps throughout your day. Tailor your step goal to your fitness level. You aren’t competing with anyone else, just getting in your best shape.
  • Hop in the water. The buoyancy of water cushions your body and adds resistance for a dynamite workout. Check with your local school district, YMCA, or health club for a water aerobics class or swimming opportunities near you.
  • Search for chair exercise videos online.
  • Dance, clean, mow the lawn, walk to the store -just get moving.

Tip 3) Eat Six Small Meals

Eating small frequent meals throughout the day has many benefits.

  • If healthy food choices are made, this eating pattern can promote pre-surgery weight loss – getting you that much closer to a healthy weight.
  • This eating pattern helps blood sugar levels stay even throughout the day—keeping your energy high and preventing mood swings.
  • Appetite is kept in check—allowing for satisfaction with smaller portions.
  • Metabolism is enhanced.
  • Having healthy snacks available minimizes trips to the vending machine and stops at the convenience store.
  • A healthy habit is developed that will be beneficial post-surgery—one more thing you already have in place.

How Do I Eat Six Small Meals?  

The easiest way to eat six small meals is to take meals and snacks with you. You will save money and studies show that you will eat better.

Start with the Barix Clinics Meal Planning Guidelines. It’s balanced to includes all food groups. Increase portions before surgery to prevent hunger. Use the planning guide to develop your own personal meal plan like this sample. Don’t expect perfection – you can tweak your meal plan as you go along.

Tip 4) Avoid Added Sugars

After surgery, it is recommended that you limit added sugars to prevent dumping syndrome (flu-like symptoms) with gastric bypass surgery.  Limiting added sugars also helps maximize weight loss with any bariatric surgery. Learning to recognize foods and beverages with more than 2 grams of added sugar and finding alternatives is a healthy lifestyle habit that you can start now.

What Are Added Sugars?

Added sugars don’t occur naturally in a food or beverage but are added for sweetness. Look for these added sugars on the ingredient list:

  • sugar
  • corn syrup
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • sucrose
  • brown sugar
  • dextrose
  • maple syrup
  • honey
  • cane juice
  • rice syrup
  • brown rice syrup
  • invert sugar
  • molasses
  • sorghum molasses or syrup
  • turbinado sugar
  • raw sugar

New food labels make it even easier. Now there is a separate line for added sugars. Choose foods and drinks with 2 grams of added sugar or less.

Naturally Occurring Sugars are Different

The sugars naturally occurring in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products are generally well tolerated after all kinds of bariatric surgery. They typically do not impact blood sugar levels to the same degree as added sugars.

Sugar Substitutes

Enjoying an occasional sweet-tasting treat is easy. Look for no-added-sugar cookies, pies, and candy, or replace the sugar in your favorite recipes with a sugar substitute. Keep in mind that no-added-sugar or sugar-free doesn’t mean calorie-free. Favorite sweeteners include monk fruit sweetener, Stevia, Splenda, and erythritol.

Tip 5) Choose the Right Fluids

What to Drink

Most beverages should be calorie-free and non-carbonated. There are many options beyond simple water – Gatorade Zero, Powerade Zero, Mio, Crystal Light, Vitamin Water Zero, Bai Water, and iced tea (zero or unsweetened) – just to name a few.

You may also like to infuse water with fruit, vegetables, or spices. Protein drinks, milk, or fruit smoothies count as a meal/snack.

How to Drink

A smaller stomach means that beverages need to be sipped rather than gulped. Sipping throughout the day works best to ensure you get in enough fluid. Prepare for bariatric surgery by getting into the habit of carrying a drink bottle. Strive to drink 64 ounces of liquid each day.

When to Drink

To keep from overfilling the small stomach created with gastric bypass or gastric sleeve surgery, you’ll want to drink between meals rather than with meals.

Beverages to Avoid

Drinking carbonated beverages can be uncomfortable after surgery. Gas bubbles in a small pouch or sleeve can cause a lot of pressure. Let diet pop go flat or wait at least six months after surgery before trying it.

Limit caffeine for the first few weeks immediately after surgery.  Caffeine can pull fluid out of your system, increasing the chance that you may become dehydrated. If you are drinking at least 64 ounces of fluid, you can add caffeinated products back into your diet after a few weeks.

As you prepare for bariatric surgery, start to enjoy calorie-free non-carbonated beverage options.

Other Things to Do Before Bariatric Surgery

  • Once you’ve attended a consultation at Barix Clinics, be sure to join our Facebook Support Group.
  • Tobacco use increases the risk of surgical complications. If you smoke, stop.
  • Take pictures and measurements. The scale won’t show progress every day. Having other measures of success will be very motivating.
  • Plan for time off from work to recover – discuss the time you’ll need with your surgeon. Arrange for childcare during and after surgery.

Use these 5 tips as you prepare for bariatric surgery. You’ll feel confident and ready with a lifestyle that, along with weight loss surgery, will help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.

Deb Hart

About Deb Hart

Deb Hart is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. For the last 28 years, she has been helping bariatric surgery patients reach their health and weight goals. She teaches people how to set up a lifestyle that supports a healthy weight. Deb set up her own lifestyle to include lots of long walks with her furry family members, workout classes at her local wellness center, meal prepping, and finding new ways to enjoy foods without added sugar.
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