How to best prepare for weight loss surgery is one of those questions that might not be on the top of your list, but will contribute to your overall level of success. As you know, weight loss surgery is an important decision. If you are adequately prepared, your level of anxiety will decrease and you will be better able to manage the changes required of you after surgery. In addition, with preparation comes confidence. This is a great trait to have as you embark upon this remarkable journey.
So how do you prepare for weight loss surgery? You will want to ask questions. You will want to make sure that your bariatric surgeon/center has a very thorough educational process in place prior to and after surgery that addresses nutrition, behavior modification and fitness. These three components are critical to long term success.
You may only be thinking short term. Let’s face it, you are really busy and have many obligations at home, at work, with school and with friends that take precedence over your needs. It’s easy to tell yourself “I will figure this out” but it is a lot easier if you have a support system in place at home and with your bariatric surgeon/center prior to surgery so that you can better manage any surprises that may come along the way.
If you have already decided to have weight loss surgery, you will want to think about the positive changes you want to accomplish. Often people view surgery from a number perspective (i.e. how many pounds they would like to lose). Weight loss surgery is about so much more than that. It is about enabling yourself to accomplish things that might not have been possible in the past. It is about having an exciting life. Life you can experience to the fullest extent. It is very important to think about (and document) life goals related to your weight loss. Then you can celebrate the positive changes transforming your life. Some of the “dreams” that people have shared include:
- Walking up the stairs or to the corner of their street without getting short of breath
- Playing with their children or grandchildren
- Crossing their legs
- Painting their toenails
- Stop worrying about being able to fit into a chair at a public place or worrying that it will break when they sit on it
- Fitting in a bathtub and having water on both sides
- Shopping in a store for regular sized people
- Riding a bicycle
- Returning to a productive lifestyle
- Stop worrying about going to a restaurant that might only have booths or chairs with arms on them
- Going to a movie and fitting into the seat
Take some time to identify your “wish list” and document it. Then spend some time getting your mind and body ready. In the weeks or days before surgery, you need to consider yourself in training. Just as athletes prepare for a race, you can prepare yourself to be in top form for surgery. When you actively get your body and mind ready you likely will:
- Have fewer complications from anesthesia and surgery
- Be able to cooperate with necessary treatments
- Heal faster and feel better quicker
- Have better control of your pain
There are some very specific things you need to do to be in the best shape possible. You need to begin these things as soon as possible. We know that the very worst time to try to learn things is right after surgery when you may feel foggy from anesthesia and uncomfortable from your operation. Learn and practice these things now so that you will be able to help yourself after surgery.
- Focus on healthy eating. The better nourished you are, the more quickly your tissues will heal. Healing is WORK for your body. Good nutrition helps you tolerate the stresses on your body and to offset limits on food and fluids right after surgery. Weight loss prior to your surgery can decrease your risk and improve recovery time after surgery. This is why you should incorporate your new eating plan and individualized weight loss counseling prior to surgery as a part of your overall plan. Consult your bariatric surgeon for specific options for weight loss prior to surgery.
- If you are a smoker – QUIT! Even a few weeks of not smoking increases the safety of anesthesia. You will not be allowed to smoke while hospitalized. You will need all your oxygen for healing.
- Build your exercise tolerance. Toning your muscles and building your strength will help you bounce back quicker. Walking is a perfect exercise for you prior to surgery. It is normal to feel a little weak after surgery, but you can reduce this by toning up with daily exercise.
- Exercise your lungs! Practice your deep breathing. After surgery you will be encouraged to do this. Expanding your lungs helps your system get rid of anesthesia drugs quickly, helps prevent pneumonia, and speeds oxygen to your tissues to help you heal quickly. You will also FEEL better.
- Move your legs to prevent blood clots!!!! After an operation, the best exercise to help your circulation and reduce your chance of blood clots will be walking! The nurses in the hospital will get you up after a brief recovery period following surgery. Once you go home, follow the specific discharge instructions set forth by your surgeon. In general, you should rest as needed but also get up and walk around as much as tolerated. You can do these exercises in bed or sitting in a chair during any rest periods.
- Lying on your back in bed, “walk” your feet toward your body until your knees are fully bent. Tighten your abdominal muscles while you do this. Now let your legs slide gently back to the flat position and repeat this four more times.
- Lying in bed or sitting up, point your toes as if you were trying to bend your foot backwards. Hold for the count of five and relax. You should feel a “pull” on the muscles in the front of your legs. Next point your heels away from your body, tightening your leg muscles. Hold for the count of five and relax. You should feel this pull in the back of your legs. Repeat the pointing exercises 5-10 times.
If you have decided to have surgery, you also need to focus your mind on a good outcome. You are the most important player in this team effort, and much will depend on your ability to fully participate. Your feelings and thoughts will play a very big part in your recovery. Reassure yourself that the best people, equipment and techniques are supporting you during surgery.
Finally, if you have decided to have surgery, a good way to prepare is to use the power of your relationships to gather a support group. Enlist family and friends to help you keep your spirits up. Let friends and neighbors help with chores and meals. We all do better when we know we are supported by people who care about us and are cheering us on. Don’t underestimate the power of your emotions. Positive thinking is the biggest help you can give yourself. Think hopeful, optimistic thoughts about the experience ahead, and start NOW!
If you do all of these things, you will be best prepared for a positive experience and outcome.
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