Article By: Whittany Gibson, RDN
Whittany is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in bariatric nutrition counseling, providing education and support prior to and following weight loss surgery.
Have you ever tried to put something together without the proper tools? I certainly have, and I usually don't get the expected result... Imagine assembling shelves without screws, a screwdriver, and the instructions! You will find it's no different with your weight loss surgery journey. Whatever tools you use to prepare for your new lifestyle will determine the result. Start now and ensure you stock your toolbox with these five must-haves!
Tool #1) A good support system. A strong support system can include family, friends, and coworkers. Better yet, include others who are preparing for surgery or have already had success with bariatric surgery. These people can keep you from going insane when times get tough, help you when you're feeling lost, and ensure you're motivated throughout your journey. Let others know what you need from them, and be transparent about your goals/intentions. Keep in mind this whole process can also be confusing to others. It might be a good idea to share some of your education so they can better support you.
Tool #2) Good education. Good educational resources can go a long way and often form the foundation for success. Some of my patients who have been in other programs have received inadequate education and feel lost, resulting in a lack of success with their weight loss and/or other difficulties along the way. Don't let this happen to you! If you need additional resources, request them. If you feel lost, ask for more support. Whatever information and education you do receive, use the heck out of it! Read it multiple times so you are familiar with expectations. Your surgery center and dietitian should provide comprehensive nutrition education that includes basic nutrition concepts and recommendations for post-op diet phases and beyond. Additionally, steps on how to prepare for surgery related to behavior change and creating healthier habits should be covered.
Tool #3) Good exercise habits. Habits are everything, folks! If you don't have a good exercise routine in place before surgery, odds are you won't start until it's too late. I see this happen time and time again. Use the time leading up to surgery to research different forms of exercise and plan ahead. Join a gym, meet with a trainer to learn exercises suitable for you, create video playlists for at-home workouts, or start a daily walking routine. Exercise is necessary to achieve significant long-term weight loss, so forming the habit now will save you a lot of trouble in the future.
Tool #4) Good nutrition habits. Does your diet need an overhaul? Whether there's a lot you need to change or very little, there will be things you need to cut back on or eliminate. A few examples might include decreasing consumption of calorie-containing, carbonated, and caffeinated beverages. Or perhaps you should begin to practice a more structured eating pattern so you become more accustomed to planning for smaller and more frequent meals. You could also begin to include lean proteins, increase high-fiber fruits and vegetables, or reduce or eliminate fast food and dining out. These are just a few nutrition behavior changes one should be aware of. The more you change now, the less impact and overwhelm you will feel following surgery.
Tool #5) Good resources. Resources are everything. Your bariatric program may provide or recommend a few, but the options are never-ending. Though it can be a major time suck if not used for meaningful purposes, social media can play a positive role in supporting you. Follow people who live the bariatric lifestyle and have been successful in areas like meal prep, exercise, and creating healthy habits. Explore exercise and food logging apps and find podcasts that help keep you focused. Watch TikTok and YouTube videos — anything that keeps your mind focused on your upcoming journey is paramount to success.
So, go forth and be awesome! But first, stock your toolbox with the proper tools. Establish a good support system, ensure you get quality education, begin making changes to your diet and exercise before surgery, and utilize the endless resources available to you. It is with these tools that will get you the results you so desperately want and expect.
BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.