Know Before You Go: 4 Common Post-Op Issues

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.

After weight loss surgery, many people experience nutritional changes and lifestyle modifications. These changes can be difficult to adjust to and often come unexpectedly. While the surgery may lead to successful weight loss outcomes, there are still physical and mental challenges that must be addressed to ensure long-term success. But lucky for you, you’re reading this post! So you’ll be ready! Let’s explore some of these common post-op problems and learn helpful tips to navigate the challenges that may arise.

1) Consuming below the recommended calories. Consuming insufficient calories after weight loss surgery can lead to various negative consequences. Low calorie intake can cause nutrient deficiencies, slow healing and recovery, and stalls in weight loss. It is important to follow the nutritional guidelines suggested by your dietitian to ensure that you are eating enough calories to meet your goals. This is especially important in the first couple of months. Many patients may not physically be able to consume the recommended calories, but it is important to know the expectations and aim for your goals. Not properly fueling your body after weight loss surgery can lead to extreme fatigue and weakness, which can hinder your ability to exercise. Additionally, not consuming enough calories can impede progress towards post-op goals and make it difficult for patients to maintain their desired level of health and wellness. So set your intentions well and do your best!

2) Dehydration. Dehydration is a common issue following WLS and is one of the top reasons patients return to the hospital. You'll have to work hard to meet your goals and remember to sip, sip, sip throughout the day, especially during your post-op diet phases. Consuming too little water, not drinking enough fluids, and/or having insufficient electrolyte intake can lead to dehydration. This can cause extreme fatigue, dizziness, headaches, dry mouth, decreased urine output, and urinary tract infections. No fun! To prevent dehydration after WLS, drink plenty of fluids throughout the day and increase your intake of electrolyte-rich fluids. Try options like coconut water, low-sugar/no-sugar sports drinks, electrolyte packets mixed with water, and protein water with electrolytes.

3) Constipation. Constipation is a common issue for several reasons after WLS... Low-calorie and low-fiber diets can contribute to constipation, as well as dehydration and lack of physical activity. To help prevent constipation, it's important to eat a high-fiber diet that includes fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains. However, this can be difficult or seem near impossible during your post-op diet phases. Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day also helps keep your bowels moving. Additionally, engaging in regular physical exercise can help reduce symptoms by stimulating digestion and increasing digestive secretions. If constipation persists, it is important to talk with your medical team about additional treatments, dietary changes, and supplements/medications that may be beneficial in relieving uncomfortable symptoms.

4) Falling behind on your goals when returning to work. Returning to work after weight loss surgery can be a difficult adjustment. It's easy to lose track of time and fall behind on your nutrition goals due to the hustle and bustle of work life. Be sure to make meal prep part of your weekly routine, and aim to bring nutritious snacks with you to eat throughout the day so you can stay energized and on track.

Additionally, take regular breaks throughout the day to ensure you’re taking time for yourself and refueling your body with all the nutrients it needs. Remember, self-care and prioritization of your own time are vital. At a minimum, you should plan your protein choices and aim for quality high-fiber carbs and healthy plant-based fats. Setting alarms and reminders for eating and sipping fluids, keeping your fluids where you can see them, and bringing a water bottle everywhere you go can help you stay nutrition-focused and hydrated. Making sure these basics are in place will help you stay on course with your weight loss plan.

After WLS, it is important to remember that you can overcome any obstacles that come your way. Don't let discouragement or setbacks keep you from achieving your goals. When faced with a challenge, practice self-care, stay positive, and view the situation as an opportunity to learn and grow. With a little inspiration, dedication, and hard work, you will be able to navigate your weight loss journey with success!

BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

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