Obesity doesn’t happen overnight. You didn’t wake up one morning excessively overweight. That change occurred over the span of many years. And now you know that you need weight loss surgery.
And yet the decision to finally do something about your condition can strike like lightning, seemingly out of nowhere.
The dislike for your weight and size may have existed in the back of your mind for quite some time.
But the decision to pursue something like weight loss surgery happens instantaneously.
You see a photo of yourself that finally makes you realize your size has grown out of control.
Someone makes a comment that makes you feel different and ignored.
Or you may experience rejection, even professionally, based on your size and the status of your health.
Whatever may have happened, you are now thinking about weight loss surgery.
Where do you go from here?
Turns out, there are a litany of changes that occur as you go from thinking about bariatric (weight loss) surgery to actually going through with the procedure.
Some people call this the “bariatric surgery waiting game”. That time can quickly become a roller coaster of zig-zagging emotions, not all of them good ones.
Here are seven tips for navigating the changes you may experience, and for making the best of your time, as you approach the day of reckoning.
That day is, of course, surgery day, when you can finally begin to say goodbye to obesity for good.
1.Prepare for the Weight Loss Research Roller Coaster
Few people go from thinking about surgery to actually scheduling an appointment with a doctor.
For most, the situation plays out like this: You call or send a message to someone you know who had weight loss surgery and ask about their experiences.
Or you can Google to see what information you can drum up by way of all the online free pages. Some of them can be medical in nature and others…not so much.
You might use social media to find testimonials and true stories of people who have undergone procedures like gastric sleeve surgery and gastric balloon to reach their weight loss goals.
Well, be prepared. Throughout all that research, you’re going to become overloaded with information.
You’re going to hear amazing life-changing stories, horror stories, and read about every kind of experience in-between.
If you’re brave enough, you may even find yourself scouring YouTube for videos of bariatric surgical procedures, each one making you cringe harder as you imagine yourself laid out on the surgeon’s table.
The thing to remember, though, is that everyone is different. Learning all you can about bariatric surgery is important.
But only a trained bariatric surgeon can determine if you are an ideal candidate for surgery.
And help you decide which surgery is best for your body and needs.
Most importantly, only a trained and experienced medical doctor can teach you about the benefits of surgery and side effects. And only he can tell you what to expect as you gear up for the special day.
In other words, research is fine, but don’t let a few internet searches sway your opinion either way.
Instead, schedule an appointment with a trained bariatric surgeon and get the scoop right from the source.
2.Understand the Timeline and Use Your Time Wisely
After the research phase, the next step when considering weight loss surgery is to schedule a consultation with a weight loss surgeon.
If, after that meeting, surgery is planned, the countdown to your procedure will begin.
T-minus one year and counting
Wait, what, you may be thinking? Does it really take a year?
Not always. For some, the period can be as short as six months. Once again, every experience is different.
It is best not to think about this time as a waiting period. Instead, see it for what it is: A way to become more educated about your health and the procedure you plan to undergo.
Only then will you be adequately prepared to start on your weight loss journey with bariatric surgery.
During this time, your surgeon may ask you to attend a class or seminar that gives you the scoop about bariatric surgery and what the various procedures can do for you.
In addition to a rudimentary health examination, you will be asked about your dietary and exercise habits.
If you don’t have a diet and exercise routine in place, this is the time to adopt one.
Your surgeon will give you actionable advice at this time to help you make the necessary lifestyle changes to prepare you for surgery.
Two to Four Months Before Weight Loss Surgery
As you work on your lifestyle changes, your surgeon will check in with you every few months. During these meetings, you will undergo periodic examinations to ensure your health is remaining steady as the time ticks down to the day of surgery.
Your surgeon will continue to monitor your exercise and dietary habits to confirm that your new lifestyle changes are taking hold.
Four to Six Weeks Before Weight Loss Surgery
You will continue to meet with your bariatric surgeon as you prepare for the day of surgery. You will consult with a dietician and nutritionist. They are very good at helping you create a customized meal plan and other necessary changes to your diet.
By this point, you should have a normal exercise routine in place, such as spending at least 150 minutes a week performing some type of moderate-intensity exercise like brisk walking or swimming.
That amount of weekly exercise is the minimum recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services according to their report titled Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
One to Two Weeks Before Weight Loss Surgery
Your surgeon will check in with you in the weeks before surgery to ensure your lifestyle changes are taking hold and to continue monitoring your health by way of a pre-surgery checkup.
Two to Three Days Before Weight Loss Surgery
You will meet once more with your surgeon in the days leading up to your surgical procedure. You are encouraged to bring along a list of questions or concerns you may have.
Your surgeon and nutrition team will give you the answers, as they will all be present to continue supporting you on your weight loss journey.
It might be a good idea to start stocking your home pantry with the foods you’ll want on-hand as you recover from surgery.
Your surgeon will likely give you a list of items to add to your grocery list, like liquids, pureed foods, and a variety of soft foods, which are easiest for your digestive system to process as you begin recovery.
24 Hours Before Weight Loss Surgery
Your surgeon will give you instructions to follow on the night before surgery, such as not eating or drinking anything past midnight.
The Day of Weight Loss Surgery
If at all possible, show up at the pre-scheduled appointment time on the day of surgery with someone willing to tag alongside you.
This person can keep you company as you get ready to be taken back to surgery and can act as your ride home after the procedure has ended.
As far as what to bring along to the hospital, where you might have to stay a single evening before you’re allowed to go back home, plan to bring a change of clothing and any medications you may need.
3.Adopt New Habits with Vigor
As the months pass between your consultation and the day of surgery, you will be asked to change your lifestyle somewhat.
These changes can be challenging to take on at first, and that is simply because you are not used to them.
The wrong way is to think of these changes as a punishment or some kind of hindrance to your freedom.
For example, as preparation for weight loss surgery, patients are often asked to begin eating smaller portions and to consume their food slower.
Instead of devouring a meal, learn to savor it. Practice turning every bite into mush before you commit to swallowing it all down.
Many weight-loss surgical procedures shrink the volume of your stomach, causing you to eat less. The lifestyle changes you are asked to adopt will prepare you for living more healthfully after surgery has been completed.
And by eating smaller portions and savoring food instead of inhaling it, you will get more out of each meal.
The fact is, bariatric surgery goes hand-in-hand with a series of lifestyle changes that you must want to make if you hope to be successful on your weight loss journey.
Don’t stress out if you have already tried to lose weight through all the usual diet and exercise programs.
Most people who undergo weight loss surgery have the same experience.
You’ve tried everything and, still, the weight does not budge.
But not to worry.
Your surgeon will have you meet with various healthcare professionals such as psychologists, dietitians, and fitness trainers before undergoing surgery to verify that the procedure and any changes you adopt are ideal for you.
Long time habits will not go away easily. But with practice and focus you will soon learn to eat to accommodate your new body and crave being healthy.
4.Get a Support System
As the clock ticks through the months, weeks, and days before surgery, you may be faced with a big question.
Should you tell anyone about your upcoming surgery?
Or should you keep the procedure a secret?
People have their reasons for keeping their surgery under wraps. Maybe they fear that others look at them in a different way.
Here’s the thing: Those who care about your health will want what is best for you.
It’s okay to tell only a close friend or only those family members who truly have your back.
But you should tell at least someone in your inner circle. Your surgeon may insist upon it.
Besides, everyone is going to eventually notice your sudden weight loss.
When you lose 50% or more of your excess weight, what will you say when people tell you, “You look terrific! What did you do?”
How to Tell People about Your Weight Loss Surgery?
Of course, you don’t have to tell anyone if you don’t want to. If work colleagues ask why you need time off of work, you can say it’s for hernia surgery. Or turn it into a vacation story.
As for the significant weight loss, a good way to get around telling people about surgery is to say that you are on a medically supervised diet and that professionals are helping you lose the weight in a fast and healthy manner.
Once again, if the people around you care about your health, they will support you in your decision to finally do something about your obesity.
You don’t have to hide your surgery. Bariatric surgery is a positive thing you are doing for your health. You should be excited and want to spread the word.
After all, this is you finally taking control of your life, your health, and your happiness!
Your weight loss surgery is no one’s business but your own, but a support system is necessary for your mental health and for the support you may need while you’re recovering.
5.Calm Your Fears with Knowledge
Many pre-op patients find themselves consumed with worry as the day of surgery approaches.
They imagine the most dreaded, worst-case scenarios and ask tons of, “What if?” questions to themselves.
Questions like, “What if surgery hurts?”
Or “What if I have a bunch of hanging skin after losing all the weight?”
You might think, “I read on the internet that hair loss can sometimes occur with weight loss surgery. What if all my hair falls out?”
And a real common one, “What if people think I’m cheating by getting weight loss surgery? Will people think less of me after I have the procedure done?”
Fear is only the absence of knowledge. It’s the fear of the unknown that really freaks you out.
If you have these questions, ask your surgeon to get realistic answers.
Such as: Surgery is a serious thing. Does it hurt? You may feel some discomfort at times. However, all efforts are made to ensure your comfort as your life is improved through surgery.
One thing is for certain: Surgery doesn’t hurt nearly as bad as the pain that is caused by strained joints, diabetes, heart disease, and other ailments that are caused, and worsened, by morbid obesity.
By having weight loss surgery, you are taking the step you couldn’t before, to shed all the excess weight for good.
Will you have hanging skin? That all depends on how long you have carried all the excess weight, and how much weight you have to lose.
The good news is that body contouring is always a possibility after the weight comes off. All that excess skin can be tucked away with various procedures, letting you achieve a healthier figure (while looking terrific in a bathing suit).
Hanging skin is a minor issue that pales in comparison to obesity, which should be your primary concern.
Weight loss surgery is the tool you are using to fight obesity.
Let’s worry about the excess skin after the weight comes off. What do you say?
When it comes to your hair falling out, it is true that a loss of hair is possible after undergoing some weight-loss surgical procedures.
Any hair loss that does occur, however, is temporary and will alleviate itself on its own as part of the healing process, in most cases.
For the last fear, that you will be looked at like a cheater for undergoing surgery, that’s anything but the case.
Surgery is in no way an easy way out. Instead, surgery is a tool you are using to become healthier.
As someone who is obese, you have a lot stacked against you.
Whenever you try to lose weight, you have low metabolism, an overabundance of fat cells (which can only shrink and never go away), insulin resistance, food addiction, and possibly one or more mental health disorders hindering your progress.
Even if you do manage to lose weight, the amounts you lose tend to come right back, returning you to where you started.
Bariatric surgery is your weapon for fighting against obesity so that you can increase the quality of your life and extend your longevity.
Any fears you have can be cured by learning more about bariatric surgery, which is something your surgeon can help you with.
6. As You Prepare for Surgery, Focus on the One Thing You Can’t Wait to Do
When the new habit changes and fears become too much, try to take your mind off of the procedure itself.
Focus instead on the one activity you can’t wait to do after you’ve shed the weight.
If obesity barred you from riding amusement park rides, you may dream of packing up and heading to Disneyland to finally ride the attractions you’ve been missing.
Maybe you can’t wait to go snorkeling in the Bahamas or go on mud runs with your grandchildren.
Your dream may be as simple as a photograph that doesn’t show you so heavy. In fact, you may plan to take lots and lots of pictures with your new slimmer frame.
Use these happy visions, like of you twirling before the mirror as you marvel at your smaller waist, to get you through any times of unease as surgery day approaches.
7. Be Prepared to Get and Stay Healthy!
By now you know what to expect as you research weight loss surgery. And you know how to navigate the emotional roller coaster you may experience as information overload begins to take hold.
You know what to expect as you move from the initial consultation to the day of surgery.
You know how to frame any lifestyle changes you are required to make differently so that they are seen as positive changes to your life.
These are the dietary and exercise changes that will help you find more energy and vitality as you learn to live with your new, more slender body.
Any fears you may have can be mitigated by speaking with your bariatric surgeon. And by focusing on the one thing you will do after the weight has come off.
This is an exciting time, and the wait will be well worth it.
There is one more piece of advice I want to leave you with.
You will have a much better time as you wait to undergo surgery, and have a better time during surgery, if you take the time to consider your surgeon carefully.
You only want to choose a weight loss surgeon with a winning track record.
And one that is compassionate and invested in your health.
Your surgeon can put you in contact with counselors, dietitians, and fitness experts to answer your questions and alleviate your concerns.
Best of all, your surgeon can give you – through surgery – the tools you need to combat obesity for good.
Stop the waiting game and schedule a consultation now with compassionate and caring Dr. Moein and start on your weight loss journey with life-changing bariatric surgery.