Bariatric surgery represents one of the best chance millions of people have to lose weight and live better. However, weight loss surgery isn’t a “magic bullet' or cure-all. Rather, it’s a tool — one that requires proper management on the part of patients.
Unfortunately, some patients fail to use the tool properly and end up falling short of their weight loss goals. The good news? Educating patients about potential pitfalls can help them identify and avoid these obstacles.
Read on to learn about six post-op mistakes and how to prevent them so you can promote bariatric surgery adherence and support patients in reaching their goals.
Patients need to take supplements following bariatric surgery for several reasons, including ensuring adequate nutrition while eating less food; mitigating the increased risk of deficiencies due to the surgery; and treating nutritional deficiencies.
Because most patients aren’t in the habit of taking vitamins every day, developing the habit — and continuing it over time — is critical for ongoing health. The simplest way of looking at it, according to the Obesity Action Coalition? “If you don’t take your vitamins, they won’t work.”
Poor food choices lead many people to the need for bariatric surgery. Resuming these poor food choices after surgery will continue to detrimentally impact patient health. Says the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), “The goal of weight loss procedures in general is to either reduce the amount of consumed calories (restrictive) per day or to alter the absorption of the fat (malabsorption) in the food one consumes.”
The takeaway for dietitians? Educating patients about what to eat and what not to eat, as well as teaching them how to read basic nutrition labels, is critical to facilitating compliance.
Additionally, many foods targeted at bariatric patients — such as self-proclaimed weight loss shakes and “nutrition” bars — are less than desirable when it comes to providing the sustenance and satisfaction necessary to staying on track.
Enter Achieve from Rational Foods. Not only does this ready-to-eat product provide 20 grams of protein in each serving, but it also tastes and nourishes better than other bariatric food options — meaning it can help curb cravings and promote adherence.
Dehydration is the leading cause for readmission to the hospital among bariatric patients. In addition to reiterating the importance of drinking at least 64 ounces of fluids a day, dietitians can also help patients stay healthy by making them aware of the signs and symptoms of dehydration.
One caveat when it comes to hydration for bariatric patients? Drinking with meals. If patients attempt to meet their daily fluid requirements by drinking with meals, they may experience undesirable consequences, including everything to increased hunger to stretching of the stomach. Carbonated beverages should also be avoided.
Portion control is essential to post-op success. When patients graze on food throughout the day, they may underestimate the amount of calories they’re consuming. In many cases, this leads to frustrating and unexpected weight gain. Patients should be aware that all calories count — even a nibble here and there. Counseling patients to maintain a food log can help confirm that all calories are accounted for.
When it comes to long-term weight loss and weight-management, diet and exercise go hand in hand. This doesn’t change for bariatric patients. The ASMBS recommends that patients begin walking while still in the hospital, and build their exercise time and intensity from there to include aerobic, resistance, and flexibility exercises.
Much of the focus for bariatric patients is on physical health. However, mental health is also an issue. Advises the ASMBS, “Access to an experienced mental health professional can be an important part of postoperative recovery. Above all, each patient should be prepared for ‘bumps in the road’ along the journey, whether it’s interpersonal conflict, marriage stress, a surgical complication, or a plateau in weight-loss.”
There's no denying that life after bariatric surgery can be challenging to navigate. However, the more access patients have to correct information about bariatric surgery post up mistakes as well as best practices for post-op success, the more prepared they’ll be to overcome the obstacles in order to achieve a healthy weight and way of life.