Making 9 to 5 Work After Gastric Sleeve Surgery

Most people who have vertical sleeve gastrectomy are going home to the reality of working outside the home. It’s a large part of our lives. There are three main areas that can make or break any VSG patient’s success after returning home: food, exercise, and the mental component. So let’s look at all three as they relate to your time on the job.

Lifestyle topic #1: Food
The world isn’t generally set up for gastric sleeve diet success, meaning that if you usually ate out for lunch pre-surgery, that’s going to have to change. Many offices have refrigerators in the break room or will even allow workers with private offices to bring in their own mini-fridge. If you don’t work in a place like that, though, there are still plenty of options to keep you on track. Bringing a cooler to work every day might be a slight pain, but it’s the easiest way for new VSG patients, especially, to make protein shakes, smoothies, yogurt, and other safe foods palatable to drink. Coolers are also great for snacks like cheese sticks, boiled eggs, and meat slices later on. Other VSG-compliant ideas that need zero refrigeration include jerky, tuna pouches, and shelf-stable sugar-free gelatin and pudding. If refrigeration isn’t an issue, but a heat source is, get yourself a good thermos. Soup you heat at home before work should still be hot several hours later.

Lifestyle topic #2: Exercise
There are lots of clichés out there, like taking a walk on your lunch hour or working out first thing in the morning to make sure you get it done. That’s all well and good if you get a regular lunch break, live in a climate that allows for year-round walks, and don’t mind smelling like sweat the rest of the day. And plenty of people can’t make themselves hop out of bed and hit the gym. You know yourself best, so consider when you naturally feel like exercising. If you’d rather do it when you get home from work—but have to make dinner—prep dinners ahead of time so you can both exercise and feed your family. Maybe getting up to run at 5 a.m. is out of the question, but getting up then to prep the night’s dinner is more palatable. And decide whether a gym or at-home fitness fits your lifestyle. For some, home workouts make it easier, while others need to remove themselves from the constant demands of home (“Mooooom!”) in order to make fitness happen.

Lifestyle topic #3: Mental strength
Your meals and snacks are going to look a lot different than most of your co-workers’, and that’s especially true if you go back to work while you’re still in the liquids or soft foods stage. The determination to succeed has to be stronger than any anxiety about being the odd man (or woman) out in the lunchroom. If you’re keeping your surgery close to the vest, be prepared with stock answers to why your food has suddenly changed (ie: “I’m working on getting healthier”). As you get smaller, they may put two and two together—being out of work for a while and then getting skinny—and come up with bariatric surgery. Hopefully they have more social grace than to bring it up with you, but if they do, you’ll need to be prepared to answer those questions as well. My advice is not to lie, which may even impact your professional reputation if it’s discovered; on the other hand, only share as much as you feel comfortable with. Maybe you’ll even inspire some people to think about their own health!

Depending on when you return to work following vertical sleeve gastrectomy, you’re likely to experience some fatigue while your body is adjusting to its new normal. Pushing through that requires some pretty serious mental fortitude. My tips:

  • I’m not normally a fan, but you might want to indulge in some caffeinated tea or coffee to keep your eyelids open at work.
  • Opt out. Right now, limit commitments outside of work (concerts, volunteering) to conserve your energy for “musts” like working.
  • Don’t multi-task. When you’re fighting fatigue, multi-tasking almost always leads to mistakes. Fight the urge to “get more done” and focus on doing one thing at a time.

The key is to set yourself up for success in all three areas. It might take a little time to figure out what works for you, but I have confidence that you can balance your work life with being a successful VSG loser!

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“Changing lives…one sleeve at a time”.