For most people, making the decision to undergo gastric sleeve surgery is both exciting ad nerve-wracking. Exciting because it’s the first step to a healthier, fitter, more rewarding life. Nerve-wracking because, well, they’ve probably never done anything like it before! The best way to ease any nervousness is to understand what to expect right before and right after this life-changing procedure—with a little help from those who’ve been there, done that.
• Keep your expectations in check. As I say all the time, you will lose weight with the gastric sleeve. But it is in no way a magic bullet that melts fat off immediately and with zero work on the patient’s part. Kori, who’s nearly a year and a half out from surgery, advises that pre-op patients remember that the sleeve is a lifestyle change, rather than a diet with an end date. “(The sleeve) is a tool, and it is fabulous…but it only works if you use it properly,” she says.
• Get a jump on new eating habits. Most of my patients will have to diet for one or more weeks in order to prepare their liver and body for a successful surgery. While it can be a bit tedious, it’s also an opportunity to learn new behaviors that will benefit you long after surgery. “One thing I had to change was eating slower and drinking slower,” says Holly. “I had no problems after surgery.” Jane recommends dumping any grazing habits during this period. “Set a schedule and follow it,” she says. “If you nibble away, it’s amazing how fast the bad calories will add up.”
• Don’t completely stock your kitchen. It’s a good idea to have a variety of recommended liquids on hand for when you return from Endobariatric. After all, going grocery shopping may not be at the top of your to-do list. But it’s not necessarily wise to stock up on any one thing—even products you enjoyed during the liquid pre-op diet. “Don’t buy too much stuff, as your tastes will change after surgery,” says Kori. “My favorite are the Premier Protein shakes, but I hated them for the first month after surgery.”
• Plan for a dry mouth. Patients aren’t allowed to drink anything for about 24 hours after being sleeved. Not surprisingly, many report having a “dry mouth” sensation. In addition to becoming good friends with the ice chips we push at Endobariatric, one suggestion I’ve seen on our Facebook support group page is to bring Biotin mouth moisture spray.
• Walk—and then walk some more. Patients are not only allowed to walk pretty much right away, but are strongly encouraged to do so. My discharge orders include regularly walking when they get home; the problem comes when patients don’t follow those instructions well. Newly sleeved Susan admits that she didn’t have pain after surgery—until she fell off the walking wagon. “I should have walked a LOT more.,” she says. “I walked (after surgery) but not enough while at the hotel…been battling air/gas pains for quite a few days.”
• Don’t fear the trip home. It’s common for patients to worry about a long plane or car ride just a day or two after surgery, but the overwhelming feedback from veteran sleevers is that it’s not a painful journey. One Canadian patient endured an 18-hour trip back home and commented that she was tired, of course, but not in pain. “The pain meds you leave with work great,” she adds.
Everyone’s experience is different, but one of the benefits of getting VSG surgery at Endobariatric is that patients, both new and experienced, are able to learn from each other. So take some advice from your sleeve brothers and sisters: worry less, plan for success more, and enjoy the ride!
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“Changing lives…one sleeve at a time”.