Undergoing bariatric surgery is one of the most life-changing decisions you’ll ever make. Although some weight-loss surgeries (WLS) are advertised as “reversible,” they aren’t designed to be short-term solutions. You must commit completely to the process if you expect to achieve significant, long-lasting weight loss while avoiding health problems associated with WLS. Here are some of the ways you will need to prepare before you have any form of bariatric surgery.

Initial Consideration of Bariatric Surgery

Most obese and significantly overweight patients spend several years thinking about weight-loss surgery before they make a decision. That’s a smart approach. Gastric bypass, sleeve, duodenal switch and banding procedures all have many risks. Complications are not uncommon. Even if you avoid serious complications, there are plenty of side effects that will alter how you interact with food forever. Some of the changes in your gastrointestinal system may be permanent even if the surgery is reversed. Here are a few of the questions you must answer for yourself when you are deciding whether WLS is right for you:

  • Is my quality of life suffering substantially because of my excess weight?
  • Am I less mobile than I want to be because of how much I weigh?
  • Am I at greater risk from obesity and related medical conditions than I would be from bariatric surgery?
  • Have I tried every other reasonable option for losing weight and keeping it off?
  • Have I asked my doctor to help me find a way to lose weight without surgery?
  • Has my doctor documented my weight loss efforts and my level of obesity through the years?
  • Am I prepared to give up an attachment to favorite foods or unhealthy eating habits?
  • Do I have any unresolved emotional issues stemming from childhood abuse that affect my body image or my relationship with food? If so, am I ready to seek help for these issues now?
  • Will my loved ones support me in making the changes necessary to follow a post-surgery lifestyle?
  • Will my job and/or family commitments leave me with too little time to manage my health needs after WLS?
  • Am I willing to accept that my body may still look overweight to others even if I lose a large number of pounds?
  • Can I accept that my skin may not tighten up after I lose weight?
  • Will I be tempted to give up if my weight plateaus or if I face other obstacles to success in losing weight after surgery?
  • Am I responsible enough to take supplements daily and have frequent lab testing to ensure that I am getting adequate nutrition for the rest of my life?
  • Am I basing my decision on information from a seminar, or am I willing to look at all the pros and cons based on the clinical evidence available for this procedure?
  • Is there a local or online WLS support group to help me get through my recovery process?

Physical Preparation for Bariatric Surgery

You don’t have to wait until you have bariatric surgery to start losing weight. In fact, adopting a healthier lifestyle before you have the surgery is essential. For example, you absolutely must stop smoking to be eligible for WLS. Smoking is the leading preventable cause of complications for surgery. You should already be practicing the eating habits you will be expected to adopt after the procedure. That includes:

  • Limiting meal size
  • Chewing your food thoroughly
  • Restricting simple carbohydrates and fats
  • Drinking water throughout the day to stay hydrated
  • Staying away from alcohol, caffeine and carbonated beverages

This helps you understand what life will be like after the operation and whether you will find it tolerable. Your surgeon may place you on a liquid diet for as long as two weeks prior to your surgery.

Begin a fitness routine. Exercising regularly so your body is as strong and healthy as possible increases your chances of doing well after the surgery. You want exercise to be a habit that’s well engrained so you don’t lose your motivation to work out later. The less you weigh going into bariatric surgery, the lower risk you will have for serious complications. The dramatic weight loss following WLS can place a lot of strain on your system. So, losing some of the excess fat gradually beforehand can make things easier on your body.