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Why is it important to make changes before bariatric surgery?

Making Healthy Changes

While losing weight before surgery doesn’t lead to a more successful surgery experience and greater weight loss, making changes before surgery are associated with better outcomes.

Not following the dietary guidelines outlined in your program after bariatric surgery puts you at risk for malnutrition and not achieving your personal weight loss goals. 

Remember, the day you decided to pursue bariatric surgery, is the day you decided to begin to lead a healthier life. The surgery alone isn’t enough to lead a healthier life. Lifestyle and dietary change is a really important piece of that puzzle.

Working through the Bumps in the Road

As you know, making change isn’t easy. Now, throw in a surgery that could lead to complications by not eating a certain way. The pressure is on. 

Making change isn’t as simple as just changing a habit. A lot goes into that process. Let's take a closer look at the steps it could take to go from skipping breakfast daily to actually eating breakfast.

Making the Time

The first problem to solve would involve making the time to eat breakfast. You’ll notice I didn’t say “find.” Beginning to shift what you prioritize typically helps this process. For example, are you prioritizing scrolling through your phone or watching TV until 11pm or later in the evening? Or, are you prioritizing your sleep, and getting to bed earlier so you have the opportunity to eat breakfast in the morning.

Setting Yourself Up For Success

Another  important question to ask yourself is, “how can I make my mornings more successful at incorporating breakfast?”

This might include waking up earlier which could impact your bedtime routine and getting to sleep a little earlier. This may also include preparing your breakfast the night before so you don’t have to make a mess in the morning. Also, if you’re planning on eating your breakfast at work, you may have to leave a sticky note on the door or the steering wheel of your car to remind you to grab it.

The next question might be, “what do I eat?” 

First, decide what high protein breakfast foods you like to eat. Maybe you hate eggs, but love Greek yogurt and cottage cheese. But what could you pair with this to keep breakfast interesting and satisfying? 

Fruit pairs nicely with yogurt and cottage cheese, so maybe you would like to have strawberries with Greek yogurt a few days per week and cottage cheese with pineapple. Possibly adding a little diced nuts to add crunch to the yogurt as well. Now you have an idea of what to have.

Finally, you need to add these items to your grocery list! This way, they are in the house and available for your breakfast.

It’s More Than Just Doing Something Differently

As you can see, making a change isn’t necessarily a simple task to accomplish. A lot of thought, trial and error, and practice goes into it. 

Waiting until after surgery to make change is not going to help you accomplish your goal. What it will accomplish is creating a lot of stress and worry in your life by not knowing how to apply what you’ve learned through all the nutrition information you’ve been given.

Where do I start?

It can all begin with the Nutrition Evaluation. Your dietitian provided you with the “Checklist for Pre-Operative Planning handout. It can be found here.

Practicing the changes outlined in your Nutrition Evaluation, over time, will help you feel prepared and more confident in your ability to stick with a healthier lifestyle long term. 

If you feel overwhelmed, this is completely normal! I challenge you to select 1 goal. This might be quitting soda. Invest 100% of your time and energy into making this change every day. I bet you could accomplish this goal within 1-2 weeks. Then, focus on your next goal.

Tackling your nutrition goals, 1 change at a time, will help this experience feel a lot less overwhelming.

Preparing Mentally 

Mentally preparing for this lifestyle change is just as important and preparing your body physically.

Many people can struggle with letting go of certain habits. For example, many people were told to “clean their plate” as a child, or were always given dessert to make them feel better when they were sad. Now, as an adult, we might not fully realize how these innocent habits that were formed in our youth impact our diet as an adult. 

These two habits alone typically contribute to overeating at meals, even when we’re full, and using dessert as a way to cope when we’re sad.

Shifting the way you look at food, and finding other ways to cope with emotions that don’t involve food, takes time. 

Let Today Be The Day

Don’t let time continue to slip by. Let today be the day you select one change to make and run with it! Before you know it, you’ll be so prepared for surgery and feel confident in the changes you’ve made. 

If you’re struggling to make change or need extra help with ideas, please give Central California Surgery a call to schedule a nutrition follow up with your dietitian.

Katie Ott, MS, RD

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