Gastric sleeve surgery could be a last resort option for you if you’re struggling to lose weight by the usual means. It involves removing a large portion of your stomach and leaving behind a much smaller ‘tube’ which is incapable of processing the large quantities of food you would previously have eaten. The result is dramatic weight loss in a short space of time, but that’s not to say this kind of surgery isn’t without its drawbacks.
In this article, we’ll discuss all aspects of gastric sleeve surgery so you can make an informed decision as to whether it’s right for you, including:
- What it entails, how it works, and the permanency of the procedure
- The risks of the procedure
- The recovery process
- The dietary restrictions after surgery
- How quickly to expect weight loss
- What you need to do after surgery
What is gastric sleeve surgery?
Gastric sleeve surgery is an effective form of weight loss surgery, well known for its high success rate in treating even the morbidly obese. During the procedure, surgeons will remove part of your stomach, leaving a new section that’s about the size and shape of a banana. Typically, this new stomach is around 1/10th of the size of the old stomach, meaning you won’t physically be able to eat the quantities of food you once did.
This kind of surgery is typically reserved for those who have more weight to lose, starting at a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater. The procedure itself doesn’t take too long: typically only around an hour. Gastric sleeves are usually performed via keyhole surgery, which lessens the recovery time and scar tissue. Having said this, most people need a few nights stay in hospital immediately afterwards. Once you’ve had gastric sleeve surgery, there’s no going back – the procedure is permanent, as a portion of your stomach is actually removed.
Risks of the procedure
There are several risks to be aware of with gastric sleeve surgery. Some of the most serious include:
- Internal bleeding
- An adverse reaction to the anesthesia
- Difficulty breathing
- Leaking in the gastrointestinal system
- Blood clots
Some other complications that may arise months or even years after the surgery can include:
- Diarrhea, vomiting, or nausea
- Low blood sugar
- Stomach perforation
The recovery process
Your diet following surgery will be unrecognisable in comparison to what you ate before. Failure to stick to this could cause complications and result in you becoming quite ill. Bear this in mind before having the procedure. For some people, the enormous changes they have to make can be quite overbearing.
Immediately after your procedure, you’ll be on a clear liquid diet (broths, tea, and water), but only for about a week.
During the second week, you’ll begin on an all-liquid and pureed food diet. You’ll remain on this for some time some time, typically about a month or so. During week 2, this will consist of protein shakes.
Your liquid diet will now begin to include soft, pureed foods, including soups, eggs, cottage cheese, and yogurt.
All soft foods, including oatmeal, mashed potatoes, boiled chicken, and even some fish can be eaten in the 4th week.
Week 5 and beyond
Once the first month of recovery is over, you’ll need to make additional changes to your diet before gradually returning to regular meals. This will involve:
- Introducing real food slowly
- Chewing everything thoroughly before swallowing
- Drinking all liquids a half-hour after finishing a meal
- Eating nutrient-dense foods
- Eating three, small meals a day rather than snacking throughout the day
It’s worth pointing out that foods eaten post-surgery will need to be nutrient dense. As you’ll no longer be able to eat large quantities of food, what you do eat will need to nourish your body, especially as it recovers from invasive surgery.
Other recovery tips
Learning how to eat for your new, smaller stomach isn’t the only part of the recovery process. After all, having a major part of an organ removed is no small feat, and it’s going to take some time for your body to fully adjust.
Here are a few recovery tips to keep in mind:
- Drink a lot of fluids. This is especially important because you’re not going to be getting any liquids from food in the days following your operation
- Understand that normal bodily functions, like bowel movements, might be painful immediately after surgery
- Take pain medication as needed
- Stay as active as possible after the first 4 weeks, even if it’s only walking around the house initially
- Don’t strain yourself too much or push yourself too hard; you’re likely to be fatigued the month following surgery, which is normal
- Don’t try to return to work too early – take at least a month off to allow your body to heal properly
When will the weight loss begin?
You’re going to lose weight quickly after your surgery, especially considering the diet you’ll be on for the first month following the procedure. But, as is the case with all diets, though initial weight loss may be quick, you’ll likely hit a plateau at one point or another – usually around 6 months after surgery.
Of course, there are various methods to get around any weight loss plateau. One of the most obvious ways is to increase your physical activity levels, which will continue to create an energy deficit in your body. This will become much easier once you’ve lost a lot of your initial weight.
How to take care of your body following gastric sleeve surgery
The most important thing you can do for your body following gastric sleeve surgery is to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regime.
There’s no way around this – unfortunately, even weight loss surgery isn’t a magic bullet for permanent weight loss, and you’ll still need to take action to maintain your new, smaller physique.
Take care not to fall back into old habits. Although your new stomach is smaller, it’s still possible to gain weight after the procedure if you’re not eating well. If you overeat regularly, you’ll also stretch your new stomach, undoing some of the progress made by the procedure.
Exercise is also critical for long-term maintenance. You should work out at least three times a week, though working out at least five times is preferred. 30 minutes is all it takes. Anything that gets you moving and increases your heart rate will work just fine!
Still considering gastric sleeve surgery?
Gastric sleeve surgery is a surefire way to guarantee a lot of initial weight loss, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best course of action for you. Having this kind of surgery means you no longer have the option to gorge on the foods you once did, so your freedom of choice is taken away quite rapidly. This has been known to lead to depression in some people, as they can feel just as trapped inside their body as they did before, losing one of the biggest pleasures of their life – food.
Be sure you’ve exhausted all other options before taking the plunge, whether that’s via diet or exercise changes, or even through taking supplements to help suppress your appetite as you work to make healthy changes.
It’s important you weigh up all the pros and cons before jumping into any kind of decision about weight loss surgery. You may also choose to take counselling before making such a huge, irreversible change to your life.
No matter which route you choose, stay with us on the PhenQ blog for great practical weight loss tips each week!