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Electing to undertake bariatric surgery is a very difficult decision to make, but, ultimately, also a very rewarding one. You’ve chosen to lead a healthier, fitter, and longer life, and that’s a wonderful achievement in itself.

It may surprise you to learn, though, that your weight-loss program starts before your surgery, not after. For the approximately 160 million Americans that are obese or overweight,1 this can be an incredibly challenging feat, but there is hope. Read on to find out simple and effective ways to shed those pounds before you even set foot in the hospital.

Why You’ll Need to Do It

Around 230,000 bariatric surgeries are completed each year2 and, in order to be eligible, you’re generally required to have a BMI of 40 or higher (which is approximately 100 pounds overweight). That being the case, losing weight before weight-loss surgery might seem like a paradox. So, why do the overwhelming majority of surgeons request that you do it?

The answer is simple. Studies have shown3 that even small reductions in weight can dramatically improve the chances of success, both during and after gastric sleeve surgery. In particular, less excess weight means:

  • Fewer Complications – The procedure is performed with minimally-invasive keyhole surgery, so less body weight means easier and quicker access for the surgeon to your stomach.
  • Less Time in the Hospital – Surgery is over more quickly, and your body will recover more rapidly from the surgery if you are healthier.
  • Greater Long-Term Success – Patients who begin to lose weight before sleeve gastrectomy in Houston lose larger amounts of weight in the 12 months following the surgery than those who don’t.

The Target

To get started, you’ll need a goal to aim toward. Luckily, calculating this is the easy part. For best results, you should be trying to work off at least 8-10% of your excess body weight. No doubt, you’ve already visualized an ideal weight for yourself—simply subtract that from your current weight and divide by ten, and that’s how much you’re looking to lose.

When to Start

The other question, of course, is when to start losing weight. Start too late, and you’ll only experience frustration and failure, but start too early and you may lose sight of the end goal and lack motivation. three to Six months before the surgery is usually the sweet spot- plus or minus based on the amount of weight to lose—and don’t forget to develop a written plan so you stay on track.

Finding the Motivation

Motivation for anything in life is always the hard part, especially if it’s for something that’s not necessarily pleasant to do. Just saying “I want to lose weight” is not always enough—you need to have strong reasons why. Some things that can help with motivation:

  • Write out a plan and break it up into achievable daily steps. Be realistic with your goals.
  • Discuss with your support network of family and friends your goals and how you want to achieve them, so they understand and have your back when things get tough.
  • All humans in the world have setbacks and hiccups on their journeys, so don’t beat yourself up if you fail every now and again. The important thing is to learn from it and keep trying.
  • Take the time out every day to congratulate yourself on your persistence, progress, and strength. This is not easy, and you’re incredibly brave for doing what you’re doing.

Taking the First Step: How to Start Exercising

Exercising when severely overweight can be a punishing task and very hard to get started on. It’s also true that a healthy diet is more important than exercise when it comes to weight loss, but that doesn’t mean that staying active should be neglected entirely.

Working with Your Body

The key to effectively and safely exercising with excess weight is to minimize the forces on your joints and bones and avoid damaging them. It can be tempting to start running, but you’re far better off walking even if it might not burn as many calories. Better yet, try starting with a combination of yoga and swimming or water aerobics, both of which put only less pressure on your weight-bearing joints.

The World Is Your Gym

Many people who want to lose weight will head off to the gym, but, before you sign up to an expensive contract, consider whether it’s right for you. Not only can the “gym junkie” culture be damaging to your body image and motivation, but you can perform most of what those cardio machines will do just through incidental exercise.

Incidental exercise is the kind you do when you’re not even trying to do it—activities like walking to the store or climbing the stairs in your home. If you’re doing a lot of this, it will really add up during the day. Get yourself a fitness tracker and avoid using cars or asking people to get things for you, and you can burn calories without ever setting foot in a gym.

Diet: Give Your Body the Best Fuel

happy middle aged woman

Exercise is an important factor in boosting the metabolism and enabling weight loss, but, if you really want to kickstart your pre-surgery diet, you need to focus on what you’re putting into your body. It’s going to be tough, but, once you start being vigilant about your gastric sleeve diet, weight loss will happen without you even realizing it.

It’s All About the Calories

The formula is easy: If you’re burning more calories than you put in each day, you’ll lose weight. So, in theory, all you need to do is limit your calorie intake to a level that’s lower than what your body burns.

While the common recommendation is to eat a 2,000-calorie/day diet, this varies from one individual to the next, and often to lose weight, you’ll need to restrict calories further. This is something you can discuss with your Houston bariatric surgeon.

Which Foods Are In, and Which Are Out?

Of course, it can be very difficult to track your calories if you don’t read every label and haven’t dieted like this before. As a rough guide, you should be avoiding simple carbohydrates, such as:

  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes
  • Cereal

At the same time, try to focus on low-fat, high protein foods. Protein will keep you feeling full without stacking on calories, and includes foods like:

  • Lean meat
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Leafy greens

Don’t forget that many things that seem healthy—like store-bought juices and protein powders—are actually full of sugars, which the body converts to fat. Always check the label and, if in doubt, prepare it yourself. There’s nothing more inspiring than eating something healthy that you’ve made yourself!

Three Steps to Success

If surgery is fast approaching and more rapid weight loss is required, you might want to consider a three-step diet of liquids, then soft food, then solids. Consuming only liquids is a recommended technique favored by many medical professionals, as it’s almost impossible to over-indulge on calories even when you’ve completely filled up the stomach.

From there, you can slowly let your body re-adjust to soft foods and then solids over the course of several weeks. This will teach your body what healthy eating (and lower calories) feels like, while still reintroducing foods that you like as long-term goals. Following those three steps is a great way to plan and motivate your weight-loss journey.

Three girlfriends cooking together at home

You’re Never Alone

This is a long and difficult road, and it’s easy to lose heart and feel lonely during your struggle. Even your family and friends—as well-meaning and important as they are—will not always know how to help you. Yet, you should always remember that you can reach out to your surgeon, your doctor, your trainer, your dietitian, and so many other professionals at any time.

They’re not just there for check-ups and medical advice. They’ve seen countless others with the same struggles as you, and they can provide just the right kind of expert support and guidance that you need to make the next step.

Talking to the Experts

If this is a journey you’re ready to undertake, you’ll want to put yourself in the best hands. You’ll want that extensive support network ready and waiting to help you plan and adjust to a new, healthier lifestyle.

Bariatric Care Centers has the professional team you need to assess and support you during every step of your gastric sleeve surgery in Houston. To find out more and book an appointment, contact our weight loss clinic today at 713-469-3059.

Disclaimer: This is only for general information. All patients should consult their doctors prior to following any of the recommendations in any articles, post, or video. Every patient has individual needs and limitations that only their treating physicians can be aware of.