Life After Weight Loss Surgery - All You Need to Know

Reviewed by: John Rabkin, MD

Life after weight loss surgery will be a 180 degree turn from what you are used to. Despite what some people may think, bariatric surgery is not an “easy way out”.

But even though it can be difficult at times, most patients say it was the best decision they have ever made.

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This page will explain all the aspects of life after weight loss surgery so you can decide if a bariatric procedure is right for you…

Recovery
Depends on Procedure, Focus on Healing Body
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Recovery: Depends on Procedure, Focus on Healing Body

Your recovery will depend on which procedure you choose. For example:

  • Average Hospital Stay: Ranges from outpatient (return home same-day) to 2-3 days
  • Average Time Until Back to Work: Ranges from 3 days to 2 weeks
  • Average Time to Full Recovery: Ranges from 3 days to 6 weeks
  • Pain: Ranges from mild discomfort to “manageable with pain medicaiton”
  • Diet: Ranges from a few limited foods to a strict and slow transition from clear liquids to solid foods
  • Back-to-Normal Activity: Ranges from 3 days to 4-6 weeks

See the following pages for more information about recovery:

See our Bariatric Surgery Recovery page to learn what to expect.

Weight Loss
Ranges from 25% to 90% of your excess weight, depending on the procedure
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Weight Loss: Ranges from 25% to 90% of your excess weight, depending on the procedure

Patients lose weight quickly after most procedures, with the low point coming 12 to 18 months after the procedure.

The duodenal switch (DS), gastric sleeve, and gastric bypass are very close in terms of their average low point, but the DS pulls ahead over the long-term as it results in less weight regain over time.

The following graph and chart compare weight loss over time for each procedure:

 
 
Gastric Sleeve
Gastric Sleeve
Gastric Bypass
Gastric Bypass
Gastric Balloon
Gastric Balloon
Duodenal Switch
Duodenal Switch
Lap-Band
Lap-Band
vBloc Therapy
vBloc Therapy
AspireAssist
AspireAssist
 
3 Months
Gastric Sleeve
30%
Gastric Bypass
30%
Gastric Balloon
15%
Duodenal Switch
30%
Lap-Band
20%
vBloc Therapy
10%
AspireAssist
8%
 
6 Months
Gastric Sleeve
50%
Gastric Bypass
50%
Gastric Balloon
30%
Duodenal Switch
45%
Lap-Band
30%
vBloc Therapy
20%
AspireAssist
15%
 
1 Year
Gastric Sleeve
70%
Gastric Bypass
65%
Gastric Balloon
varies (balloon removed after 6 mo)
Duodenal Switch
65%
Lap-Band
40%
vBloc Therapy
25%
AspireAssist
30%
 
2 Years
Gastric Sleeve
65%
Gastric Bypass
60%
Gastric Balloon
varies (balloon removed after 6 mo)
Duodenal Switch
70%
Lap-Band
55%
vBloc Therapy
25%
AspireAssist y
no data yet
 
3 years
Gastric Sleeve
60%
Gastric Bypass
60%
Gastric Balloon
varies (balloon removed after 6 mo)
Duodenal Switch
70%
Lap-Band
55%
vBloc Therapy
25%
AspireAssist
no data yet
 
5 years
Gastric Sleeve
55.%
Gastric Bypass
60%
Gastric Balloon
varies (balloon removed after 6 mo)
Duodenal Switch
70%
Lap-Band
55%
vBloc Therapy
25%
AspireAssist
no data yet

References: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) (15) (16) (17) (18) (19) (20) (21) (22) (23) (24) (25) (26) (27) (28) (29) (30)

Health Improvement
Cures or improves diabetes, sleep apnea, hypertension, and up to 12+ other conditions, depending on the procedure
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Health Improvement: Cures or improves diabetes, sleep apnea, hypertension, and up to 12+ other conditions, depending on the procedure

Improvements to your physical health can be as impressive as your rapid weight loss after bariatric surgery.

The following conditions have been shown to get better or completely go away following gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, Lap-Band, and duodenal switch surgery (other weight loss procedures also show improvement, but not as much) (31):

Obesity Health Problems
Obesity Health Problems
Asthma
Asthma
Cardiovascular disease
Cardiovascular disease
Death
Death
Depression
Depression
Dyslipidemia hypercholesterolemia
Dyslipidemia hypercholesterolemia
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome
Migraines
Migraines
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Orthopedic problems or degenerative joint disease
Orthopedic problems or degenerative joint disease
Polycystic ovarian syndrome
Polycystic ovarian syndrome
Pseudotumor cerebri
Pseudotumor cerebri
Sleep apnea
Sleep apnea
Stress urinary incontinence
Stress urinary incontinence
Venous stasis disease
Venous stasis disease
Obesity Health Problems
% of Bariatric Surgery Patients
Asthma
82% improved or resolved
Cardiovascular disease
82% risk reduction
Death
89% reduction in 5-year death rate
Depression
55% improved or resolved
83% resolved
Dyslipidemia hypercholesterolemia
63% resolved
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
72 to 98% resolved
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
52 to 92% resolved
Metabolic syndrome
80% resolved
Migraines
57% resolved
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
90% improved steatosis; 37% resolution of inflammation; 20% resolution of fibrosis on repeat biopsy
Orthopedic problems or degenerative joint disease
41 to 76% resolved
Polycystic ovarian syndrome
78% resolution of hirsuitism; 100% resolution of menstrual dysfunction
Pseudotumor cerebri
96% resolved
Sleep apnea
74 to 98% resolved
Stress urinary incontinence
44 to 88% resolved
Venous stasis disease
95% resolved

“Bariatric surgery may be the only cure for many obesity health problems.”

In actuality, bariatric surgery may be the only cure for many of these.

See our Obesity Health Problems page for more about the above conditions.

Despite all of these positive outcomes, you’ll need to develop permanent long-term habits in order to maintain your weight and health goals. And it is next to certain that you will NOT be able to do this on your own; they direct support of family, friends and your weight loss surgery team will be integral to your long-term success.

For example, a recent study of 380 patients found that:

  • The more services a patient received after surgery, the greater their percentage of excess weight loss
  • Patients who completed group exercise sessions and nutritional consultation after surgery lost more weight than did those who did not complete these services

Moreover, if you let your post-surgery habits slip and find yourself putting weight back on, you’ll be more likely to experience a recurrence of your former health problems. For example, most patients with diabetes experience a complete remission of the disease following bariatric surgery. But one out of five of these patients see their diabetes return, due in part to having a higher body weight as time goes on following surgery (32).

The following sections dive into the importance of diet and exercise during life after weight loss surgery.

One final important note about long-term health… be mindful of abdominal pain. Bariatric surgery complications can develop at any time, so if you notice anything that feels a little “off”, play it safe and schedule a visit with your surgeon.

Diet
Crucial To Your Success, Will Require Lifestyle Changes
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Diet: Crucial To Your Success, Will Require Lifestyle Changes

Get ready for some significant changes to both what you eat and how you eat.

Don’t worry… it may not be as hard as it sounds. Many patients find that their unhealthy food cravings completely go away, plus your new stomach will cause you to feel full much sooner than before surgery.

Appropriate changes to your diet are so important that we have devoted an entire section of our site to them. Here are a few pages to get you started…

Exercise
Boost Weight Loss, Health, and Libido
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Exercise: Boost Weight Loss, Health, and Libido

Daily exercise is extremely important and should be integrated into your life after weight loss surgery. It has been proven to…

Our Exercise for Bariatric Surgery Patients section explains the best ways to start a personalized workout routine that you can stick with.

Pregnancy After Bariatric Surgery
Generally Safer than Obese Pregnancy, Some Procedures May Need To Be Reversed
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Pregnancy After Bariatric Surgery: Generally Safer than Obese Pregnancy, Some Procedures May Need To Be Reversed

If you get pregnant after bariatric surgery, there are some things you’ll need to do differently than you would have before surgery. In general, pregnancy and child birth after weight loss surgery are much safer than they are if you are obese.

Depending on the procedure you may need to take some action if you become pregnant. For example, if you’ve had the vBloc or AspireAssist Devices inserted you will need to have them removed immediately once you become pregnant.

Our Pregnancy After Weight Loss Surgery page reviews the details along with the steps that should be taken for a successful pregnancy.

Support Groups
Shown to be Vital Your Long-term Success
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Support Groups: Shown to be Vital Your Long-term Success

In order to have successful long-term bariatric surgery results, research suggests that you will need more support than what can be provided from family and friends alone…

“…the more often patients attend group meetings, the more weight they lose.”

  • Study 1 – Patients who attend support groups achieved a 1.6 lower body mass index than patients who do not. (See our How to Calculate BMI page for more about body mass index)
  • Study 2 – Support group patients have a 10% lower BMI than non-support group patients.
  • Study 3 – Not only do support group attendees lose more weight, but the more often patients attend group meetings, the more weight they lose.

In addition to holding you accountable for your actions, support groups give you an outlet to discuss problems and situations with people who are going through the same experience.

See the following pages for more on how to find and use the bariatric surgery support that is right for you…

Relationships
Can Have Both Negative and Positive Impacts
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Relationships: Can Have Both Negative and Positive Impacts

Relationship changes are another great reason to participate in a bariatric surgery support group. These changes often go overlooked by people considering bariatric surgery, and they can be both positive and negative depending on the situation.

See our Relationships After Weight Loss page for real stories about relationships after weight loss… and please share your advice and experiences as well.

Challenges
May have digestion issues, Sagging skin may result from rapid weight loss, Some weight regain possible
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Challenges: May have digestion issues, Sagging skin may result from rapid weight loss, Some weight regain possible

Weight loss surgery sometimes comes with other challenges that many folks aren’t keen to talk about up front. Click the following links to learn more about each topic:

For challenges specific to each type of bariatric procedure, including potential digestion issues, see the following pages:

Help & Support
Ask the Expert & Patient Experiences
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Help & Support: Ask the Expert & Patient Experiences

Have questions about life after weight loss surgery? Have you had surgery and want to share your story?

Please use the form below. Your questions, our answers, and your experiences will go a long way towards helping others, so thank you in advance for taking the time!

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References for Life After Weight Loss Surgery

  • Stacy A Brethauer, Bipan Chand and Philip R Schauer. Risks and benefits of bariatric surgery: current evidence. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine 2006; 73(11):993-1007; doi:10.3949/ccjm.73.11.993.
  • *   Bariatric Surgery Source is not affiliated with and was not involved in the creation of the          videos on this page.
  • Jessica C. Peacock, Sam J. Zizzi. Survey of bariatric surgical patients’ experiences with behavioral and psychological services. Surgery for obesity and related diseases : official journal of the American Society for Bariatric Surgery 9 December 2011 (Article in Press DOI: 10.1016/j.soard.2011.11.015)
  • Type 2 Diabetes Cured by Weight Loss Surgery Returns in One-Fifth of Patients. The Endocrine Society. Press Release 6/24/12. Avail at: http://www.endo-society.org/media/press/2012/Type-2-Diabetes-Cured-by-Weight-Loss-Surgery-Returns-in-One-Fifth-of-Patients.cfm

[ Last editorial review/modification of this page : 12/31/2016]

* Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is provided for general information purposes and your specific results may vary depending on a variety of circumstances. It is not intended as nor should be relied upon as medical advice. Rather, it is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her existing physician(s). Before you use any of the information provided in the site, you should seek the advice of a qualified medical, dietary, fitness or other appropriate professional. Read More