Medically Reviewed by:John Rabkin, MD, FACSBoard Certified Bariatric Surgeon
Life after weight loss surgery includes (depending on your chosen procedure):
- Full recovery in 1 to 6 weeks
- Excess weight loss between 25% and 90+%
- Many obesity-related health problems cured or improved
- Significant diet and exercise changes
- Good and bad changes in how friends, family, and strangers treat you
- Challenges such as sagging skin, digestion issues, and weight regain
Read the sections below for everything you need to know about life after bariatric surgery.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Click on any of the topics below to jump directly to that section
- Weight Loss
- Health Benefits
- Support Groups
- Patient Community & Expert Advice
- Find a Weight Loss Surgeon
- Your hospital stay can range from a couple of hours to 3 days, depending on which procedure you have
- You will need to take anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks off of work, depending on the procedure you have
- You will be "fully recovered" in 3 days to 6 weeks, depending on the procedure have
- As you recover, your diet can range from a few new restrictions to strict, very big changes, depending on the procedure you have
- You will have to reduce your activity level anywhere from 3 days to 6 weeks, depending on which procedure you have
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:
- You will lose anywhere from 25% to 90% of your excess weight, depending on the procedure you choose
- For example: if you’re 5’ 4” and weigh 220 lbs, you will lose up to 55+ lbs within 1 year
- If you’re 5′ 9” and weigh 300 lbs, you will lose up to 95+ lbs within 1 year
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.Click Here to See How Much Weight You Could Lose
- You will "cure" or improve your diabetes, sleep apnea, hypertension, and at least 12 other conditions, depending on the procedure you have
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
|% of Bariatric Surgery Patients
|82% improved or resolved
|82% risk reduction
|89% reduction in 5-year death rate
|55% improved or resolved
|Diabetes (type 2)
|Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
|72 to 98% resolved
|Hypertension (high blood pressure)
|52 to 92% 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
|74 to 98% resolved
|Stress urinary incontinence
|44 to 88% resolved
|Venous stasis disease
|NOTE: Results vary greatly by procedure. See the Buchwald, et al meta analysis paper for a procedure-based and much more thorough analysis.
“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.
- What to eat after weight loss surgery (details below)
- How to eat after weight loss surgery (details below)
- You might have to take vitamins & supplements for life after you have weight loss surgery, depending on which procedure you have
- Good recipes for after you have weight loss surgery (details below)
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 (33), 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 is required for optimal weight loss & health improvement after weight loss surgery
Improvements to your physical health can be as impressive as your rapid weight loss after bariatric surgery.
Daily exercise is extremely important and should be integrated into your life after weight loss surgery. It has been proven to…
- Prevent blood clots and blood clot symptoms
- Boost metabolism
- Improve depression
- Lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol
- Improve insulin control
- Increase self esteem
- Improve libido
- Help you live longer
Our Exercise for Bariatric Surgery Patients section explains the best ways to start a personalized workout routine that you can stick with.
- Getting pregnant after weight loss surgery is safer than being obese while pregnant for the mother and the child
- The AspireAssist device need to be removed once you become pregnant
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 childbirth 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 AspireAssist Devices inserted you will need to have it 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 are required for optimal weight loss & health improvement after weight loss surgery (details below)
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…
- Weight loss surgery support – learn how to find the best in-person bariatric surgery support groups that fit your style and needs.
- Online weight loss support will drastically improve your chances of reaching and maintaining your weight loss goals, but only if you choose to work with the best websites. We have reviewed them all and have good news… the best options are all free. If you want to jump straight to a specific online weight loss support category, click one of the following:
- Support from family and friends
- It's important to know that your personal relationships may change after you lose a large amount of weight
Many patients experience a significant improvement in the quality of their sex life over time after weight loss surgery (34). This is due primarily to changes in the way they felt about their bodies, and not to any actual physiological changes. Improvements to sex life are related to changes in the way that patients perceive their bodies and the resulting increases in self-confidence.
Relationship changes are another great reason to participate in a bariatric surgery support group. These support groups can provide insight and encouragement throughout your weight loss journey.
See our Relationships After Weight Loss page for real stories about relationships after weight loss… and please share your advice and experiences as well.
- You may have long-term digestion issues
- You could end up with sagging skin as a result of rapid weight loss
- Depression is experienced by some patients
- It is possible to regain the weight you lose
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:
- Sagging skin after weight loss surgery
- Weight gain after bariatric surgery
- Depression after bariatric surgery
For challenges specific to each type of bariatric procedure, including potential digestion issues, see the following pages:
- Compare the downsides of all procedures
- Gastric Sleeve Surgery
- Laparoscopic Gastric Bypass Surgery
- Gastric Banding (Lap-Band Surgery)
- Duodenal Switch
- Gastric Balloon
- 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!
Questions From Other Visitors*
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I had my lapband surgery in October 15th. I have been very pleased with the results and have had no major issues. In December I became ill and had the…
- You can ask a local bariatric practice for a free insurance check or cost quote
- You can attend a free in-person seminar or an online webinar offered by a local weight loss surgeon
- You should schedule a phone or in-person consultation (both often free), if you are interested in learning more about weight loss surgery