What to expect before and after weight loss surgery

Providers will stay positive and won’t judge patients: ‘Our role is to support them in whatever fashion they need.’

Patients receive extensive counseling on diet and behavioral issues at Norton Weight Management Services before and after bariatric surgery to maximize their chance for a successful outcome.

Prior to surgery, all patients undergo a detailed readiness assessment. They see a nurse, a licensed clinical social worker and a dietitian, who evaluate their readiness to change. The assessment is required by insurance.

We educate patients on lifestyle changes they will need to make. If a patient isn’t ready to make those changes, we’ll delay surgery because they’re not going to be successful.

Patients deemed ready for surgery are educated on the procedure they’ll be undergoing and what they can expect in terms of diet and lifestyle changes. To make the transition easier, I coach patients on how to begin moving toward the diet they’ll follow after surgery. For example, I’ll encourage them to avoid sugary drinks and to eat smaller meals throughout the day instead of a single big meal.

We want them to work on a better meal pattern. Eating once a day and snacking a lot will need to shift to multiple small meals each day after surgery. The stomach will be the size of an egg.

Read more: 8 steps on your weight loss journey

Before surgery: Making the decision

Patients considering bariatric surgery attend a free online seminar with Norton Weight Management providers. The seminar provides more detail about what to expect and the next steps in achieving your weight loss goals.

Our patient navigator is available to help with completing an information packet and to answer any additional questions while patients consider their options.

The next step is the assessment to evaluate the patient’s readiness for weight loss surgery. Patients also get more information on the specific procedure under consideration.

If the patient decides to move forward, they pay a nonrefundable $300 program fee. This fee covers lifetime follow-ups with a dietitian and licensed clinical social worker. For patients who undergo bariatric surgery, studies have shown that strong follow-up greatly increases the chance of a successful outcome.

Even if patients choose not to undergo surgery, they still can take advantage of counseling from me and the two behavioral weight management specialists at Norton Weight Management Services, Melissa Moody, LCSW, and Mary Hargadon, LCSW.

After bariatric surgery: Keeping the weight off

I’ve worked with overweight and obese patients for more than a decade, and the follow-up is probably the most important thing. We want patients to lose weight after surgery and we want them to keep it off. That means staying away from old eating habits and patterns.

Start with a free seminar

Find out more about bariatric surgery or a medically guided weight loss plan.

Our licensed clinical social workers help them work toward making behavioral changes if they’re stress eaters. Patients typically underestimate the emotional component food plays in their lives. They don’t realize how much they use food to soothe themselves. That’s a major struggle for some people, and that’s why the follow-up is so critical after surgery.

The social workers and I meet with patients one-on-one and develop trust. Patients can also receive consultations using Norton Telehealth to meet with us via video or phone call. Email is also an option. If a patient’s primary language is not English, Norton Healthcare will provide a translator free of charge.

Staying positive with no judgments

As a dietitian, my role is education. Many people wrongly assume they’re eating a healthy diet and aren’t aware of what they’re eating during a typical day. A food diary or using a phone app can help.

A lot of these patients have been obese for years and years and have numerous medical conditions.

They’ve always been told what to do, but feel like they’ve never gotten help with their weight issues. I work with patients to find healthy foods they want to eat.

The diet is tailored to them to help them be successful. I don’t hand them a sheet of paper telling them what they can’t eat. That’s not going to work long-term.

Staying positive with patients is important. Patients feel comfortable coming to us and know we’re not here to judge them. Our role is to support them in whatever fashion they need.

Jennifer Kyser, R.D., CSOWM, L.D., is a registered dietitian with Norton Healthcare.

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