Life is a journey and bariatric surgery is too! We are constantly evolving and re-inventing who we are. As a matter of fact, the name of my practice is the “New Life Center for Bariatric Surgery” because when seen in the pre-operative area so many of my patients volunteered that they were excited about the first day of their “New Life!” It reminds me of a popular song by Sister Hazel called “Change your Mind.”

“If you’re tired of fighting battles with yourself
If you want to be somebody else
Change your mind”

Bariatric surgery is about getting healthy and freeing ourselves from the restrictions that severe obesity imposes on our lives. In order for this to work for us long term, it is important that we take advantage of everything at our disposal to be successful. Bariatric surgery is a personal journey and it is important that we stay committed to the principles that allow us to achieve our long-term goals of health and happiness (bariatric surgery doesn’t make all our problems disappear, however, getting healthy is a great start).

While preparing for bariatric surgery, there are important basic behaviors that need to be established prior to surgery. The basics include:

  • Eating a proper diet
  • Being as active as possible
  • Consulting with your multidisciplinary team regularly
  • Taking appropriate vitamin and mineral supplementation
  • Seeking support from the right sources

Eating properly is not intuitive. Many of us were never taught what a healthy diet looks like, however, there are certain things that our bodies require in order to be in good health. Make a commitment to learn what that is and how to count your protein, carbohydrates and fats in your diet. It also means using the “tool” of bariatric surgery the way it was designed so you can get the results you want. You wouldn’t use a screwdriver to put a nail in the wall. That is not the proper tool for the job and it’s not the way you use that tool. The same goes for bariatric surgery, pick the right tool for you and use it as directed. Your surgeon is the resource best suited to help you decide which tool (type of surgery) is right for your situation.

Be active. Everyone has limitations, however, consult with your physician and exercise physiologist for suggestions on what you can safely do and then do it regularly. Instead of thinking of it as exercise, think of it a part of your everyday routine. It’s just what you do like any other commitment you have (going to work, taking care of family needs). If you implement this is your daily routine before surgery, it will help you establish the same routine after surgery.

Listen to your multidisciplinary team, your program’s bariatric coordinators, dietitians and exercise physiologists. They will design a specific course of action to prepare you for surgery. Following their specific guidelines concerning behavior and specific nutrition plans prepares your mind and body for surgery. They are a great source of support and guidance for medical and emotional ups and downs that you may experience before and after bariatric surgery.

Begin vitamin and mineral supplementation. Approximately 50 percent of my patients have vitamin and mineral deficiencies prior to surgery. Bariatric surgery patients will need to take vitamins for the rest of their life. Start taking multivitamins before surgery. After surgery, you will need to follow a specific vitamin regimen designed for bariatric patients. Over-the-counter vitamins have been shown to be inadequate for the prevention of nutritional deficiencies after surgery. The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologist, The Obesity Society and the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery have made formal recommendations about the amount of vitamin and mineral supplements required after surgery. Make sure that what you are taking is meeting these guidelines so as to minimize the risk of developing nutritional deficiencies.

About the Author
Dr. Stephen Boyce obtained his Bachelor of Science and Masters of Science from Texas A&M University, College Station, before beginning medical school in Dallas, Texas at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School where he received his medical degree. Surgical Residency was performed at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas where he completed his general surgery training and was introduced to weight loss surgery under the tutelage of Dr. Otto Wilbanks, a pioneering father of weight-loss surgical procedures. With more than 24 years of experience performing bariatric surgeries, Dr. Boyce has completed more than 4,000 weight-loss surgical procedures, has special training in advanced laparoscopic surgery and has also completed a Masters Certification in Bariatric Surgery. He started his own practice the New Life Center for Bariatric Surgery in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2002, which shortly after became one of the Nation’s first Centers of Excellence (7th in the Nation) in 2005.  He is the Medical Director of the Tennova Center for Surgical Weight Loss in Knoxville, TN.  His special interest in bariatric nutrition led him to develop Bari Life Bariatric Supplements, specializing in custom multivitamin formulas for the weight loss surgery patient. Additionally, he is an active educator for Ethicon-Endo Surgery and he was the first physician to be awarded by the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), “Outstanding Membership Recruitment by a Physician Award.”