After Bariatric Surgery: The First 6 Weeks

After surgery for weight loss, your body needs time to adjust. Once you're ready, you will be given programs to follow for your nutrition and physical activity. Follow these programs as directed. The success of the surgery depends on the choices you make. You will need to make lifelong changes in your eating and exercise habits to maintain your weight loss. 

Man standing on bathroom scale.

At home

At first, you may have stomach or bowel cramping, or nausea. Tell your healthcare provider if pain or nausea is severe or doesn’t improve with time. Take pain medicines as prescribed for 1 to 2 weeks. To ease back into your daily life, you may be given guidelines like those listed below:

  • You may shower within 48 hours.

  • You may return to driving after a week and once you no longer need pain medicines. This may be up to 3 weeks after surgery.

  • You may resume sex in 3 weeks.

  • You may return to work in 4 weeks, or as instructed.

  • Avoid lifting anything over 10 pounds for 3 weeks.

Becoming more active

Activity helps you lose weight after surgery. Start easy, but try to be a little more active each day. You might try walking. Other choices include chair aerobics or using a stationary bike.

Working with your healthcare team

Your healthcare team members can help you adjust to changes after surgery. Here’s how:

  • Your medical surgical team oversees follow-up care after surgery. Keep all your appointments, and ask any questions you have.

  • Your dietitian sets up your new nutrition plan. He or she can help you plan meals you’ll enjoy.

  • Your psychiatrist or psychologist or other mental health professional can help you adjust to change. It may help to talk to someone about your body or other issues. Consider contacting a bariatric surgery support group in your area. 

Call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider if you have any of the following:

  • A fever over 101°F (38.3°C) or chills

  • A red, bleeding, or draining incision

  • Frequent or persistent nausea or vomiting

  • Increased pain at an incision

  • Pain or swelling in your legs

  • Trouble breathing or chest pain

Eating during healing

After surgery, a special diet will help your stomach heal. At first, you will just drink low-sugar liquids. You might have tea or broth, for instance. As you feel better, you’ll eat low-fat pureed or semisolid food, such as applesauce. When your system is ready, you’ll eat a range of foods in small amounts.

Special issues

Certain problems may happen after surgery, depending on the type of surgery you have. These problems can include:

  • Malnutrition. Your body may not be able to absorb all the vitamins it needs. Symptoms include fatigue, feeling cold, swollen ankles, or excessive hair loss. Take vitamin supplements as prescribed, for life, to help prevent this.

  • Dehydration. A smaller stomach means liquids must be consumed in smaller amounts. Not getting enough liquids can lead to dehydration. Symptoms include feeling “dried out” or having dark urine. Drink small amounts of water and fluids throughout the day. Ask your healthcare team for guidelines on getting enough liquids.

  • Dumping syndrome. This can happen after gastric bypass procedures. After eating high-sugar foods, you may have weakness, stomach cramps and pain, nausea, sweats, or, in rare instances, fainting. Avoid foods that cause any of these symptoms.

  • Lactose intolerance. You may lose the ability to digest lactose (a sugar found in dairy products). Symptoms include cramps, bloating, and diarrhea. Diarrhea may occur 60 to 90 minutes after a meal. Avoid dairy foods (such as milk and cheese) if this happens.