Bariatric Programs: Pre-Op Diet vs Pre-Op Weight Loss

Steph Wagner

May 11, 2016

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Bariatric Surgery Pre-Op Diet

You’ve probably noticed by now…every bariatric program is DIFFERENT.

And it’s super confusing. Your sister had surgery down the street and she tells you things your doctor says differently. What gives?!

Having gone through a recent pregnancy, I’m reminded that it’s not a one size fits all when it comes to doctors recommendations. My friend’s doctor prescribed her something for nausea while my doctor didn’t recommend that drug. Why are the guidelines so different!?

(By the way, here’s a video I made about differing opinions after weight loss surgery).

The recommendations are different because doctors are different. They are also different because bariatric surgery is a newer field AND research is always changing the way we do things.

One major difference between programs is whether or not you have a pre-op diet OR a pre-op weight loss requirement. One bariatric surgeon may ask you to lose 5-10% of your starting weight. This might be 15-30 pounds for you. It could be more, it could be less. This can be deflating when you think “I’m here because I can’t lose weight, and now this doctors wants me to lose weight before the surgery?”

Another doctor may say “you don’t need to lose weight but we recommend you don’t gain anything.” But, as surgery nears you start hearing about a 2 week liquid diet before surgery. Boom! Now that can stop you dead in your tracks. If you have a 2 week liquid diet after surgery too…you’re now looking at 4 weeks of protein shakes and water. Yikes.

What’s all this about?

It’s a different approach to the same thing. Your doctor wants to shrink the size of your liver to make for an easier operation. Many studies show pre-op weight loss speeds up your recovery time and make surgery safer. Liquid diets that shrink the liver will allow for a shorter operation time, which leads to a faster recovery.

Whether you’re asked to lose 5-10% of your weight during your 3-6 months of supervised weight loss visits OR you are put on a 2 week pre-op diet, they both have their pros and their cons. My preference is to lose weight over the course of your pre-op season. It helps you stay focused on the upcoming surgery and allows you to start making the changes you inevitably need to make to be successful. But. I’m not your doctor :)

If you are thinking of having a weight-loss surgery, this would be a great question to ask of the program you’re considering! While you’re at it, ask if they have a dietitian on staff to help you with the pre and post-op nutrition. Not that I’m biased, but a good dietitian can make for a much better experience ;)

All my best,

Steph