Day 8 Habit Refresh: Exercise

Steph Wagner

January 19, 2022

10 Day Habit Refresh


Day Eight: Exercise

Click here for Day Seven: Food Journals


day eight habit refresh after bariatric surgery exercise




Click below to listen to the audio recording of this blog or continue reading!



Three questions we’ll answer about each habit in this series

In this series I will answer three questions about each of the habits:

What benefit does this habit bring a post-op patient?

How might the lack of this habit effect a post-op patient?

How can you best build up this habit in the post-op daily life?

What benefit does exercise bring a post-op patient?

This question at first glance seems simple but very quickly brings up tons of questions. You could say something about layers of onions to peel back.

What benefit does exercise bring a post-op patient?

Oh let me count the ways!

If your first thought was they lose more weight, then yes. But also…so much more and it’s more complicated than that.

I am going to divide the benefits of exercise after surgery in mentally and physically because as you may know, they are both significant!




I want to start with the mental benefits of exercise because there are some days that I find the mental benefits more motivating to me personally for getting in some activity.

I would even venture to say, when you’ve battled weight through your life, exercise has often been associated with losing weight. We most often associated exercise with burning calories for more weight loss.

My take on this, is that it sells us short for enjoying the benefits of exercise to their full potential. If we only put exercise in a box of working out hard and eating less to see the scale go down, it makes exercises feel like a chore instead of a benefit. There are (bad) jokes about needing to go exercise after donuts which can also fuel an unhealthy relationship with food.

Instead, let’s turn our focus to the mental benefits of exercise. We see it in research and we know it in our personal lives. Exercise helps when we feel anxious, depressed, stressed or just plain negative. Bonus points when we can get outside and exercise in fresh air!

Exercise releases endorphins which are known as the “feel good chemicals” which means not only do we feel less anxious while we exercise, we literally feel better all day than had we not exercised.

The benefits come with any activity too! You don’t have to sign up for bootcamps or P90X (huge relief for me personally). This means, you can literally do any activity that sounds good to you!


Regular exercise benefits every part of your physical body.

Your bones are stronger. Your muscles are stronger. Your heart is stronger.

I love thinking on all these things instead of how many calories it burned.

(In fact, I don’t look at calories in general. I realize this opens up a whole host of questions but I don’t look at how many calories were eaten and I don’t look at how many calories were burned. I look at the meal structure and the quality of the food. I look at the consistency of the exercise. Those things tell me more than the calorie equation.)

Did you know routine exercise also helps with sleep?

Also, your metabolism. That means your body is more efficient at using fuel. We touched on this a little when we talked about a hydrated body. Think about how much more so for a hydrated body that gets routine activity!

This is really helpful for post-op patients because as you lose weight and your portions are smaller, your metabolism go down. You’re moving around a smaller body so it takes less energy to operate. You can read more about this in a blog on Metabolic Adaptation. One of the things you can do to prevent metabolism from going lower is (consistent meal times) and routine exercise.

I often get questions about how to change the bariatric eating plan after adding in exercise. I do have a video course about exercise and the Bariatric Diet for Premier Access Members. One thing I will say is that incorporating activity in a way that doesn’t require your diet to change is possible and can keep you on your path without changing your diet and making things confusing.


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One more “big thing” to highlight is that when a post-op patient is losing a lot of weight after surgery, they are going to lose more than just fat. They will lose muscle mass and bone mass as well. Add in exercise and you will lose more of the fat and maintain more muscle mass and bone mass, especially when you bring in some strength training.

Bones need “weight bearing” exercise to maintain bone mass. When you lose weight, you have less weight bearing down on the bone. Add in strength training (keep up with your calcium citrate supplements) to maintain bone and prevent weak bones later in life!


How might the lack of exercise effect a post-op patient?

What we know from research is that lack of exercise is a high risk factor for struggles physically and mentally.

We have seen it throughout the pandemic. Exercise was voiced by many as something they needed to get through it all. I personally have never seen so many neighbors out walking ever since 2020!

Exercise lowers the risk for many diseases, along with keeping a healthy weight. We know they go hand in hand!

For a patient that is not exercising, they are probably missing out. They are at a higher risk for these mental and physical struggles but also missing the mental benefit of feeling those good endorphins. Missing out on the confidence that comes with feeling stronger. Missing out on the metabolic benefit that exercise brings.

It’s not just that they could have lost more weight…

A quick note here that the scale is not really our best measure of success. I touched on the point that patients lose fat, muscle and bone during the weight loss journey but that exercise and especially strength training will keep the body from losing as much bone and muscle.

To say a patient who is not exercising won’t lose as much weight is not the full picture. A patient may in fact have a lower number on the scale, but is that from muscle and bone loss too? A patient who has been using resistance bands consistently may actually “not lose as much” if you look at the scale but is likely stronger and have more muscle mass. This is one of the many reasons why scales are just not the most sophisticated way to view success.

But you could also say that a patient who was not exercising did not have the metabolism benefits of regular activity and therefore did not lose as much excess weight as he or she could have. As a patient loses weight, metabolism goes downward and portions slowly increase the further out they are so weight will likely stall sooner compared to if they had been adding in regular exercise.



How can you best build this habit in the post-op life?

I have great news!

It’s never too late to get physical activity!

If you read that section above about patients who didn’t exercise after surgery and you’re feeling badly that you blew it, guess what. You didn’t! Because it’s not too late!

The benefits of exercise begin on day one. Get started on a walking routine and maybe even some light hand weights on your walk and you will increase you metabolism, release endorphins, strengthen bones and muscle, feel mentally stronger and possibly even sleep better.

To me, exercise has a huge return on investment!

The next thing I will say is that I also know full well that it is really hard to find time in our schedules to make exercise happen. I also know that weather can ruin our good intentions.

I have young kids and my website members who have been with me for years know that trying to get back into a consistent exercise routine has been HARD for me. I have fought to find a way and sometimes I have to start again with a new plan.

For me, I had to break the limiting belief that Moms of young kids don’t have time to exercise. When I started asking friends how they did it, I had a huge variety of answers. Which told me, it can happen but you have to stay creative and flexible.

Those are my biggest tips. Be creative and flexible. Write down a long list of things you enjoy doing for activity. Think about the most likely time of day that you will follow through on doing on of those items. Then brainstorm all the ways you could get interrupted so you can also think through back up plans.

Also check out online options. I love Leslie Sansone walking videos. I have a treadmill and a bike trainer in my basement. I also subscribe to two different workout apps for walking, running, biking and pilates. OpenFit is one I have used this year. Before that I did Jazzercise (in person pre-pandemic and online after).

Use your Garmin/FitBit/Apple Watch and join a walking challenge.

Just down how many minutes a week you are exercising now and if it’s less than 150 minutes a week, see if you can double it until you get closer (the official recommendation). Real talk, I am usually closer to 120 minutes a week but eventually I will get there. In the meantime, I am very happy to be getting 120 minutes with two young kid!

And again, don’t give up. The key is to keep trying and remind yourself how good you feel afterward!


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Click here for Day Seven: Food Journals



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