What to Do In Your Spare Time Before Bariatric Surgery

Older man stretching in park with others

Unless you are paying out-of-pocket (cash pay) for your bariatric procedure and can get a surgery date soon, you may be at the mercy of your insurance company and their pre-authorizations for quite a while. Indeed, insurance patients are often subjected to upwards of six months of documentation to ensure their candidacy and suitability for bariatric surgery. Some of these preop requirements are necessary and revolve around patient health. Others have questionable value, but unfortunately, the rules are the rules.

So, if you have a few months between when you decided to have bariatric surgery and your surgery date, it’s worth discussing what to do and not to do during this time,

What to Do: Start Exercising

Just because you haven’t lost weight yet does not mean you can’t start exercising. Exercise is critical to strengthen many organs, including your lungs, which can benefit your bariatric procedure. Exercise can also help you lose weight and gain muscle, which allows you to burn more calories over the long term. Exercise may be challenging depending on weight, so start slowly and work within the bounds of your abilities. For example, a calm daily walk, even if it’s just for a few minutes at first, is critically important,

What Not to Do: Have a Last Hurrah.

We may have been accustomed to eating a little or a lot more right before a diet knowing it will be our final enjoyment before we “torture” ourselves. However, this sets us up for failure. Why? Considering the weight loss process as torturous is counterproductive and promotes a longer-term problem – giving into temptation. Instead, we should look at dieting as a lifestyle improvement – normalizing what we eat. Reframing it this way shows us our new dietary habits are perfectly normal, and we are not depriving ourselves. This will be helpful in the long term as we psychologically and physically begin to acclimate to our new life.

What to Do: Mentally Prepare for Postop Life.

There will be significant changes in your life after bariatric surgery. These will run the gamut of relationships with friends and family to how you think and feel about yourself. Some of these relationships can become strained as significant others or friends feel like they may be left behind. During this downtime before your surgery, it may be a perfect opportunity to speak to friends and family about your decision to have bariatric surgery and help them understand your reasoning and what you hope to achieve after your procedure. This openness and honesty often help others understand your motivations and get on board.

What Not to Do: Expect Everyone Will Be Supportive.

By now, you know the stigma associated with weight loss via bariatric surgery. Unfortunately, many people believe it’s the easy way out despite all the evidence to the contrary. As such, you may find some people you thought would be your biggest champions will disapprove of your decision. There are a few ways to look at this. What is their motivation? First, they may be concerned about your safety. We encourage you to talk to them about the safety of a bariatric procedure, which is exceptional in the modern day. They may be questioning whether you are looking for a new life without them, which you can discuss and hopefully resolve before your procedure. Many people do not recognize obesity as a disease like diabetes or high blood pressure, but it is. You can help doubters by explaining this. If you had heart disease and needed heart surgery, would they try to talk you out of that also? No matter their motivation for disapproval, have a candid discussion, especially if they are part of your closest inner circle. Those around you must not sabotage your excellent progress, especially if disapproval comes from ignorance or lack of understanding about surgery.

What to Do: Go to Support Groups

Support groups are for more than just patients who have already had bariatric surgery. In fact, they are just as crucial for patients considering bariatric surgery. Bariatric support groups give a soon-to-be bariatric patient some context on the achievements and challenges others have had or faced. This invaluable information allows you to avoid making the same mistakes as others. Further, these inspirational stories can push you to start acclimating to your new life even before you’ve had surgery.

The Bottom Line

Whether you have a month or six months before your bariatric procedure, you can do plenty to prepare physically, emotionally, and even financially. This is a great time to take stock of the progress you’ve made and how you can best maximize the results of your procedure. Starting early, before your surgery is a great way to help ensure your postoperative life will not be a surprise and prove to yourself you can do it.

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