What Is Gastric Sleeve Surgery?

If you’re considering bariatric surgery for weight loss, a few options exist. The two most popular and most performed surgeries are gastric bypass and gastric sleeve surgery. In gastric sleeve surgery, which has become the most popular, most of your stomach (80 to 90 percent) is removed and a small, tube- or sleeve-shaped pouch is left.

The procedure is minimally invasive and laparoscopic, meaning only small incisions are made in the skin through which small surgical tools are used to perform the surgery, sometimes with the use of robotic-assisted surgery. This type of surgery has the benefit of a shorter recovery time and less risk of infection or complications after surgery.

Gastric Sleeve Effectiveness and Benefits

With the much smaller pouch, you will feel fuller faster and longer after eating only a very small amount of food. While continuing other healthy lifestyle changes, such as exercise and counseling, the surgery is a tool to help you lose weight and reduce medical conditions caused by obesity, such as diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure).

Though gastric sleeve surgery is effective because it helps control hunger and fullness signals in your body, your dedication to a lifestyle that incorporates gastric sleeve surgery as a tool and not a solution is what makes it work. Bariatric surgery addresses only one of many factors that affect weight gain and obesity.

Gastric Sleeve Surgery is Part of a Lifestyle Change Tool

There is not a one-approach-cures-all for obesity — not even surgery. You’ll hear this from your surgeon, your bariatric nurses, your nutritionist, your physical therapist, your personal trainer if you have one … surgery is just one step in combating obesity and its detrimental health effects. You must work at a healthy lifestyle every day for the rest of your life in conjunction with many other healthy habits besides your surgery.

Your Bariatric Guide to Long-term Success

You’ve taken that first giant step with gastric sleeve surgery. Let’s examine the rest of the lifestyle changes and habits you’ll need to implement to make your surgery as successful as possible.

1. Owning the Process

You’re in charge. No one is going to stay by your side 24 hours a day forever to tell you what to do. You are in charge of your behavior. You are responsible for your choices, whether that be food, drink, exercise, sleep, etc.

2. Realistic Expectations Instead of “Common” Expectations

Learning to set realistic expectations for your life after gastric sleeve surgery can be tricky, especially when you’re thinking in lifelong terms and not the first few weeks, months or the one-year mark. What about 10 or 20 years from now?

One of the most commonly dashed weight-loss expectations of bariatric patients is not meeting a weight loss number. They didn’t lose “enough.” What does “enough” really mean to you? What were the goals you had going into bariatric surgery? Even if you were given or had a goal weight in your head, you may have to accept you might not reach that number.

More likely, goals for bariatric surgery tend to be about improving health conditions, or to be physically able to play sports with your children. Remind yourself of these goals each day and don’t mentally kick yourself because a scale doesn’t show a number you thought you wanted.

3. Realistic Goal Setting

Think about healthy, attainable, daily goals that do not involve a number on a scale. Attainable means these goals should be realistic for you to achieve. Some examples to get you thinking are:

  • Move around 5 minutes more than I did yesterday
  • Try a different exercise for 10 minutes
  • Drink more water than coffee or tea
  • Give support to another person – if I feel discouraged, help others
  • Write one thing I love about myself each day
  • Walk instead of watching television, even if it’s just around the house (or do a household chore, like vacuuming)

When making your own list, use the SMART method. Your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. Your goals don’t have to be lofty or sound amazing to someone else. They should be realistic for you and you alone.

4. Making Your Daily and Long-Term Goals a Reality

Once set, achieving your goals means developing lifelong habits that support those goals. This short list should help you start building these habits, but you should also talk with your bariatric surgeon, nutritionist and counselor to create the best list tailored to your situation.

  • Take your vitamins and supplements. This is the most important requirement. There is a lot of evidence supporting the need for long-term vitamin and mineral supplementation after bariatric surgery. Gastric sleeve surgery poses the risk of nutritional deficiencies that can have medical consequences.
  • Continue emotional support. Being involved with support groups with people that are on the same path as you will help you emotionally stick with it. You should also be regularly seeing a therapist or counselor to help you work through your emotions instead of turning to food for comfort.
  • Drink a lot of fluids. You need to drink sugar-free fluids to the point where your urine is barely yellow in order to prevent dehydration, keep you feeling full, flush out toxins and prevent urinary tract and bladder infections. Fluids must be sugar-free, but don’t all have to be water. If you have recently had bariatric surgery, check with your bariatric surgeon on the proper amount and type of fluids, which differ from long-term maintenance.
  • Avoid liquid calories. Stay away from liquid calories (whole milk, juice, milkshake, soda, smoothie). An occasional small treat now and then is okay. You just don’t want to fall into the trap of ruining all your hard work. Think before you drink.
  • Always separate eating from drinking. Avoid drinking fluids while eating because fluid intake will flush food through your pouch quicker. You won’t feel as full as fast, will be able to eat more, and won’t feel full as long as you should after eating. Wait a minimum of 30 minutes to an hour after eating before drinking fluids again to maintain a full feeling as long as possible.
  • Keep a food journal. You cannot reach your goals if you have no record of what you’ve been doing/eating. Long-term, a journal will give you a picture of what you were doing when things were going well and when they weren’t.
  • A-B-C-D. Looking through a long-term lens at weight loss may seem overwhelming. You only have to get from point A to B, and so on, one day at a time. The present is what matters. Make the best decision you can and move on to the next. You’ll find you are enjoying your life in the present instead of mourning the past or dreading the future.
  • Have bariatric labs drawn regularly. At least once per year, have regular blood work done as well as your bariatric labs, which should be ordered and/or reviewed by your bariatric surgeon, or ask them how often they should be done.
  • Self-care – embrace it! Take care of yourself in body, mind and spirit. Devote a minimum amount of time for yourself each day. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t be there for others.
  • Support and encourage others. When you offer support and strength to others, you are also supporting yourself. Helping someone else in need not only makes them feel better, but improves your own outlook and emotional well-being.

5. Remember Where You Started

Wherever you are on your journey, pause to enjoy it. You made an important decision to become healthy and change your life. You aren’t back where you started anymore and you should be proud of what you’ve achieved for yourself and everyone that loves you.

At Advanced Laparoscopic Associates, our patient relationships don’t end after surgery. We provide the tools you need for sustainable lifestyle changes. As bariatric surgeons, we’re committed to fighting the obesity epidemic and helping our patients achieve lifelong weight loss and health.

Our line of nutritious meal replacements, protein supplements, snacks and vitamins take the stress away from meal planning and snacking. We also have a phased diet plan for patients who have just undergone bariatric surgery. At ALA, you’ll find the support and the products you need to help you reach your goals.

Contact us today to make an appointment to discuss your weight loss goals and treatment options, or to ask questions about our services and nutrition store.

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