Life After Weight Loss Surgery

Defining Success

How much weight a patient will lose after the procedure depends on several factors, including:

  • Patient’s age
  • Weight before surgery
  • Overall condition of patient’s health
  • Surgical procedure performed
  • Ability to exercise
  • Commitment to maintaining dietary guidelines and other follow-up care
  • Motivation of the patient and the cooperation of family, friends and associates

In general, weight loss surgery success is defined as losing 50% or more of the patient’s excess body weight and maintaining that level for at least five years. Clinical data will vary for each of the different procedures mentioned on this site. Results may also vary by surgeon. Ask your doctor about his or her results for the procedure being recommended for you.

Clinical studies show that, following surgery, most patients lose weight rapidly and continue to do so until two years after the procedure. Patients may lose thirty to fifty percent of their excess weight in the first six months and up to 77% of excess weight as early as one year after surgery. Another study showed that patients can maintain fifty to sixty percent loss of excess weight ten to fourteen years after surgery.

  • Patients with a higher initial body mass index tend to lose more total weight. Patients with lower initial BMI’s will lose a greater percentage of their excess weight and will more likely come closer to their ideal body weight.
  • Patients with Type 2 Diabetes tend to show less overall excess weight loss than patients without Type 2 Diabetes. The surgery has been found to be effective in improving and controlling many obesity-related health conditions.
  • A 2000 study of 500 patients showed that 96% of certain associated health conditions studied, such as back pain, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, diabetes and depression, were improved or resolved. For example, many patients with Type 2 Diabetes, while showing less overall excess weight loss, have demonstrated excellent resolution of their diabetic condition, to the point of having little or no need for continuing medication.


The modifications made to your gastrointestinal tract will require permanent changes in your eating habits that must be adhered to for successful weight loss. Post-surgery dietary guidelines will vary by surgeon. You may hear of other patients who are given different guidelines following their weight loss surgery. It is important to remember that every surgeon does not perform the exact same weight loss surgery procedure and that the dietary guidelines will be different for each surgeon and each type of procedure. What is most important is that you adhere strictly to your surgeon’s recommended guidelines. The following are some of the general guidelines for our bariatric patients.

  • Eat slowly. Take 30 minutes to finish a meal
  • Stop drinking fluids thirty minutes before a meal and wait thirty minutes after eating to start drinking fluids again. Don’t drink fluids while eating because they can make you feel full before you have consumed enough food.
  • Stay on your liquid diet for the full two weeks.
  • When you start eating solid food, be sure you chew thoroughly. You will not be able to eat steaks or other chunks of meat if they are not ground or chewed thoroughly.
  • Limit serving sizes.
  • Don’t eat desserts or other items with sugar listed as one of the first three ingredients.
  • Don’t drink carbonated liquids, high-calorie nutritional supplements, milk shakes, or high-fat foods.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Limit snacking between meals.
  • Keep a food diary.
  • Participate in postoperative nutritional classes.

Going Back to Work

Your ability to resume pre-surgery levels of activity will vary according to your physical condition, the nature of the activity and the type of weight loss surgery you had. Many patients return to full pre-surgery levels of activity within six weeks of their procedure. Patients who have had a minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure may be able to return to these activities within a few weeks.

Birth Control & Pregnancy

It is strongly advised that women of childbearing age use the most effective forms of birth control during the first 16 to 24 months after weight loss surgery. The added demands pregnancy places on your body and the potential for fetal damage make this a most important requirement.

Long-Term Follow Up

Although the short-term effects of weight loss surgery are well understood, there are still questions to be answered about the long-term effects on nutrition and body systems. Nutritional deficiencies that occur over the course of many years still need to be studied. Over time, patients need periodic checks for anemia, Vitamin B12, folate and iron levels. Your surgeon will coordinate follow-up tests every three to six months or as needed, and then every year.