Long-Term Diet and Exercise Maintenance
Many times, we obsess about the short-term diet and exercise requirements after bariatric surgery. After all, they are the most dramatic – as it is the clearest representation of the shift from our previous lives to our new lives. However, long-term diet and exercise maintenance cannot be ignored. Why? The struggle with weight is one that will last a lifetime. And while that sounds daunting, it is important to realize that your long-term weight maintenance program is more akin to the way we all should be dieting and exercising throughout our entire lives.
Before we get any further, however, it is important to understand that the post bariatric lifestyle is all about moderation. Dieting or exercising too much can be just as detrimental as not dieting or exercising enough. As such, you will always hear us preach the benefits of practical, sustainable diet and exercise.
Following are some tips to maximize the diet and exercise program after surgery:
As you move from immediate term exercise (progressively longer walks) and you have lost a significant amount of weight, you will quickly realize that you can perform more intense exercise for a longer period. Don’t let that fool you into believing that you cannot get injured. The long-term exercise program is only good if you can actually do it. So once again, we need to discuss moderation. An exercise program is most successful when it combines both cardiovascular activity (walking / running, bike riding or swimming) with strength training – body weight exercises or free weights. While the cardiovascular portion of your exercise program improves heart health and burns calories, you also need to build muscle to burn more calories at rest, maintain muscle mass and improve body shape.
This far down the line in your exercise program, you’ve probably developed exercises that you really enjoy…and it is great to continue those. However, your muscles can get complacent, and it will be harder to maintain your muscle mass if you don’t switch it up. You can speak to an exercise physiologist or trainer about new and interesting exercises that engage some of the smaller muscles in your body as well as offering some variability in your program.
Your diet will have also normalized to some degree by this point. You will be able to eat more and probably enjoy a wider variety of food. You will have had many cheat days and many days in which you have fallen off the wagon. The key here is to always pick yourself up and get back to the basic principles of eating. That includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, homecooked meals, rather than going out to eat and avoiding processed foods as much as possible. You will have to redouble your efforts in focusing on your diet because now is the time that you are at risk of liberalizing some of your habits and ultimately stretch your pouch. This can result in a reversal of the benefits of surgery. Pursuing fad diets as a knee jerk reaction to a bad day or week of eating is not your best bet. All this does is yoyo your weight and will cause weight regain in the long term.
Also, don’t lose sight of the power of hydration. Even after you’ve lost lots of weight, staying hydrated is key to ensuring you don’t eat too much and to give you the energy and will to continue with your dietary program. As before, you should be drinking a minimum of 64 ounces per day, but that number may be higher depending on your level of activity, body type and the weather outside.
When we think about diet and exercise, we often only think about the plate in front of us and the gym we must go to every day. But there are intangibles that make a big difference in how effective our exercise program or dietary habits may be. Of all these intangibles, stress is probably the most important to address. Stress can not only bust your diet, but it can also reduce your willingness to exercise. Stress management is key; and you can use any number of techniques to keep your stress under control. This may include mindfulness or meditation to yoga, Pilates, stretching or other activities that both relax the mind and engage the muscles in your body.
The long-term diet and exercise maintenance program is truly a holistic endeavor. If you don’t address the body and mind, it will be that much harder to maintain the weight you’ve lost and feel better. Of course, we are always here to offer suggestions and help as to how to maximize your post-operative lifestyle. We encourage you to contact our office if you have any questions.