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Bariatric Diet Before Surgery

Bariatric surgery is a big step and a major commitment. Preparing ahead of time can help you adjust to life after your procedure and may even improve your results and speed your recovery. At Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, we’re on your side to help you start — and stick with — your new healthy lifestyle.

Your pre op bariatric diet

Your diet and eating habits will change significantly after weight loss surgery. Establishing certain routines in the months and weeks before your procedure can make the transition easier. A healthier diet can also help you: 

  • Lose weight before surgery
  • Reduce the size of your liver, which can make surgery safer
  • Control Type 2 diabetes, which reduces the risk of postoperative complications

Your dietitian will give you specific instructions about your diet before bariatric surgery. 

In general, you will need to: 

  • Avoid alcohol, sugary drinks, processed foods and high-fat meats
  • Drink at least 64 ounces of sugar-free fluids each day
  • Eat non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli and brussels sprouts
  • Increase your intake of lean proteins, such as chicken or eggs
  • Limit your portion sizes, eating more frequent but smaller meals
  • Practice eating more slowly
  • Stop drinking liquids with meals (wait about 30 minutes after eating)

A few weeks before surgery, you’ll transition to a full-liquid diet that includes: 

  • Caffeine-free coffee and tea
  • Low-sodium broth
  • Non-carbonated beverages
  • Protein shakes
  • Sugar-free drinks
  • Water

Quit smoking before surgery

Smoking cessation is one of the single most important things you can do to improve your health and reduce the risk of complications during and after weight loss surgery. The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery reports that smoking before surgery can result in:

  • Blood clots
  • Breathing complications
  • Hospital readmission
  • Longer hospitalization
  • Prolonged intubation
  • Sepsis
  • Shock

You should aim to quit smoking at least 4 to 6 weeks before your surgery. Your care team will help you make a smoking cessation plan that may include nicotine replacement therapy, behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques or support groups.

Exercise and weight loss before bariatric surgery

We recommend increasing your cardiopulmonary (heart and lung) function, as well as your muscle strength, prior to surgery. Known as “prehabilitation,” a pre-surgical fitness plan can reduce your hospital stay, lower your risk for pneumonia and enhance your overall recovery. Some insurance plans also require medically supervised preoperative weight loss before your surgery. 

In addition, you’ll need to commit to a more active lifestyle after surgery. So establishing an exercise routine now can make it easier to continue with your fitness goals following your procedure. 

Your care team can help you build a customized exercise plan or connect you with a trainer or physical therapist. We may recommend:

  • Low-impact aerobic exercises such as walking, cycling or swimming
  • Strength and resistance training
  • Yoga or Pilates

Are you a candidate?

We invite you to take the next step to find out more about your weight loss options.