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Bariatric surgery

Find out about life after weight loss surgery, including information about diet, exercise and follow-up appointments.

You can usually leave hospital one to three days after weight loss surgery and start to return to your normal activities four to six weeks later.

But you'll need to make long-term lifestyle changes to help make the most of your surgery.

This page covers:

Diet after surgery

Exercise

Follow-up appointments

Pregnancy and contraception

Help and support

When to get medical advice

Diet after weight loss surgery

You'll be given a diet plan to follow after surgery.

These vary from person to person, but a typical plan is:

  • first few days – water and fluids (for example, thin soup)
  • first four weeks – runny food (for example, yoghurt or puréed food)
  • weeks four to six – soft food (for example, mashed potato)
  • week six onwards – gradually return to a healthy, balanced diet

You will also be advised to:

  • eat slowly, chew carefully and only eat small amounts at a time – particularly during the early stages of your recovery
  • avoid or be careful eating foods that could block your stomach, such as soft white bread
  • take vitamin and mineral supplements

The charity WLS Info has more information about eating after your operation.

Exercise after weight loss surgery

As well as eating healthily, you'll need to exercise regularly to help you lose as much weight as possible after the operation.

You may be given an exercise plan. This will usually involve increasing your activity levels gradually as you recover from surgery.

Once you've fully recovered, you should aim to do regular activities that are intense enough to leave you feeling out of breath and make your heart beat faster, such as: 

  • brisk walking
  • cycling
  • gardening or housework
  • swimming

Choose something you enjoy as you'll be more likely to stick with it.

Read more about getting fit and tips for people starting exercise. The British Obesity Surgery Patient Association (BOSPA) also has information about exercise after weight loss surgery.

Follow-up appointments

After weight loss surgery, you'll be asked to attend regular follow-up appointments for the rest of your life.

These appointments will usually be in a weight loss surgery clinic for at least the first two years, but eventually you may just need a check-up with your GP once a year.

Follow-up appointments may involve:

  • blood tests to check your vitamin and mineral levels
  • a check-up of your physical health
  • advice and support about diet and exercise
  • emotional or psychological support

Pregnancy and contraception after weight loss surgery

Women are usually advised to avoid becoming pregnant during the period of most significant weight loss in the first 12 to 18 months after surgery.

This is because weight loss surgery can affect your vitamin and mineral levels. If your levels are low while you're pregnant, there's a risk it could harm your baby.

It's a good idea to:

  • use contraception until advised it's safe to become pregnant – ask your doctor about the best type, as some aren't suitable for women who've had weight loss surgery (including the contraceptive pill and contraceptive injection)
  • speak to your doctor if you become pregnant soon after surgery or you're planning a pregnancy at any stage after surgery – they can check your vitamin and mineral levels, and advise you about supplements (find out about vitamins and nutrition in pregnancy)

Help and support

Having weight loss surgery can be physically and emotionally draining.

Support will be provided as part of your follow-up, but you may also find it useful to talk with people who have also had weight loss surgery.

Ask your specialist about any charities and support groups in your area or check the WLS Info website.

When to get medical advice

In the days or weeks after surgery, call your GP or NHS 111 immediately if you have:

  • pain in your tummy that's really bad, doesn't go away or is getting worse
  • an unusually fast heartbeat
  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • chest pain or shortness of breath
  • repeated vomiting or vomiting blood
  • difficulty swallowing
  • dark, sticky poo
  • signs of a wound infection, such as pain, redness, swelling and pus

In the months after surgery, make an appointment to see your GP if you:

  • have pain in your tummy that comes and goes
  • vomit every now and again
  • have heartburn
  • keep coughing at night
  • feel sick most of the time
  • have diarrhoea that doesn't go away
  • have times where you feel flushed, sweaty or faint

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