Returning To Work After Bariatric Surgery
Bariatric surgery is major surgery and it represents a significant life change. As a result, we recommend that patients take their time when resuming their former activities, including going back to work. If at all possible, we suggest that patients speak to their employer candidly, making them understand how bariatric surgery will affect their life, and how those challenges do require time and patience.
We also understand that patients wish return to work as soon as possible, getting back into a familiar routine, restarting their income, or possibly having pressures or expectations from their workplace. Typically, we recommend that patients wait between 1-2 weeks (for VBLOC and Lap-Band procedures) to 2-4 weeks (for stapled procedures such as gastric sleeve or bypass) before returning to their jobs. This assumes that the job does not require strenuous activity. A waiting period of at least 6 weeks is required for jobs that include lifting over 25 pounds. Returning to work should only happen upon clearance from our office.
Patients should expect to face a few minor challenges when returning to work. These may include:
- Sticking to the diet. Some patients will return to work while they’re still on modified diet. This will require some extra effort in preparing lunchtime meals to ensure that they both receive the nutritional intake that is expected, but also avoid less healthy temptations. Being in the office environment can make it more difficult to follow post- surgical guidelines, especially when coworkers do not have the same restrictions.
- Sticking to the exercise plan. With a typical work day of 8 to 9 hours spent behind a desk, it can be hard to find time for exercise. Lunch breaks are the easiest way to get out of the office. Walking to a nearby park, standing at your desk and moving throughout the day, or parking a few extra spots away can all add up. Movement, especially soon after surgery, is crucial to your ongoing recovery, and ultimately in maintaining your new lifestyle changes.
- Energy levels. Maintaining motivation and high energy levels may also be a consideration, especially when first returning to work. While patients may be fully recovered, it may take several weeks or even months to feel “back to normal” both mentally and physically. Remember, during this time, patients have not only modified their diet and exercise regimen, they are also going through many psychological changes that will affect themselves and those around them.
- For some, stress at work may be a daily reality. Stress is a significant contributor to excess weight, both for psychological and physical reasons. As such, we encourage patients to begin learning stress management techniques. Anything from simple breathing exercises to full-on physical exercise is helpful.
Oftentimes, patients who are most successful at returning to work are those who prepare themselves and those around them for life after bariatric surgery. Speaking to managers as well as coworkers can go a long way in helping them understand how life will change professionally and personally after surgery. With any luck, not only will they be supportive, but actively engaged in the patient’s success.