Weight Loss Before Surgery
To Do or Not to Do?

Ever wonder why your surgeon requires weight loss before surgery when the whole reason you’re having bariatric surgery in the first place is because you can’t lose weight to begin with?! Maddening, I know! So why lose weight before surgery?

Why? Why? Why?

It’s NOT to “prove” yourself to anyone (doctor or insurance). And it’s not to make you look like a stellar candidate for surgery. In fact, research does not support mandated weight loss before surgery. This can be a potentially harmful practice psychologically. There is no correlation between pre op weight loss and post op weight loss success. However, many surgery practices ask you to lose weight anyway because…

Weight loss before surgery sets you up for a safer surgery, less complications, and/or a shorter hospital stay. It can reduce your risk of developing life-threatening complications during and after surgery including blood clots, problems with anesthesia, and increased risk of cardiovascular problems.

Note: If you’re diabetic, preop glycemic management can also reduce the risk of post op infection and will promote wound healing.

Why Lose Weight Before Surgery?

Safer Surgery

Less Complications

Shorter Hospital Stay

Reduced Risk of:

Blood Clots

Problem with Anesthesia

Cardiovascular Problems

Weight Loss Before Surgery: How Much?

Losing even a portion of your excess body weight may lower your risk of complications during or after surgery.

And, you don’t necessarily need to achieve your IDEAL weight to have a positive effect on your recovery. The most common recommendation for weight loss before surgery is:

Lose 5-10% of your starting weight (usually over a 3-6 month period pre op).

So if you start at:

  • 250 lb, that’s 12.5lb- 25lb weight loss
  • 300 lb, that’s 15-30lb weight loss
  • 400 lb, that’s 20-40lb weight loss

You’ll Want to Know This Inside Info

Note: Losing 5-10% of your starting weight is usually a doctor’s recommendation and may not be required by your insurance. I encourage you to call your insurance company and find out your exact requirements so no one else can tell you otherwise!

If your insurance company DOESN’T require you to lose a particular amount of weight, a doctor should not hold your paperwork and tell you that “you’re not ready” until you DO lose the weight. This is an unethical practice that unfortunately goes on every day so the doctor can continue to bill you for more office visits as you try to lose weight. Just sayin’.

Weight Loss Before Surgery: How? How? How?
Let’s Get Started

Losing weight is hard for everyone! It may seem especially difficult, or even impossible if you’re very overweight or have been obese for a long time. If you’re overwhelmed or just don’t know where to start, here are a few options:

3 Foolproof Pre Bariatric Weight Loss Diet Approaches:

  1. Meal Replacement Shakes
  2. Calorie Counting
  3. Lifestyle Changes

Weight Loss Before Surgery:
1. Meal Replacement Shakes- Speed Up Your Weight Loss Journey

Wanna know how to shed the pounds fast while preparing for bariatric surgery?

Use meal replacement shakes. 

Research confirms this. People who use meal replacement shakes lose more weight in studies than those who don’t. That’s because they’re a no-brainer.

One of the biggest barriers to losing weight is the time it takes to shop for the “right” foods and to prepare healthy meals. When you’re stressed or short on time, it’s easier to just grab some junk food or give in to fast food, right?!

When you drink them in place of your usual breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner, they’re an easy, convenient way to get a healthy low-calorie meal (even on the go) and they provide less calories than you would eat during a meal.

And if you’re one to skip meals throughout the day and overeat in the pm, drinking meal replacement shakes curbs your hunger so you have better control in the evening. It’s a fast, easy way to achieve weight loss before before surgery because it takes all the guesswork out of what to eat.

You Need To Know This

A “protein shake” is NOT the same thing as a “meal replacement shake.”

meal replacement shake is intended to provide the nutrition of a FULL meal.

It's not JUST protein. While meal replacement shakes have good amount of protein, they also provide small amounts of carb and fat, added fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. The fiber content is especially important for keeping you full and preventing constipation!


 Bariatric Specific Meal Replacement Shake

It's what I use with my patients. (affiliate link)


Replace breakfast and/or lunch with a the bariatric specific meal replacement shake mentioned above.

Eat 2-3, 100 calorie snacks throughout the day such as:

  • Produce: cherry tomatoes, snap peas, sweet mini peppers, baby carrots, celery, cucumber slices, or apple, orange, berries, etc.
  • Lean protein: Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, reduced fat string cheese, beef jerky, low sodium deli meat

Eat a healthy dinner around 500-600 calories. Include lean protein and greens (salad or cooked vegetables), and a small amount of quality carbs.

Drink at least 64 ounces of water or low calorie beverages like these.

Note: This does not substitute for medical advice from your healthcare provider.

Weight Loss Before Surgery:
2. Calorie Counting- Does it Really Work?

Is it necessary?

The bottom line is that calories really DO matter. But how you go about managing them is debatable.

I prefer to suggest calorie awareness vs meticulous calorie counting.  That’s because simply counting calories doesn’t always lead to choosing a balanced diet. You can eat the right number of calories, but the quality may not be good for overall health and wellness if you’re simply focused on numbers.

I think it’s fine to use an online calorie calculator like this, or an app, to determine a daily calorie goal that’s appropriate for your height, weight, age, and activity level.

Then, start to improve your calorie awareness. That means paying attention to labels and/or looking up food values using an app or online food diary to gain some knowledge of how much various foods are “costing” you (calorie wise).

It’s kind of like looking at a price tag on a piece of clothing and deciding whether you can afford to buy it or not. If you see that your salad dressing uses up ¼ of your daily calorie goal, then you might think twice about how much of it you use!

How to Manage Calories

Determine your daily calorie goal

Establish a regular pattern of eating: 3 meals + 2 snacks per day if needed

Eat balanced meals:

Eat mindfully. It's surprising the smaller amounts you need to eat when you really get undistracted and pay attention:

  • Slow down
  • Chew
  • Taste
  • Listen to fullness

This way, you focus on what you CAN eat instead of thinking about just how to eat less & cut calories.

Weight Loss Before Surgery:
3. Lifestyle Changes

Meticulous calorie counting, weighing or measuring isn’t necessary. The truth is that making small changes to your eating habits can make a BIG difference. It can help you shed enough excess weight in the weeks or months before your surgery to make a difference.

Start TODAY with these “Great 8” Lifestyle Changes.

When Pre Op Weight Loss Goes Too Far

Can You Lose TOO Much Weight Before Surgery?


While weight loss before surgery can lead to a safer surgery, losing TOO much can lower your BMI so much that you don’t qualify anymore. This is maddening!

Be sure to check with your surgery center to determine what weight you need to be in order to stay qualified as a candidate for weight loss surgery.

Why Lose Weight Before Surgery?
The Takeaway

  • Preop weight loss can lead to a safer surgery, less complications, and shorter hospital stay.
  • It’s often suggested to lose 5-10% of your starting weight, but it’s not always an insurance requirement. Be sure to check YOUR specifics!
  • If weight loss before surgery is not an insurance requirement, no doctor should “hold” your paperwork insisting that you’re “not ready” unless you lose weight.

Lose weight before surgery with:

BTW…if you need a little extra help to lose weight before surgery, contact me for an individual appointment!

Like This Info? Allow Me to Join You on Your Journey!
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