Member Blog: Weight Loss before Surgery by Dr Marion Chan
Trying to lose weight before having an operation? As if the decision to book in for a consultation wasn’t nerve-wracking enough.
As Specialist Plastic Surgeons, we’re always trying to advocate for our patient’s health and well-being. With this comes an obligation to do no harm, whilst offering as best an outcome as possible. All surgeons know for a fact that a high body mass index predisposes a patient to anaesthetic, medical and postoperative wound complications. Many cosmetic operations will also offer better aesthetic outcomes when a patient’s body mass index is closer to the average BMI (for their age and gender). Therefore it’s a good idea to consider if losing weight before surgery would be beneficial to your surgical outcomes and also plan to complete any weight loss journey prior to having final surgery.
Once you’ve decided that weight loss will be beneficial to your surgery, it’s also important to embark on your weight loss journey in a mindful and holistic way. This helps to ensure that your final weight becomes stable, as a result of an entire lifestyle change, as opposed to a quick yo-yo diet fad. Any quick corner-cutting diet is likely to cause rebound weight gain as soon as you return to “normal life”. This may reverse the aesthetic outcome of your cosmetic procedure, result in undesirable changes and possibly cause you to wonder if what you went through was worth it (something we never want our patients to feel).
The reality is though that losing weight can be a tough gig! The good news is, you don’t have to try and do it all alone. If the thought of trying to lose weight is overwhelming, knowing when to get help is better than having analysis-paralysis. An accredited sports dietician is what many surgeons recommend to their patients that need some help losing weight before their surgery. They can help plan your meals and a workout schedule so that you’re eating right and doing regular physical activity 3-4 times a week to aid energy expenditure.
If you decide you can do it alone, resistance (weights) training has been shown to promote lean muscle mass, which helps burn additional calories even when you’re not exercising. Using a personal trainer is a good way to achieve your weight loss goal, however, you don’t necessarily need to pay huge sums of money at a gym to achieve this! If you’re on a budget there’s plenty of online digital workout classes that also incorporate healthy food plans. It simply requires a little more research (and time) to plan this out for yourself.
While you can do it alone, an accredited sports dietician can create a plan that’s personally tailored to you and will have the resources to help balance your caloric input versus output and titrate your intake accordingly to help achieve a slight negative balance for weight loss.
We see patients often become frustrated at times with their pre-surgery weight loss journey. This is because when done holistically weight loss is slow and steady (around 500g per week) – some embark on a weight loss process and expect a sudden drop and become disheartened when the numbers don’t drop quick enough (or they drop off water weight quickly, reach a plateau, think it’s not working and give up). This is also where having a sports dietician vs going at it alone can help. They’ll be able to keep you on track, tell you if your weight loss process is going well, are able to set realistic expectations and can adjust a plan when needed. They’ll also be able to plan out your weight loss regime over time to meet with your surgery plans.
The key takeaway is to remember that this is a slow process and one that takes time. Every little percentage counts and your efforts will pay off. Always keep in mind your end goal — your surgery, and that there’s a journey to get there. For some patients weight loss and a lifestyle change is part of that journey. Your journey is a marathon, not a sprint.
Written by Dr Marion Chan (FRACS)