It is not uncommon for a person who is recovering from back surgery – whether it’s a spinal fusion or a laminectomy – to gain weight. Sometimes it’s a small amount of weight. Sometimes it’s a substantial amount of weight. Your body needs large amounts of energy to heal from the surgery so crash dieting during the healing process is not a good idea and may prolong the recovery. Back surgery can turn an active lifestyle to a more sedentary one during the recovery period. This sudden change in activity level doesn’t allow the body burn off the calories that a person gets from eating three meals a day. However, how does a person lose this added weight after having a back surgery?
There are two common ways to lose weight in general – healthy diet plans and increased exercise. These two are especially important when it comes to losing weight after back surgery. Let’s start with a proper diet.
During recovery you will want to eat a well balanced diet including adequate protein to promote healing along with fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains for vitamins, minerals and fiber.
A healthy calorie intake count is about 2,000 calories a day, but due to the reduction in activity this may cause you to gain some weight. Once your activity level is back to normal (and approved by your doctor) reduce your calorie count by 300-500 calories a day until you return to your normal weight. Don’t try to lose the weight too quickly – slow and steady gives the best long-lasting results. Once you reach your normal weight, return to 2,000 per day to maintain the weight.
The second half of the equation is exercise. At first exercise should include non-impact exercises such as walking and stretching – nothing that will jar the spine. Some strength training may be added, but only with a doctor’s approval. Swimming and biking are also good exercises, but should be stopped immediately if there is any discomfort or stiffness in the back. Exercises that involve repetitive bending, stretching or twisting should be avoided for the first three months. Be patient with yourself, especially if you were very active before surgery. Do not push too quickly because another injury will only set you back. With a doctor’s or physical therapist’s guidance you will be back to your activities in no time.
It’s good to think of diet and exercise as simple math. Every time you eat you add calories. Every time you exercise you subtract calories. Your net goal, on average, should be under 2,000 calories a day. If you need help with a customized diet and exercise plan for your post-surgery needs, contact Dr. Albright.