Knee surgery is a vital step toward restoring the ability to enjoy life again. After surgery is completed, though, patients face a new challenge: weight gain. A study published in the University of Delaware journal, “Osteoarthritis & Cartilage,” states that 66 percent of patients gain about 15 pounds within two years of surgery.
This added weight applies pressure on the recovering knee, increasing the likelihood of re-injuring it or hurting the healthy knee. This is why it is vital for patients’ long-term health to balance their nutritional intake, adopt healthy eating habits, and remain active after orthopedic surgery.
Tips to staying in shape after surgery
There are numerous practical ways to introduce better health habits into your life. Keep reading to discover a handful that will keep the post-op weight off and keep you feeling energetic and spry for a lifetime.
1. Work high-fiber foods into your meals every day. Some high-fiber items include beans, fruits, and vegetables. These foods keep you feeling full longer, which will decrease the desire to snack on junk or highly caloric foods. Because they’re full of fiber, they take a longer time to digest, keeping your hunger satisfied for a greater period of time.
2. Opt for lean protein. Instead of ordering a T-bone, try the fish or chicken option, which are leaner and less caloric options than a juicy steak or hearty sausage. They still provide you plenty of protein and healthy fats, which will give you optimal energy and help you feel full.
3. Replace simple carbs with complex. Simple carbohydrates are found in foods like pasta, white bread, and white rice. These should be decreased as much as possible, as they really don’t provide much fuel to the body at all. Instead, go for complex carbs, like sweet potatoes, oatmeal, or whole grain products. These supply you with more fiber and less cravings.
4. Drink a glass of water before every meal. This will fill the stomach partially, making you feel full and possibly decreasing the amount of food eaten. It is a simple way to decrease caloric intake because it eases hunger that is often a result of dehydration. Studies say that most of the time when we feel hungry, we are actually just thirsty.
5. Slow down your eating. Try chewing each bite 20 times, and you’ll realize just how much you might have been scarfing down food previously. It takes patience and concentration, but eating slowly allows the body time to register when it is truly satiated. In fact, it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register fullness, so before you head to get seconds, take your time and give yourself a break. Also, the slower you eat, the better your digestive system will process food.
6. Take up a low-impact exercise. Pain is a prominent part of healing after surgery, so physical activity is often difficult to handle initially. Not moving your body, however, is a major aspect of weight gain. In most cases, patients can start activity about three months after surgery. Low-impact exercise is the best way to burn calories and protect the healing knee. Try building strength by swimming, rowing, and taking long walks a few days a week, gradually increasing activity over time.
7. Get an exercise accountability buddy, join a class, or enroll in a club. If exercise really isn’t your thing, get supportive people around you to make it more fun. Ask your partner or friend to hit the pool with you for laps a few days a week, or join a beginner cycling club that takes rides three mornings each week. It’s always better to feel supported in new and challenging endeavors.
Don’t be a part of the 66 percent
Postoperative weight gain should not be the norm. Maintaining your health and weight after knee surgery is imperative in preventing further injury to the recovering knee and new pain to the healthy knee.
Just because studies show that more than half of post-op patients gain 15 pounds within two years doesn’t mean that will be your story. Clean eating and regular activity will not only keep excess pressure off of your knees but also make you feel better and healthier long-term.