Weight gain after hysterectomy is a common fear after a hysterectomy.
Hysterectomy surgery doesn’t cause or make a woman more predisposed to weight gain. Rather, it is what happens during and after hysterectomy recovery that all too frequently contributes to unnecessary weight gain.
Read on now for help to overcome weight gain after hysterectomy surgery with:
- The main causes of weight gain after hysterectomy; and
- How to overcome weight gain after hysterectomy; diet, exercise and routine.
A. Causes of Weight Gain After Hysterectomy
Weight gain after hysterectomy usually results from:
- Moving less;
- Eating more;
- Increased time at home;
- Emotional eating;
- Fear of recommencing exercise; and
- Confusion about safe exercise options.
With a straight forward hysterectomy the ovaries are not removed and there is no direct effect on a woman’s oestrogen levels or body weight. Weight gain after hysterectomy can be more likely when hysterectomy is combined with removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy) owing to decreased oestrogen levels.
B. How to Overcome Weight Gain After Hysterectomy
1. Healthy Diet After Hysterectomy
A healthy diet is vital during hysterectomy recovery. Your diet includes everything you eat and drink post operatively. During recovery from surgery the body requires good nutrition for healing, recovery and immune function. Hysterectomy recovery involves moving less and expending far less energy than usual making some women more prone to weight gain.
Your internal wound takes up to 3 months to repair after a hysterectomy. During this time make everything you eat and drink count towards your recovery with nutrients that promote repair. This is definitely not a time to skimp on your nutrition. Healthy eating for weight management and weight loss postoperatively requires the following;
Tissue repair requires protein, iron, zinc and vitamin C
- Include lean meat and leafy salad, plus strawberries, orange wedges and blueberries as an example of a nutritious post-op meal;
- Eggs and fish are high in protein for repair;
- Low fat dairy foods promote repair and assist with weight management;
- Try fruit smoothies made on low fat milk and low fat yogurt.
Fibre is important for keeping your bowels regular
Constipation and straining needs to be avoided post-operatively. Carbohydrates such as cakes, sweet muffins, biscuits and pastries should be avoided or kept to a minimum. To keep bowel movements soft and avoid constipation choose:
- Wholemeal breads with protein toppings;
- Wholemeal cereals with low fat milk;
- Brown rice or pasta salads;
- Vegetable soup is a nourishing low fat option;
- Fruit and vegetables especially for snacks.
Avoid foods high in fats and sugars
When the body turns these foods into fat, valuable vitamins are wasted. Low fat food choices include:
- Low fat dairy milk and yogurt;
- Using oil sparingly in cooking and dressings;
- Avoiding fatty spreads on bread.
Drink plenty of water
Water assists fibre to function for healthy bowel movements after a hysterectomy. Most women need to consume approximately 2 litres of water daily. Some women may have altered fluid requirements for a range of medical reasons and they need to be guided by their medical advice. Avoid alcohol postoperatively and choose to drink water, herbal teas or low joule drinks if you desire a sweet option.
Helpful diet tips to avoid weight gain after hysterectomy:
- Plan your meals in advance of your surgery so that you have nutritious food available for when you are at home;
- Avoid stocking up on snack foods prior to surgery;
- Avoid consuming unnecessary empty calories in deserts and alcohol;
- Be honest with yourself about everything you put in your mouth- every bit counts;
- Have some healthy meals frozen ready for when you don’t feel well enough to cook; and
- If someone else is shopping for you have a list of pre-planned healthy foods written in advance, you may not feel up to planning when you return home.
2. Exercise after Hysterectomy
Regular appropriate exercise during hysterectomy recovery can minimise loss of fitness and other unwanted hysterectomy side effects. Exercise can also help emotional well being. Hysterectomy recovery exercise is never directed at weight loss during early hysterectomy recovery. Appropriate exercise is part of a holistic approach to looking after your body that includes avoiding unnecessary hysterectomy weight gain.
Safe exercise after a hysterectomy usually consists of:
- Continuing those exercises given in hospital including: deep breathing, circulation and bed mobility exercise.
- Regular progressive walking for the first 6-8 weeks post operatively as instructed by your medical specialist.
- When you are given medical approval to recommence general fitness exercise after a hysterectomy, then workouts can be gradually directed more towards hysterectomy weight loss exercise and weight management.
Confusion regarding safe exercise after pelvic floor surgery is a common problem. For more information regarding pelvic floor safe exercise after a hysterectomy refer to Inside Out – The essential women’s guide to pelvic support by Michelle Kenway Physiotherapist with Dr Judith Goh Urogynaecologist.
3. Establish a Good Daily Routine
When you feel well enough try to plan and establish a simple home routine for yourself. Having some form of routine can help to avoid boredom and overeating.
Your routine may be a general idea of the order of your daily activities from showering, meals, home exercises and rest. Be flexible with your routine as there will be days when you feel tired and require more rest than usual.
Plan your daily activities
Plan a variety of appropriate activities for your early recovery. Having some basic activities ready on hand can help to stay occupied and avoid weight gain after hysterectomy and allow you to rest and recover. Some women like to:
- Read (visit the local library before your surgery or stock up on those magazines you like to read);
- Watch movies;
- Listen to music;
- Embroider/ light sewing;
- Sit in the garden;
- Organise photos; or
- Complete crosswords/puzzles.
4. Enlist Emotional Support
Contact with friends and family can provide emotional support and company especially if you are feeling a little low. Friends and family will be getting on with their busy lives and may not understand how you are feeling post hysterectomy. Contact with friends maybe worth planning on a weekly basis when you feel well enough. This can be as simple as picking up the phone and having a chat or organising a short outing when you feel well enough.
If you can incorporate these 4 simple strategies into your post-operative home routine, you will be more likely to avoid and/or overcome weight gain after hysterectomy. And the best part? Your focus upon healthy eating, sensible exercise and routine may very well have benefits for improving your overall health and well being long-term.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Michelle Kenway
Michelle Kenway is a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist and author of Inside Out – the Essential Women’s Guide to Pelvic Support. The Inside Out exercise DVD and book show women how to strengthen the pelvic floor and exercise effectively with pelvic floor safe exercises.