Two women going for an early morning walk to speed up bariatric surgery recovery time

Bariatric Surgery Recovery Time: What To Expect & When You Can Get Back to Work

Understanding bariatric surgery recovery time is important. The research you do now – on your own and with your surgical team – can prevent frustration and anxiety around healing. And you’ll also feel more ready to tackle the unique challenges of healing from bariatric surgery. 

By choosing to undergo bariatric surgery, you’re taking a life-changing step toward a healthier you. This is exciting, but it’s not without its struggles. Remember, bariatric surgery is still surgery. You’re likely to feel sick, tired, and weak after the procedure - and healing takes time. 

Just how much time? Today, we will discuss what to expect from your bariatric surgery recovery time, and how you can speed up your recovery time for bariatric surgery. 

How long is recovery from bariatric surgery? 

Before we can get into how long the average bariatric surgery recovery time is, you’ll need to take a couple of factors into consideration. 

First, you need to consider the type of surgery you’re having

For example, the gastric balloon is a procedure that doesn’t involve any incisions. Your body has no wounds to heal, so your recovery time will be very short. All other bariatric procedures require some kind of incision, but the bariatric surgery recovery time may vary slightly based on the exact procedure. 

Second, is what kind of recovery you’re thinking about

Wounds have several phases of healing, with different wound care solutions depending on where you are in the process. If your procedure involves incisions, you’ll be managing your healing in different ways until the incisions are completely healed. 

Always consult with your surgery team when making recovery plans. They’re most familiar with your unique needs and will give you the most accurate assessment. This bariatric surgery recovery time guide should give you a general idea, though. 

General bariatric surgery recovery time

Depending on the procedure you have, this is about how long your bariatric surgery recovery time will be:

Gastric balloon:

  • 0 days in the hospital
  • 3-4 days of recovery

Gastric bypass:

  • 2-3 days in the hospital
  • 2 weeks of recovery

Gastric sleeve:

  • 2-3 days in the hospital
  • 2 weeks of recovery

Lap band:

  • 1 day in the hospital
  • 2 weeks of recovery

Duodenal switch:

  • 2-3 days in the hospital
  • 2 weeks of recovery


  • 0 days in the hospital
  • 2-3 days of recovery

After this, you’ll more or less feel normal again. However, any incisions will still be healing, so make sure you don’t overdo it. If you hurt yourself, your recovery time for bariatric surgery will become a lot longer!

Full recovery time for bariatric surgery

Your full bariatric surgery recovery time covers the complete healing of your incisions. After this, you’ll be cleared to resume life as normal. There will be strict dietary regulations you’ll need to follow for the rest of your life, but your activities can go back to normal. 

How long is recovery from bariatric surgery when it comes to a full recovery? On average, this is what you can expect:

Gastric balloon: 3-4 days

Gastric bypass: 4-6 weeks

Gastric sleeve: 4-6 weeks

Lap band: 4-6 weeks

Duodenal switch: 4-6 weeks

AspireAssist: 4-6 weeks

Now that you know what a full recovery timeline looks like, you’re probably wondering when you can return to work, exercise, and eat different diets. Let’s take a look at what to expect after surgery. 

When can you go back to work after bariatric surgery?

Lap band, duodenal, and gastric bypass recovery time are all different, so how long it takes to return to work varies as well. In addition, the kind of work you do will have an impact on when you can return. 

If your job requires you to do a lot of standing, walking around, or lifting heavy objects, you’ll need to take more time off than if you have a desk job.

Even with a desk job, your bariatric surgery recovery time will keep you away for a couple of weeks. 

You’ll likely be feeling very weak for a while after your surgery, so you may want to explore coming to work part-time for a while. This will allow you to build up your strength and may help you slowly build healthier habits at work – like walking around regularly and snacking less.

In the end, your doctor will be able to give you a more exact return date for work given your exact procedure, health requirements, and occupation. 

What kinds of exercise can you do while recovering from bariatric surgery?

You’ll start a few “exercises” on the same day as your surgery. These are designed to help prevent blood clots and muscle loss, as well as put you on the path to healthier habits. The more regularly you do them, the shorter your bariatric surgery recovery time will be!

Almost immediately after surgery, your surgery team will instruct you to swing your legs over the edge of your hospital bed and try to stand. This may be painful at first, so go easy on yourself! Everything will get easier with time. 

Once every hour, you’ll flex your feet down – like you’re pressing on a gas pedal – and then back up towards the head of the bed. Then, you’ll circle your ankles three times to the right and three times to the left. 

After you leave the hospital, keep doing these feet and leg exercises and try to get at least a few minutes of walking in. Walking helps speed bariatric surgery recovery time as long as you don’t push yourself too far! 

What kinds of exercise should you avoid while recovering from bariatric surgery?

Chances are good you won’t feel up to much exercise for the first 2-4 weeks after surgery. Healing from surgery is hard work for your body, and you’ll probably feel exhausted even if you aren’t doing any traditional “exercise.” 

When you start feeling well enough to exercise again, go for it! Yoga, walking, running, cycling, tennis, and aerobics are all exercises you can explore during your bariatric surgery recovery time. 

You’ll want to avoid lifting anything heavier than 10lbs for the first 4-6 weeks after surgery though. Otherwise, you’ll risk rupturing your still-healing incisions. You’ll also want to stay away from aquatic exercise since this carries the risk of infection. 

What foods should you avoid after bariatric surgery?

Foods to avoid after bariatric surgery can be broadly divided into two categories: during recovery and after recovery. The foods you’ll want to avoid during recovery are all things to avoid due to the possibility of damaging your stomach while it’s healing. 

At first, you’ll probably be avoiding most foods! For the first couple of weeks, you’ll be eating very carefully to ensure your stomach gets a chance to heal. 

Once your bariatric surgery recovery time is over, there are still some foods to keep out of your diet. These are primarily foods that would cause unpleasant symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, bloating, or cramping. Some of them are also foods that would cause a setback on your weight loss journey!

During recovery

During your recovery time for bariatric surgery, you’ll want to avoid: 

  • Dry or crunchy foods
  • Bread, pasta, and rice
  • Foods that are very high in fat and salt
  • Sugary foods
  • Raw vegetables
  • Alcohol and caffeine

Some people develop food intolerances during and after their bariatric surgery recovery time. Check in with your body regularly and keep an eye on what you’re eating to make sure you haven’t developed any new food allergies or sensitivities! 

After recovery

After recovery, avoid any foods you develop sensitivity to. Common sensitivities include: 

  • Dairy products
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Shrimp 
  • Stringy vegetables, such as celery
  • Fruits and veggies with seeds, such as strawberries and cucumber
  • Dry meat
  • Eggs

There are only a couple of hard and fast rules on what to avoid after the bariatric surgery recovery time is over. You’ll want to stay away from foods high in fat, salt, and sugar. These foods can derail your weight loss, but that’s not the only reason. Your body can no longer tolerate these foods well, and you’ll most likely feel sick after eating them. 

Now that we’ve covered what to avoid, there are plenty of things you can and should eat after your surgery! 

What foods should you eat after bariatric surgery?

Food is fuel, and your body will need lots of it both during and after your bariatric surgery recovery time. 

Generally speaking, you want to get most of your nutrition from food. However, bariatric surgery often impairs your body’s ability to absorb certain vitamins. You’ll need to supplement with powder, capsule, or liquid bariatric vitamins. These should be taken every day to avoid a deficiency. 

Keep a close watch for signs of vitamin deficiencies and call your healthcare team immediately if you notice something is wrong. The sooner they can help you determine the problem, the sooner you can get help.

You can also use this time to nurture your cooking skills! 

Create indulgent self-care time around the act of preparing healthy meals to make cooking feel less like a chore. You could explore new recipes, test out gadgets, and set a welcoming atmosphere in the kitchen that will have you savoring every moment – not just every bite.

During recovery

During your early bariatric surgery recovery time, you could be placed on a variety of diets. Gastric procedures typically have the strictest guidelines, so what can you eat after a gastric bypass?

Protein shakes are commonly recommended, but you can find many healthy alternatives to protein shakes after bariatric surgery. These include bone broth and powder or liquid protein supplements that you can stir into tea or milk. 

Once you’re out of the liquids phase, you can add protein supplements to strained smoothies, puddings, and hot cereals. This will give you some variety and help you meet your body’s protein needs. 

When you’re in the soft foods phase, incorporate lots of vegetables like avocado, baked squash, and baked sweet potatoes. They’re powerhouses of nutrition and create blank canvases of flavor and variety for your meals!

After recovery

Once you’re clear to eat normal, solid foods, make sure you’re getting plenty of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Your body needs these things to be healthy - just make sure they aren’t highly processed. 

Instead, after your bariatric surgery recovery time is over, look for unprocessed, whole versions of foods. Opt for a whole chicken you can roast at home instead of chicken breasts. Home roasting will allow more of the healthy fat and collagen to melt into the meat. And you can use the bones for a hearty stock packed with nutrients.

You can do the same thing with veggies: Buy them whole, prep them at home, and use the scraps to create a tasty veggie stock. 

Your grains should be whole grains. Quinoa, oats, buckwheat, and beans are all wonderful, healthy, flavorful sources of carbohydrates. Whole fruits and starchy veggies can help you meet those carbohydrate goals, too!

Speeding your recovery time for bariatric surgery

You’ve put in a lot of work to get to this point. Bariatric surgery doesn’t happen overnight, but neither does your bariatric surgery recovery time. Your body will need time to rest and heal, and you can help speed that process along. 

The most important things you can do are rest and make sure your body has the nutrients it needs. This might mean inviting a family member or friend to stay with you right after your surgery and make sure you have everything you need to be well on your way to recovery.  

Don’t push yourself to go back to work or start strenuous exercise too soon. Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, and focus on your nutrition. On top of that, you can take medical-grade collagen and easily-absorbed liquid vitamins to help your wounds heal more quickly. 

Finally, don’t forget to take care of your mental health, too. This is a drastic change in your normal routine and the way your body looks and feels. It’s normal to feel a little anxious or upset about that change. Ask for help if you need to, and remember that your recovery time won’t last forever. You’ll be your healthiest self in no time!