If you have just had a hysterectomy, chances are that you may be struggling with weight gain. This is not uncommon and there are many reasons as to why this happens: hormonal changes, food cravings, or even the lack of physical activity.
Whatever the reason may be for your weight gain after hysterectomy, it can be difficult to get back in shape again. This article will discuss why weight gain after hysterectomy happens and what you can do to prevent it.
What causes weight gain after hysterectomy?
There are many different reasons women gain weight after having a hysterectomy, but the main ones come down to hormonal changes, food cravings and lack of physical activity.
The hormones estrogen and progesterone, which control everything from your periods to digestion to moods, can often be thrown out of balance after a hysterectomy - causing shifts that may lead to weight gain.
While this is a common occurrence if you've had your ovaries removed, hormone fluctuations can also occur even when they aren't.
Food cravings and overeating
One big cause of hysterectomy weight gain is overeating and food cravings. When your hormone levels change, it can be hard to resist the urge to eat something sweet or salty - even if you're not hungry!
Many women have a hard time during hysterectomy recovery with sticking to a healthy diet, as unhealthy food options may be much more preferred.
Food cravings can also be tough to ignore, especially when you're already struggling with fatigue, pain and discomfort.
After a major surgery like a hysterectomy, overeating is very common, and it's completely natural to want more food when you're not feeling well; this is a major contributor to weight gain.
Lack of physical activity
Hysterectomy recovery involves a lot of time sitting on the couch or in bed. Recovery can also be a really frustrating and lonely experience, which leaves many women feeling too exhausted to do anything other than stay still.
The combination of not being able to exercise during recovery, along with hormone changes and overeating, often leads to more weight gain as well as feelings of depression and hopelessness that it's hard to get out from under - even while trying your best!
This is something you're not alone in experiencing: up to 50% of women who have had a hysterectomy report struggling with anxiety, mood swings and severe depression for months afterward.
The type of hysterectomy you have can impact whether or not you gain weight
There are several different types of hysterectomies available to women. Which one you have will depend on your own personal situation and what your doctor has decided is best for you.
Having your ovaries removed will increase your chances of weight gain over leaving them.
Women who had their ovaries removed during surgery are more at risk of gaining weight than those who only underwent a complete hysterectomy without removing the ovaries.
This is because removing one's ovaries could lead to hormonal issues such as estrogen deficiency which can cause increased appetite, food cravings and immediately puts women into menopause.
Slower recovery means potentially higher weight gain
You can expect your hysterectomy recovery to take anywhere from six to eight weeks. However, the time it takes for you to recover will depend on how extensive your surgery was and what type of hysterectomy procedure you had done.
While most women recover in this time period with no issues, some may take longer to recover. Every week that is spent recovering and with little to no exercise increases the chance that weight gain will occur.
The emotional side of weight gain after hysterectomy
Emotional eating is a real thing. Having a hysterectomy is a very emotional time for women. It may result in feelings of inadequacy, loss of a piece of their womanhood, or even trigger an eating disorder.
Whatever the cause, emotional weight gain can be difficult to get rid of because there are so many underlying factors that need to be addressed before you can make any progress.
It is important that you focus not only on the physical aspect of recovery after hysterectomy but also on your mental health.
Feelings of depression, hopelessness, and worthlessness are some of the feelings women experience after a hysterectomy.
If you find yourself struggling mentally and emotionally, talk to your doctor about it, as they can point you in the right direction for help with this.
Remember that you aren't alone in this.
How much weight gain after surgery is normal?
A study that researchers did on post-hysterectomy weight gain found that, on average, women gained about 5 pounds, but many women report gaining up to 20 pounds in the first year after surgery.
Some weight gain should be expected, especially if your diet isn't completely dialed in after surgery. 5-10 pounds is around the average that you can expect. You should discuss anything over this with your doctor.
Many factors play into weight gain after hysterectomy, and they can help pinpoint what is causing it. In some cases, hormone replacement therapy may be necessary.
Tips for managing weight gain post-hysterectomy
There are plenty of ways to manage your weight gain after a hysterectomy, including eating a healthy diet and maintaining an active lifestyle.
You want to take it easy during recovery, and any exercise regime should be discussed with your doctor beforehand.
- Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, with minimal sugar and oils
- Track what you eat: Use apps to track weight loss or calorie counting
- Consider Keto or Intermittent Fasting; many women have successfully used these ways of eating to control not only their weight gain after a hysterectomy, but their food cravings as well
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes five times per week (or 150 minutes split up over the course of one week)
- Get enough to drink. Staying hydrated is important for weight management.
- Get plenty of rest: Your body needs time to recover and heal
- Practice a nutritious lifestyle and have realistic expectations about what will happen after surgery
- If you're struggling with weight loss post-hysterectomy, talk to your doctor or someone trained in exercise physiology (such as a certified personal trainer) for help on how to maintain an active lifestyle while recovering from the surgery.
Post-hysterectomy weight gain doesn't have to be inevitable; there are many ways it can be managed.
Tips for maintaining healthy eating habits post-surgery
As someone who has been through multiple major surgeries, including a hysterectomy, I know first hand how hard it is to reach for vegetables instead of ice cream.
That being said, having good eating habits can mean the difference between weight gain and weight loss.
Here are a few tips to maintain healthy eating habits post-surgery:
- Eat small, frequent meals instead of three big ones per day. This will help your body's metabolism keep up its normal pace, which is necessary for burning calories at the appropriate rate.
- Avoid processed foods like chips, cookies or ice cream. Processed foods are often high in sugar and fat, which can lead to weight gain.
- Understand the benefits of a healthy diet. Knowing the science that is behind eating healthy can help you make the right choices for your weight.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and try to drink a glass before each meal. Thirst often masquerades as hunger, and something as simple as drinking a glass of water when you're feeling hungry can drastically reduce the number of calories you're taking in.
- Create a grocery list and meal plan for your family, and stick to it.
- Eating smaller meals more frequently also helps keep blood sugar levels stable, curbing cravings between mealtimes.
- Practice mindful eating: slow down enough during mealtimes to appreciate all five senses (sight, smell, taste, touch & hearing).
- Keep the unhealthy food out of your home. Stock up on healthy snacks like nuts or fruit for when hunger strikes in between meals
Ways to cope with the changes in your body and lifestyle after hysterectomy
There's no doubt about it - a hysterectomy completely and permanently changes your body. Removing the female reproductive organs means there will be an empty space in your abdomen that can change how your stomach looks.
This is completely normal, but some women really have a hard time accepting their new appearance.
Some ways that you can cope with these new body changes are:
- Understand the changes in your body
- Know what to expect after a hysterectomy
- Know what to expect with changes in the vagina, bladder, and bowels
- Find support groups and other women who have had a hysterectomy
- Take care of yourself - eat healthy, exercise, and get plenty of rest
- Get help for any mood swings or anxiety you may experience post-surgery
- Stay positive! You can still live a fulfilling life even without your uterus!
You may have to change your lifestyle somewhat to prevent weight gain after having a hysterectomy. This doesn't mean that life ends because you can't eat cake anymore - rather, it's about making good choices that will give you the tools you need to be happy and healthy.
The importance of exercise in maintaining your weight after surgery
While you'll need to take it very easy during your recovery, once you can start exercising again, you should do so. Exercise can be key to weight control post-surgery and boosting your metabolism.
Exercise also boosts serotonin levels which help with mood swings, depression, and anxiety after surgery.
When you start exercising after a hysterectomy, it's important to start with low-impact exercises and gradually work your way up to a higher level.
One great form of exercise is yoga, which can help with pain management as well as easing stress levels.
Low-impact exercise will give you the best results for weight regulation after hysterectomy surgery because high-intensity workouts put too much strain on the body during recovery time.
It's better to be gentle on yourself while healing than push yourself beyond what is good for you to lose weight quickly.
Other low impact exercises for weight control post-hysterectomy include walking or swimming.
Exercises to be avoided in the first several months after hysterectomy are high-impact aerobic workouts, heavy weight lifting or resistance training, plyometrics (jumping), sports with sudden starts and stops like soccer or tennis, prolonged sit-ups on a hard surface.
It's important not to jump into these types of exercise too quickly as this could lead to re-injury and further complications down the road.
Slowly ease back into exercising by starting with gentle activities that don't put a strain on your abdominal muscles. As you feel stronger over time, you can work up to higher impact routines again!
Why you should be patient with yourself after a hysterectomy
If you have undergone a hysterectomy, it’s not uncommon to gain weight. Your hormones may be out of balance, and this can lead to weight gain in some cases.
However, if you want to avoid gaining any extra pounds after surgery, you can control things like eating healthy and exercising regularly.
You also need to be patient with yourself – give yourself time as your body heals from the surgery before attempting any dieting or exercise routine.
A hysterectomy is a major surgery that requires much self-care afterwards; make sure not to stress too much during this time about your weight. There will be plenty of time once you're fully recovered from this.
Did you experience post-hysterectomy weight gain? What would change looking back at what happened during these years?