Going for orthopedic surgery can feel stressful and overwhelming, but there are many things you can do to prepare for your procedure and support an easier recovery. Nutrition plays a tremendous role in the healing and recovery process. Working with a Registered Dietitian pre or post-surgery can help to make nutrition feel easy, enjoyable, and attainable. Here, we will discuss what it's like working with an Registered Dietitian before and after your surgery.
Working with a Registered Dietitian (RD) Pre-Surgery:
When you think of nutrition for surgery, you probably think first of the postoperative period. Which involves healing wounds, maintaining muscle strength, and rehabilitating. But did you know that nutrition before your surgery can actually help you to set the stage for a more seamless recovery process?
Prior to surgery, you and your RD will focus on optimizing your nutrition to support muscle mass maintenance, healing, and managing any chronic medical conditions prior to your procedure. You’ll also focus on anything nutrition-wise that’s most important to you. Building a solid nutrition foundation before your surgery will help you to recover more quickly. So there’s no time like the present to get started!
What will Nutrition Sessions look like?
Working with a Registered Dietitian prior to your procedure can help you to prepare your body for the recovery process. Your dietitian will start off by getting to know you. Learning about your current nutrition habits, medical history, and other nutritionally-relevant factors will help you build a game plan together. Your RD will also dig deeper into what matters most to you; this is your session, and your dietitian will make sure your questions are answered and that you feel comfortable and in control of the session.
Together, you’ll set some goals to focus on until your next nutrition session. These goals will feel realistic, attainable, and most importantly, will focus on what matters most to you. Your dietitian wants you to succeed, and will work together to ensure these goals feel good to you! You’ll also prioritize enjoying your favorite foods and finding joy and satisfaction in eating. Nutrition is never black and white, and should always have room for your favorites!
Working with a Registered Dietitian (RD) Post-Surgery:
You’ve had your surgery, and now it’s time to focus on recovery! Your dietitian will help you to utilize nutrition to support your recovery process! From wound healing to muscle mass maintenance to managing other medical conditions, nutrition counseling sessions will help you get back onto your feet feeling even stronger! In the immediate postoperative period, you may also encounter short-term complaints like nausea, constipation, or decreased appetite. Your RD will also be able to support you in navigating these issues.
What will your post-op nutrition sessions look like?
If you’ve already been working with an RD prior to surgery, you’ll continue to focus on your previously-set goals. Building upon your progress gradually and in a way that doesn’t feel overwhelming. You’ll likely focus on ensuring adequate intake of nutrients that support healing and reducing inflammation, listening to your body, and finding easy ways to get the most nutritional “bang for your buck” during recovery. You’ll also focus on any topics that feel important to you; this is your time, and your dietitian wants you to feel confident and supported throughout the process.
Frequently Asked Questions about Nutrition Counseling:
Q: Will I be forced to give up all the foods I love?
A: No way! Nutrition is a lifelong journey, not a crash diet, and should never involve giving up the foods and beverages you love. In fact, giving up your favorites usually leads to overeating them in the future. You’ll work with your RD to incorporate these favorites into your life in a way that feels good, but doesn’t interfere with your nutrition goals.
Q: I’m a picky eater, will a dietitian still be able to help me?
A: Absolutely; the great thing about healthy eating is that there are so many ways to accomplish it! We’ll work together to incorporate foods, cooking techniques, and flavors that appeal to you. If you dislike something, there are likely many alternatives to help you feel satisfied and achieve your nutrition goals.
Q: Is this a diet?
A: Nope! Rather than following a strict diet or meal plan which isn’t personalized to your preferences, your dietitian will help you to make small adjustments. They will identify what’s working for you in order to improve your overall diet and support your recovery process. You’ll never be required to count calories, macros, points, or any other metrics that take the joy out of eating. Rather, you’ll focus on making healthy swaps, listening to your body and honoring hunger and fullness, and adding more balance to meals and snacks. You always have the final say in goal-setting, and your dietitian will make sure that you feel confident and satisfied with any goals you set.