How Low Can I Cut my Calories During Tummy Tuck Recovery?

I have lost 95 lbs and my biggest concern with having the tummy tuck and lipo is that i cant workout and I work out at least 4 days a week so I am nervous that not working out for 6 weeks could make me gain some weight but I dont want to cut calories too low because I want to heal properly. I am just curious what is the best way to handle this I am 5ft 3 and weigh 130. I was thinking I should cut my calories to about 1300 calories a day.Thank you for your help

Doctor Answers 14

Cutting Calories

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Hello Shanon,

Congratulations on losing almost 100 pounds!  I wish you the best of luck with your abdominoplasty, it should be a dramatic and transforming procedure that should make you very happy.

You obviously know how to lose weight, but let me just reinforce some concepts.  Diet is 95% of losing or maintaining weight loss.  Relying on excessive exercise programs or very low calorie diets will eventually fail; both set up a 'starvation mode' in your body which encourages fat production at the expense of lean muscle.  As importantly, the calories you eat are not all created equal; some are much better than others.  It's not how much you weigh but how lean you are that is important.

Your exercise program should ideally be moderate and include both cardio/aerobic exercise as well as resistance exercise, preferably with 'free weights' (dumbells and barbells).  You should not do more than 3 times per week enless it is something you absolutely enjoy or really wish to persue.  Remember, more frequent or more intense exercise will stimulate more hunger... which needs to be met but with the right foods.

Your diet should be like a body builders.  It is too complex to summarize well, but should be  high protein, low carb/ low glycemic, with multible meals and snacks.  Done correctly, you will maximize muscle preservation and fat burning.

Finally, you should talk to your doctor about a more detailed post operative plan for return to exercise. I think that 6 weeks of rest is not warranted and overly conservative.  I have my patients all starting their exercise at two weeks, doing very easy calisthenics/resistence exercise and walking. By four  weeks most are doing everything except abdominal work which begins at week 6-8, depending how they feel.  You should not follow this program, but you should make one with your doctor that he approves of.

I wish you the best of luck!

Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 100 reviews

Proper healing requires proper nutrition.

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If you are planning to go ahead with a tummy tuck operation, it is important to maintain a healthy diet and adequate protein intake. The healing process will require additional calories to create stable and healthy scar tissue. This means adequate caloric intake including protein, vitamins, and minerals. Zinc and Vitamin C are very important co-factors in wound healing. Either supplementation or simply an 8oz glass of orange juice will suffice. Although you will have restrictions on core muscle exercises (situps/crunches/etc.), you should be able to get back to some basic cardio workouts (if approved by your surgeon) at about 2-3 weeks postoperatively. Having lost 95 pounds is a huge accomplishment. But having a tummy tuck to improve your body contour is a big commitment as well. I do not recommend a calorie restriction while you are healing. If you do calorie restrict this could impact your healing and you may find that you are taking much longer than 6 weeks to heal!

David Bogue, MD
Boca Raton Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

How to Avoid Gaining Weight During Healing Period After Surgery

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I agree the most important factor to consider is proper nutrition.  If you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and grilled or baked meat (chicken, fish, or even grass fed beef-which is low in fat) it will be hard to gain too much or any weight at all.  Even if you gain a few pounds, you can easily lose it once you start your exercise routine.  Do not cheat your body during the healing process.

Michael A. Jazayeri, MD
Santa Ana Plastic Surgeon

Dieting after cosmetic surgery (tummy tuck)

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Good nutrition before and after your surgery are essential for wound healing and recovery. I would not concentrate on calorie reduction during your recovery period. It is important to have a good intake of proteins and nutrients to sustain good wound healing. The surgery itself will remove excess fat and make a significant difference.

Nutrition following a tummy tuck

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Healing from a tummy tuck requires considerable nutrition and depriving your body of the necessary calories and building blocks of healing would be counterproductive. A 1300 calorie diet will fall into this category.

Initially your appetite will be decreased from the surgery so this won't present a problem with increasing your weight. Make sure that you have a high protein and well balanced diet for at least 6 - 8 weeks postoperatively. It doesn't need to be 4000 calories/day but 1300/day is definitely inadequate.

Discuss this with your doctor as well.

Steven Turkeltaub, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

Tummy tuck

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Watching your diet is a good idea.  Be careful in not overeating from the carbohydrate group.  Limit your intake in the usual culprits as well (sugar/fats/fried foods). 

Shahin Javaheri, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

Calorie counting and tummy tuck

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I would encourage you to forget calorie counting during the first several weeks after a tummy tuck.  Most patients find that they are not very hungry after surgery and many find that they get full with smaller meals.  Eating a well balanced diet with adequate protein, carbs, and fats.

Dieting through a tummy tuck

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With caution, dieting through a tummy tuck can make perfect sense, especially to those who have experienced the struggle and success of significant weight loss, and worry about the potential for a backslide during recovery. Healing does require a high quality diet, one that is protein rich and contains all vitamins and essential fats. Total calories are important and calorie restriction to 1300 daily will allow healing during rest, but quality is key. You may wish to map out a meal plan ahead of time, and it can pay to have a 'pro' look it over with you. If you find you are losing during the first three weeks after surgery, increase your intake to 1800 calories until your weight is stable. As you increase exercise at week four to six, you can tailor your intake to performance and lifestyle.

Best of luck,


Peter E. Johnson, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 44 reviews

Counting Calories

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I agree with Dr. Shafer that good nutrition is extremely important during recovery. Your Board certified Plastic Surgeon will release you to begin exercising again before you know it. Focus on healing and healthy eating during the recovery phase. Best wishes!

Christine Sullivan, MD
Columbus Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 35 reviews

Good nutrition during recovery

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After your surgery you want to gradually increase your activity according to your surgeon's recommendations.  Following a tummy tuck you will be a little slow to increase your food intake so you do not want to count calories for the first couple of weeks.  Focus on good nutrition and high quality foods and let the calories work themselves out.  After a couple of weeks, 1300 calories should be fine if you are taking a good balance of nutrients and vitamins.

Best Wishes

Dr. Peterson

Marcus L. Peterson, MD
Saint George Plastic Surgeon

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.