Deciding to undergo bariatric surgery to lose weight and improve your overall health is a brave one. But, let’s be honest, life right after bariatric surgery is not fun. There are so many things that you have to be mindful of to recover properly, preserve your health, and to further promote weight-loss, that it can sometimes be hard to keep track of it all.
This article breaks down the most important information you need to know to keep yourself healthy post-surgery and provides advice on how to establish a sustainable way of eating for the rest of your life.
The first few months after the surgery are characterized by low hunger which leads to patients eating smaller portions and generally not being able to overeat. This, in combination with strict nutritional guidelines, causes rapid weight loss in this period.
Here is an overview of how your diet should look like after you have undergone bariatric surgery. Of course, we recommend you discuss your nutritional requirements with your dietitian and physician to ensure that your health is well taken care of.
- Phase 1 (immediately to 2 weeks after surgery) – You are eating a clear liquid diet and slowly progressing to thicker liquids after being discharged from the hospital. You should be eating slowly and drinking plenty of water, around 2L per day. Clear liquid diet including broth, clear soup and diluted fruit juice. Thicker liquids are milk, protein shake and pumpkin soup, for example.
- Phase 2 (after 2 weeks post-surgery) – Eating of blended and pureed foods is allowed, drinking low-calorie protein shakes is recommendable. The daily caloric intake should be around 400 calories. Low fat cottage cheese, sugar-free non-fat yogurt, skim milk or lactose-free milk, low-fat soups, and sugar-free puddings are some of the recommended foods to eat in this period.
- Phase 3 (3 to 4 weeks post-surgery) – Here you can already start introducing foods such as noodles, mashed potatoes, mashed vegetables, canned tuna, lean fish, applesauce, and scrambled eggs. Of course, you should still be drinking plenty of water as well as chewing and eating slowly to avoid nausea or stomach pain.
- Phase 4 (4 to 8 weeks post-surgery) – In this period you can slowly start to increase your daily caloric intake, keeping in mind that water intake, as well as slow eating, is still very important. Taking daily vitamin, magnesium, and iron supplements will help you avoid micronutrient deficiency.
- Phase 5 (2 to 6 months post-surgery) – In this phase, your daily caloric intake should be increased up to 1000 calories per day, with 65-75g of protein.Having small yet balanced meals is the key to maintaining your weight loss. A combination of dairy, lean meat, vegetables, fruits, and starches should help you achieve the micronutrient balance and also provide you with enough protein so that drinking protein shakes is no longer a requirement.
Advice for the future
As great as it is to see massive progress in the beginning, eating liquid food and restricting calories only works for so long. Psychological consequences of such restrictions aside, the efficiency of this regime eventually decreases and you find yourself not losing weight as fast as you used to.
Fear not, however, because that is completely normal and to be expected. Furthermore, it is important to start working your way back to a relatively normal way of eating. Even though weight loss eventually stalls, there are certainly still things that you can do to keep yourself on a healthy track.
Once you notice that your weight loss has stalled, increasing your activity levels might be the best solution to kick start it again. After getting clearance from your physician that you are fit to start exercising, you can start increasing your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) by simply going on walks or doing light resistance training. Exercising allows you to intake more calories, making sticking to a dietary regime all the more manageable.
Planning your meals can be a real game-changer in your weight loss journey post-surgery. If you are busy at work or have a bunch of appointments ahead of you, having a healthy meal that is already prepped and ready to eat lowers the chances of going over your daily caloric intake and helps you stay on track.
Eating solid, satiating foods
If you have gotten used to eating liquid food post-surgery, it might be a good time to change that once you notice that you have stopped losing weight. Liquid calories are not as satiating as solid calories. Try cutting out all liquid calories from your diet, that way you will be able to eat more solid food which will keep you fuller for longer.
Calories still count
Just because you had bariatric surgery doesn’t mean that the rules of caloric intake do not apply to you. If you are in a caloric surplus you will most certainly start gaining weight again. The most frequent culprit that puts you in a caloric surplus is snacking. Try to limit your snacks to no more than 2 a day and also make them protein-based to achieve maximum satiety. Educating yourself on the rough caloric value of different foods is also recommendable as it can help you maintain a caloric deficit more easily.
Even though a lot of people hate doing it, keeping a food journal can be beneficial when you’re trying to lose weight. If your weight loss has stalled and you’re not sure why, try logging all of the foods that you eat daily and soon you will probably notice that you are eating more calories than you think. Food journals can also be highly motivating and can help you stick to your diet.
All in all, life after bariatric surgery is challenging but the result is rewarding. When it comes to nutrition, having a registered dietitian provide you with a customized nutritional plan might be the best way to go about keeping up your weight loss.
The tips provided in this article summarize the most important aspect of a post-bariatric surgery diet, however, it is important to keep in mind that we are all different and that what works for someone else might not work for you.
Unless you educate yourself on how to live a healthy lifestyle, you will most likely find yourself in a similar state you were before the surgery. Bariatric surgery is a great step to take towards bettering your health, but it is just the initial step. You have to keep working on your health and body daily to ensure further progress and ultimately a healthy mind and body.