Having weight loss surgery is only the beginning. Anyone who has visited us for a preoperative consultation will be reminded of this more than once. Not because we are trying to convince you that bariatric surgery is not the right option, but rather we want you to understand that it is not a magic bullet. There are several responsibilities that a patient must take on after weight loss surgery, not least of which is controlling diet. The post-op diet will be significantly restricted for the first 6 to 8 weeks after surgery and will be different from prior to surgery for all patients.
There are many strategies for eating less. We will go over them in more detail in our blog and elsewhere on our website, but the most important consideration is portion size.
As a society, we have been led to believe that portion size is an important part of the dining experience – whether at home or eating out. However, portion size only takes into account one factor – value for money. It is not a measure of the quality of the food we eat, nor should modern portion sizes be used as a gauge for how much we should eat at every meal. In fact, portion sizes from fast food to fine dining have increased dramatically over the past several decades and this has certainly contributed to the obesity epidemic.
So, If Portion Sizes Are So Bad, How Do We Go about Eating after Bariatric Surgery?
A normal portion of protein is about 3 ounces, or the size of a deck of cards. When you think about that, it’s likely that you have eaten far more at each meal. And while protein is very good for you – the building block for long-term weight maintenance – too much of a good thing is still bad. It still contains calories and as such you can still gain weight.
How Do I Ensure Proper Portion Sizes?
This is one of the most difficult parts of the postoperative lifestyle. It is truly difficult to make sure that you are eating the proper portion size. But there are a few tips and tricks to help.
First, in the early stages of your post-operative recovery, you will likely be limited in how much you can eat by virtue of the size of your stomach. Whether it’s a gastric bypass or gastric sleeve, the stomach ends up between 15 and 20% of its original size. As a result, you simply won’t be able to overeat. However, your stomach is an adaptable organ, and it can and will stretch over time, especially if you overeat on a regular basis.
At home, at least in the early stages of recovery, we suggest that you measure out your portions using a scale and/or measuring cups. Yes, it is tedious, and no, we do not expect you to do this forever, unless you really want to. The idea is to train your brain to see proper portion sizes. You can only truly understand what you see, and measuring is a great way to do so.
What about going out? Take out or otherwise. You don’t have the luxury of preparing your own food and you certainly can’t whip out the scale and measuring cups to make sure you’re eating right. The best option? Take your food and immediately split it into two portions. One half can be placed in a separate to-go container to be put in your refrigerator. What’s left over is closer to a normal portion – though with some proteins, especially steak, you may need to cut it in thirds.
Just be mindful of your postoperative packet, making sure that you are following directions closely. A couple bonus tips that will serve you well during your longer-term weight loss surgery recovery include:
- Eat your food slowly. Not only will you enjoy the food more, but you will allow your brain to catch up with your stomach and give you appropriate sensations of fullness/satiety.
- Do not drink liquid with your meal. Only drink liquids 45 minutes before or after.
- Don’t beat yourself up for bad days. We all have them. If we cannot bounce back from bad days, we set ourselves up for long-term diet failure and
- Don’t rush the diet plan. Stick to the postoperative plan that you received from our office – it is optimized that balances safety with effectiveness and long-term ability to maintain a healthy weight.
Of course, if you have any questions about your diet after bariatric surgery, please give us a call so we can help you work through this exciting, but challenging part of your postoperative recovery.