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Adjusting Your Diet After Bariatric Surgery

Having a weight loss surgery procedure will forever change the way you eat, what you eat, and your nutritional needs.

The type of surgery you choose will determine the types of dietary changes you will need to make. It will also determine how rapidly you will progress through the various post-surgery diet stages. There are, however, some general guidelines that most people who have a weight loss procedure must follow.

After weight loss surgery, your stomach will be able to hold only a limited amount of food.

In the beginning, your diet will be comprised entirely of liquids. That will be followed by semi-solid or partially-liquefied foods. During these first phases of your bariatric diet, the focus is to get enough protein to protect your body’s tissues while also drinking enough fluids to stay hydrated. You may experience nausea, cramping or diarrhea during your recovery from surgery, especially if you eat foods that are outside the confines of the guidelines given to you by your weight loss surgeon. Remember to always defer to your weight loss surgeon’s judgment, as he or she is the one who is best equipped to determine your dietary needs at each stage of your weight loss journey.

Immediately Following Surgery

Immediately after your weight loss surgery, you may be allowed to take an occasional sip of water or suck on an ice cube. You shouldn’t drink any additional fluids. The day after the operation, you can drink a little more fluid, but you should only drink a small amount at a time. You will be following a clear liquid diet until your surgeon feels you have healed enough to move on to other liquids and very soft foods. To prevent nausea and vomiting, it is very important that you not drink too much at once.

The First 4 Weeks

For the first one to four weeks after surgery, you will be following an all-liquid diet. The typical all-liquid diet contains:

  • Clear (not creamy) broth or soup without vegetables, meats, grains or pasta
  • Skim or 1% low-fat milk
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Jello
  • A specially formulated, protein-rich beverage that may be prescribed by your surgeon

As time goes by, you will slowly progress to eating thicker, creamier soups and will eventually progress to eating a pureed diet.

Focus on Behavioral Change

It is important to remember that weight loss surgery is wonderful tool that can help very overweight people accomplish their weight loss goals. But it is not a magic bullet. For weight loss surgery to be effective, you must commit to following the dietary guidelines your surgeon provides and diligently working on changing your food-related behaviors.

Behavioral change is especially important for people who have a Lap-Band procedure. Such individuals tend to lose less weight initially than people who have had a combined procedure such as the Roux-en-Y, and Lap-Band patients regain more weight than bypass patients over the long term. This is because the Lap-Band restricts stomach size but, with routine overeating, it is possible to expand the small stomach pouch. Additionally, people who have had this procedure are better able to tolerate high calorie beverages like eggnog and milk shakes than people who have had a bypass procedure.

On the other hand, overeating or eating very calorie-dense foods like sweets or fatty items after a bypass procedure can cause extremely uncomfortable side effects like severe cramping and diarrhea. These side effects tend to limit the likelihood that people will “cheat” and eat foods not allowed by their diet plan.

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