Bariatric Diet for Long-term, Post-op Success

Before getting into long-term bariatric diet guidelines, you should know that it’s very important to follow the eating and drinking instructions given to you by your surgeon immediately after your surgery, regardless which of the weight loss procedures you have done.

The progressive diet and exercise recommendations you receive are designed to allow your body to heal completely at the surgical site. Complete recovery has been estimated to take a month or more.

In addition, once you’ve made it through the initial recovery period and begin eating a more normal diet again, it’s important not to overeat or swallow large bites of food that have not been chewed extremely well. Problems may occur if these instructions are not strictly followed.

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Your Initial Post-op Bariatric Diet Will Be Very Restrictive

Your initial post-op diet plan is divided into four phases, and each phase allows you to adjust to your new gastric pouch.

Right after surgery, you will be given small sips of water or ice chips to suck on. The day after the operation, you will begin taking in fluids, but only drink a small amount at a time to avoid nausea and vomiting. Besides water, you should choose liquids that have an adequate number of calories.

It first, you will be allowed clear liquids only (liquids you can read a newspaper through). These include broth, Jello, juices (apply, cranberry, grape), tea, or popsicles.

You should also take a fiber supplement, such as Benefiber of Citrucel, or other sugar-free supplements to avoid problems with constipation after the surgery.

Guidelines For Achieving Your Ideal Body Weight After Bariatric Surgery

Example of food and exercise log for post-op bariatric surgery patients.

One way to ensure you’re eating the right foods every day is to keep a food log.

In order to sustain long-term weight loss, it is critical you modify your behavior early in the post-operative period. There are six cardinal rules that you must follow in order to attain a weight that is close to your ideal body weight.

1. Your primary source of nutrition needs to be protein.

Fifty-five percent of all calories consumed should be lean, protein-based foods, including the following:

Carbohydrates, such as whole grain cereals, whole grain pasta and brown rice should make up only 30% of your diet.

Fats, including olive, canola oils and flaxseed oil, should make up only 10-15% of the calories that you eat.

Hair loss, cracked nails and defective healing and immunity are just some of the side effects of inadequate protein consumption, not to mention difficulty losing weight. Additionally, protein will keep you feeling satisfied for a longer period of time.

2. Drink an adequate amount of liquid daily, preferably water.

You should consume between 64 and 80 ounces, which is 8 to 10 eight-ounce glasses, of non-caloric, decaffeinated liquid per day. This should be done slowly throughout the day. Never drink more than 2 ounces of liquid in a 15-minute period. This amount should be increased by 10-20% when the weather is very hot and humid to prevent dehydration.

3. Always drink liquids separately from the solid foods you eat.

Avoid liquids for a period of 15– 30 minutes before eating and 30–60 minutes after eating solid foods. If you drink when you’re eating, the liquid flushes solid food out of your pouch. This will make you eat more and feel hungry sooner.

4. Eat only three times per day when you first begin eating solid foods.

Be sure to chew your food thoroughly – between 25 and 30 times per bite – before swallowing. Only take small bites – less than one teaspoon – of food at a time as you gradually return to eating solid foods.

Between meals, snacking or “grazing” small amounts of food throughout the day will sabotage your weight loss and result in the inability to lose an adequate amount of weight.

5. Avoid foods that contain sugar.

These foods will slow your weight loss. They contain empty calories. Foods to avoid include:

  • Candy
  • Cookies
  • Ice cream
  • Sugary soda
  • Fruit juices
  • Gelatins and puddings

6. Eat slowly, take small bites and chew a lot before swallowing.

Enjoy the taste of the food you are eating. Make sure you are taking at least 20 minutes to eat. It takes that long for your stomach to tell your brain you’re full. If you eat too fast you may overeat, overfill your pouch and end up extremely uncomfortable and possibly vomit.

In addition, chew your food 25 times before swallowing. And cut up all solid food into bite-sized pieces the size of your thumbnail.

Stop eating as soon as you begin to feel full. Do not “stuff” yourself, as this may cause your stomach pouch to stretch – or worse, burst – causing long-term problems and complications.

Once you are eating solid foods, do not take in liquid calories. While your diet begins with liquids, it should not include liquid calories once you have progressed to solid foods. Liquids will pass through the restricted stomach, which will make you not feel full, and can cause you not to lose weight.

How to Ensure You Successfully Maintain Post-op Weight Loss

All successful bariatric surgery patients have two things in common: they followed their dietary recommendations closely and they initiated a regular exercise program.

Within a few days after surgery, you should begin walking and start other light physical activity. It is essential that within four to six weeks after surgery, you begin a regular exercise program.

Initially, this may simply be walking around the neighborhood four times a week for 40 to 60 minutes. In 3 to 4 months post-op, it will also involve low-impact resistance training, such as swimming, light weightlifting and rowing. This will guarantee not only sustained weight loss, but it will also improve your stamina, energy level and overall health.