In today’s society, being overweight is not really unusual. Many people are obese, or at least on the path to becoming obese. (Let’s give credit to those who aren’t, because not everyone is!). You see, weight can be put on really easily for the majority of people; in fact, it can come on quite unexpectedly and fast if you’re not careful. However, as most people know, losing weight is not so easy. It’s like a piece of delectable chocolate cake: really easy to pick up, but really hard to put down without taking a bite. So, since it is hard for some people to lose weight, particularly those who are obese, having surgery to correct the weight is the most plausible option. It isn’t safe to stop eating, nor is it safe to partake in fad dieting. Professional guidance and/or intervention are needed for many people to successfully lose weight. Bariatric (weight loss) surgery is one of those interventions (but is often done for the wishes of the patient desiring to lose weight). However, this type of surgery changes the digestive system and the amount of food you can hold in your stomach at one time. From the moment you leave the recovery room, you’ll never be able to eat the same again. Don’t be too frightened though, because it only takes some getting used to. With the help of a dietitian or your healthcare provider, you will be just fine.
Types of Bariatric Surgery
Before we talk about the special diet needed after bariatric surgery, let’s discuss the different types of bariatric surgery. Keep in mind that these surgeries are not for everyone and can pose serious side effects and risks to an individual who isn’t willing to make permanent changes to their lifestyle. It is a major procedure with possible complications. There are two common surgeries for weight loss: gastric banding and gastric bypass.
This is also referred to as a lap band. An inflatable silicone device is placed around the top of the stomach. It is the less invasive of the two procedures because no part of the stomach is removed, cut, or stapled; it also allows the body to be able to continue to absorb nutrients…you’ll just eat less. There are still complications, such as the risk of gastritis, slippage of the band, malposition of the band, infection, and other such things.
This is done by either removing a portion of the stomach or by resecting and re-routing the small intestine to a small stomach pouch. Either way, the size of the stomach is smaller so you’ll eat less; the individual will experience a decreased absorption of many nutrients with this surgery. Complications include possible mortality, infection, hemorrhage, bowel obstruction, and more.
Diet for Bariatric Surgery
As you can see from above, bariatric surgery involves “shrinking” the stomach in one way or another. This means you’ll eat less and will possibly need dietary supplements to ensure you are getting the right amounts of vitamins and minerals. In the end, the surgery is just a tool to help you limit the amount of food you eat to promote weight loss. Changing your diet and lifestyle are key to making gastric bypass surgery and gastric banding successful. Weight will be lost rapidly, so you need to maintain lean body mass, proper hydration, and skin elasticity. It is actually best to start adapting your meals before the surgery so you get in the routine (for example, learn about proper eating habits to maintain a healthy weight, consume plenty of protein to help with lean body mass, take a vitamin and mineral supplements, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated); this is usually done with the help of a dietitian or nutritionist. Nevertheless, after surgery, everything is done in stages.
Stage 1 and 2 are combined: liquid diet (1) and modified liquid diet (2)
For 2-3 weeks following the surgery, you will be instructed to be on a liquid diet only. For the first few days you should drink only clear or nearly clear liquids—this is stage 1—like water, sugar-free juice, diet gelatin, bouillon, flat diet soda, while only drinking 2-3 ounces at a time. After these first few days, you can start adding high protein liquids—this is stage 2—into the diet, such as milk, Carnation Instant Breakfast, Ensure, or something recommended by your dietitian. Also, taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement is started at this stage.
Stage 3: soft foods
This stage is usually started at 3 weeks, with the confirmation of the doctor. Over the next 6-8 weeks, soft foods will gradually be added into your meal plans. Focus on high protein foods, while trying not to eat too much fat, sugar, and fiber. Eat a small meal 4-6 times a day because there is no way you can stomach a full meal in one sitting. Learn how to recognize when you’re full so you don’t overeat and stretch the stomach. Foods that are recommended for this stage are:
Avoid sticky foods, bread (if not toasted), pasta, macaroni and cheese, and peanut butter.
Stage 4: solid foods
Finally, about 10 weeks after surgery, you can start adding regular consistency foods. The goal is to be able to eat normally, but to consume smaller quantities. Eat lean meats, vegetable protein, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, and avoid empty-calorie junk foods. Limit your fat and sugar intake, and continue to eat adequate amounts of protein.
Here are some tips to help you thrive successfully through recovery and throughout the rest of your life.