You’ve decided to undergo a life-changing bariatric procedure. Such a major decision requires an equally major overhaul in the choices you make for the rest of your life. Here are some of the most important keys to your success.
1. Don’t drink your calories. It’s common advice for everyone, but it’s particularly important after bariatric surgery. After surgery, your calorie intake is much more restricted, so as many of those calories as possible need to be reserved for nutrient-dense foods. That means focusing mostly on lean proteins, fruits and vegetables.
2. Don’t drink right before, right after, or during meals. Just as you need to reserve your limited caloric intake for nutritious food, you need to make sure there is room in the first place. Drinking too much during meals doesn’t just make you feel full quicker, it can lead to nausea and vomiting. Drinking right after a meal may also make food pass through your stomach, which can cause premature hunger. Keep your eating and drinking separated by at least 30 minutes whenever possible.
3. Eat protein first. Before surgery, getting your recommended daily protein intake (60g for the average person) wasn’t a problem. With your much smaller stomach, you need to prioritize your protein. If you don’t get enough, your body will take it from what’s available, namely your muscle tissue. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you eat protein first in case you are too full later.
4. Avoid sugar. They’re empty calories, but they also put your blood sugar in flux, create a false sense of hunger, and can cause dumping syndrome for gastric bypass patients. It’s also important to note that carbonated drinks should be avoided, since the bubbles can cause gas and extra pressure in your stomach. So, one of the ultimate no-nos would be to have a full sugar soda with a meal!
5. Stay connected with a support group. If you were involved with a weight loss surgery support group before your procedure, it’s also a good idea to continue, or find a new one if need be. It’s not only invaluable for preparing emotionally and physically for your life after surgery, sharing your experiences and knowledge with other people who can do the same is empowering in so many ways.
6. Exercise. Your new eating habits are only one facet of a healthy lifestyle. Exercise is just as important after bariatric surgery. Weight loss plateaus are common, but if you are exercising, you can reach your goals much easier. The benefits of exercise are well documented, not the least of which is the impact it will have on your self-esteem, confidence, and mood, all factors that play an important role in your eating decisions as well.
7. Don’t skip out on follow-up visits with your doctor. Your health and new habits will be closely monitored after surgery. Visits are more frequent during the first year after surgery, but should continue at least once a year for the rest of your life. Your doctor will monitor your weight loss progress, but also make sure you are not nutritionally deficient or experiencing any complications related to surgery. Follow-up visits can also replenish your motivation to stay on track.