Healthy Eating Habits after Bariatric Surgery

Berry Mathew

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Healthy Eating Habits after Bariatric Surgery

Maintaining a healthy diet is crucial for a successful recovery after bariatric surgery. In fact, the surgery itself is only a tool to assist in weight loss; proper nutrition and healthy eating habits are key to achieving long-term weight loss goals and overall health improvements. Healthy eating habits after bariatric surgery can prevent complications, reduce the risk of weight regain, and improve overall physical and mental health.

This article will discuss the importance of healthy eating habits after bariatric surgery and provide tips and recommendations to help you maintain a nutritious and balanced diet.*

Changes in Eating Habits after Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery leads to changes in appetite and hunger cues. However, it can still be difficult to distinguish between physical and emotional or psychological hunger, such as boredom or stress. To differentiate between the two, it is important to pay attention to the sensations in the body and be mindful of the reasons behind the desire to eat. 

We asked Karen Reyes, a board-certified nutritionist at Be Slim Bariatrics, for her advice. She told us:

“Physical hunger is characterized by a sensation of emptiness or discomfort in the stomach, whereas emotional hunger is associated with a desire to eat for reasons other than physical hunger. When you have a desire to eat, leaving the room or place you’re in can be helpful, as it gives time and space to clear the mind of cravings. 

Additionally, take time to consider how you’re feeling before you eat. Keeping a food diary and writing down how you feel when you eat can be helpful. If you find you’re regularly eating when you feel stressed or unhappy, it may be worth considering some type of psychological therapy.”

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Diet after Bariatric Surgery

After bariatric surgery, digestion, and nutrient absorption changes, the stomach’s size is reduced, and the amount of food that can be consumed at one time is limited. Smaller and more frequent meals are needed to prevent stomach overload and aid digestion. Consuming an adequate amount of protein is also critical because it is essential for the growth and repair of body tissues. Additionally, protein-rich foods take longer to digest, reducing hunger and the likelihood of overeating. 

Protein also plays a critical role in numerous bodily functions, such as transporting and storing nutrients, maintaining fluid balance, and producing enzymes, hormones, and antibodies. Therefore, it is important to include protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, nuts, and legumes in your diet to ensure you are getting enough of this vital nutrient.

Maintaining proper hydration after weight loss surgery can be challenging, but it is essential to prevent dehydration, which can lead to serious health problems, such as kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and low blood pressure. You should drink at least 64 ounces of water daily to maintain proper hydration after bariatric surgery.

Benefits of Meal Planning and Preparation

Meal planning and preparation can have numerous benefits, especially if you have undergone bariatric surgery. Planning out meals in advance can also save time and money and help individuals make healthier choices by avoiding impulse purchases and choosing nutrient-dense foods. 

However, even with meal planning, dining out after bariatric surgery can still be a challenge. To navigate dining out successfully, it is important to prioritize protein, choose foods low in sodium, fat, and sugar, and practice portion control. If you can find the menu online, choose what you will eat in advance so you are not tempted to have something unhealthy when you get to the venue. 

Asking for substitutions, splitting meals with a friend, and avoiding liquid calories such as pure fruit juice and full sugar fizzy drinks can also be helpful strategies. By being mindful and prepared, you can still enjoy eating out while also staying on track with your health goals.

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Common Mistakes to Avoid

When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight after weight loss surgery, there are certain things you should avoid in terms of eating and drinking habits. These include:

Skipping meals — may mean you miss out on essential nutrients and can result in tiredness and low energy. It can also slow down your metabolism, making it harder to lose weight. Plus, you are also more likely to crave high-fat and high-sugar foods.

Eating too quickly — is likely to lead to overeating as the brain doesn’t have enough time to signal you’re full. Additionally, not chewing food properly can cause acid reflux. Eating slowly and chewing food properly is also important for digestion and the absorption of nutrients and can help to prevent gas and bloating. 

Grazing and snacking — can easily result in consuming more calories than necessary. Snacks high in calories, sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats can contribute to weight gain and poor diet quality. Additionally, eating pre-planned meals and sitting down without distractions like the TV is really important for mindful eating and portion control.  

Drinking liquids with meals — there is not enough space in the stomach to accommodate both food and liquid, which can lead to discomfort, nausea, and may even lead to vomiting. Drinking fluids with meals can also dilute stomach acid, leading to poor digestion and absorption of nutrients from food. 

NB: Drinking water between meals is also important to stay hydrated and can help to improve digestion and promote overall health.

Final Thoughts

Bariatric surgery is an effective way to lose weight, but it requires a lifelong commitment to healthy eating habits to maintain weight loss and prevent complications. Poor eating habits can lead to nutritional deficiencies and problems like nausea and vomiting. 

If you are finding it difficult to follow your nutritional program or find yourself eating high-fat and high-sugar food seeking professional help and support, such as nutritional counseling and support groups, is strongly recommended to ensure the best outcomes. 

*Following weight loss surgery, you should be provided with a nutritional program. The advice in this article should not be followed if it contradicts any guidance you have been given by your bariatric health provider.