Food & Meals after Weight Loss Surgery

Often weight loss surgery patients think carefully about what and how they eat but not so much about when.  However this can be important, much of what a weight loss surgery patient post surgery has to learn is new, and routine is an important part of this.  Having a routine for when you eat is going to help you establish good new habits and can make learning new ways more successful.   

It is sometimes easy to feel overwhelmed by all that you have to learn to establish a new healthy way of life post surgery.  Suddenly there is so much to know, what you can eat, how you should eat and when, things that perhaps you did not think of before surgery.  Don’t be hard on yourself if you feel this way as like any new habit it can take a while to settle into and feel comfortable.  Professionals are there to help you if you need advice or are struggling with any aspect of your new healthy lifestyle.  One way to help you with your new healthy eating habits is to keep a food diary in the first few months after surgery, this will be a great help in recording what you are eating and can help to motivate you to eat well.  Plan mealtimes and try to avoid snacking by keeping busy at times when you may be prone to thinking of food to avoid ‘head hunger’.  Post surgery you should be aiming for several small meals per day rather than a few large meals with snacks in between.  Try to set times for your meals and get into a routine as quickly as you can post surgery. Keep your diet interesting by varying dishes otherwise boredom could set in! 

Healthy Foods

You will receive advice from your GP and dietitian regarding healthy food choices and you should be clear about what you can and can’t eat at each dietary stage. The most important tip is to avoid eating foods that are high in sugar and fat.  Eating these types of foods can lead to dumping syndrome, which is unpleasant and best avoided.  Dumping syndrome can be described as the rapid emptying of the stomach into the small intestine.  It can cause considerable discomfort including stomach cramps, headaches, faintness and diarrhoea.  Eating fatty and greasy foods or very sugary foods such as sweets and chocolates can cause this syndrome.

Try to include as many fruit and vegetables in your diet as possible, your diet should include mainly low fat foods.  Avoid too much red meat, instead choose low fat meats such as turkey, chicken and other lean meats.  Fish is a healthy choice and provides protein.  Fruit and vegetables should make up most of your diet, however it is important that you have a sufficient amount of protein in your diet to maintain muscle tone and strength.  The choices you make in your diet are very important because of the small amount of food you will be consuming, so keep it healthy!

Avoid too much alcohol particularly in the first year after surgery.  After surgery your body will absorb alcohol much more rapidly and you risk not only unexpected intoxication but also developing ulcers in your stomach. 

Foods to Avoid

Foods to avoid are mainly those that are high in fat and sugar such as sweets, ice-cream, biscuits, cakes, chips, burgers, creamy sauces and fried foods. There are other problematic foods which you might need to avoid particularly in the early stages of your surgery these include very fibrous foods such as pineapple, dried fruits and rhubarb.  Other foods that could be difficult to digest include tough or overcooked meats, doughy breads, skins, seeds, nuts and popcorn. 

Vitamin Supplements

For many types of weight loss surgery, vitamin and mineral supplements are an essential requirement of a healthy diet. You will not always receive the required amounts of nutrition from the small amounts of food you eat.  Always seek advice from your doctor or dietitian if you are unsure which supplements you need as this can be a daunting area.  Your dietitian should be able to advise you on which supplements are suitable for you and this will vary depending on the type of procedure you have undergone.  Mostly weight loss surgery patients are given multi-vitamins, sometimes calcium, vitamin B12, it is important that you take the advice of your GP and dietitian and follow their guidance carefully.  Protein supplements are also recommended for weight loss surgery patients including whey protein power, lactaid, milk, soya milk and other soy products. 

Many vitamin supplements are available in chewable or liquid forms, which is a good idea as they are easier to swallow.  There are many multi or complex vitamins available, which combine vitamin types in one pill.  Be careful to ask your dietitian or doctor about such vitamins as some may not be suitable for you.

Documenting your Diet

Pre surgery you may have got into the habit of keeping a food diary.   It is a good idea to continue doing this post surgery.  Pre-surgery your dietitian and surgeon and GP will probably have wanted to see a food diary with details of what you were eating daily.  A history of your dieting history is always very helpful to your dietitian, GP and surgeon.  It tells health professionals what may have worked in the past, even if it was short term weight loss and where you may have been going wrong in your past diets.  A few questions to ask are; have you been dieting long enough?  A short period of dieting for only one or two weeks is not really long enough to know if you can lose weight this way.  Always take opportunities to discuss your diet with a dietitian or GP, they are there to help and support you.  Many patients feel discussing what they eat with health professionals is invasive and a somewhat humiliating experience.  There is no need to think this way, health professionals have gained a great deal of experience in dealing with obesity and should be supportive and helpful to you.  If you are finding discussing your diet a barrier to gaining support and help consider why this might be.  If it is one individual who you feel uncomfortable speaking with, it is worth asking if you can change your GP or Dietitian. 

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