Bariatric surgery can be a transformative procedure for individuals looking to make a significant change in their weight and health. However, the journey doesn’t end with surgery; it’s only the beginning and it requires dedication to a new lifestyle and certain lifelong habits.
Adopting these top strategies for post-surgery success is essential. Embracing a healthy diet, incorporating regular physical activity, and attending support groups are just the starting points in maintaining long-term weight loss and well-being. Let’s explore the key approaches that can help maximize your health outcomes and ensure that your investment in your health results in maximum benefits.
Long-Term Lifestyle Changes
To optimize long-term success after bariatric surgery, consider the following lifelong habits. If (and when) you find yourself veering from these recommendations, review the suggestions again and make small changes every day to get back to basics!
1. Eat Mindfully
It’s important to eat mindfully right after surgery to avoid food intolerance issues. As time goes on, you will be able to eat more food than you could immediately after surgery as the stomach becomes more adaptable, which is why it’s crucial to maintain a mindful eating practice to avoid overeating.
- Sit down to eat all meals and snacks.
- Eat slowly, take small bites, and chew food thoroughly to help with tolerance.
- Eat without distraction, including looking at your phone or watching TV.
- Set a timer and do not eat longer than 20 minutes per meal, consuming at least 3 oz. of protein and 1/2 cup of produce.
2. Avoid Certain Foods and Beverages
Some foods and beverages have been found to hinder success after surgery. It’s not that you can never consume these items, but they should be rare and for special occasions only. If you need specific help changing these eating preferences, please work with a bariatric dietitian.
- Avoid alcohol as it is high in empty calories and can lead to changes in food choices while consuming.
- Limit high-sugar, high-fat, ultra-processed foods as they are loaded with excess calories and not much nutrition.
3. Stay Hydrated
More than half of your body weight is made up of water! Staying hydrated is critical since hydration helps support essential bodily functions, including our metabolism.
- Drink at least 64 oz. water each day.
- Do NOT drink with meals and for at least 30 minutes later, this is for two different reasons depending on the type of procedure you had, and how far out from surgery you are.
Drinking with meals can cause you to fill up too much of your pouch with food and fluid, not allowing you to consume as much nutrition at mealtime as needed.
Drinking with meals can allow you to eat a larger amount of food by washing the food through the pouch too quickly.
4. Consume 3 Meals Per Day, Prioritizing Protein
It’s very important to consume at least 3 meals per day, evenly spaced throughout the day, with an emphasis on getting at least 20 grams of protein per meal. This helps keep you satisfied between meals and ensures you get enough protein each day.
- 60 grams of protein per day is the minimum amount needed to support your body after surgery.
- Protein impacts our body composition, metabolism, and our satiety levels – or satisfaction levels between meals.
- Protein shakes or meal replacements are great to add too if you do not consume enough protein from food alone.
Research in bariatric nutrition continues to show that protein supplementation enhances recovery from surgery and long-term weight management. A recent study looked at the role of whey protein supplements in post-bariatric surgery patients. They found that whey protein supplements contributed to the preservation of lean body mass during the rapid weight-loss phase after surgery.
This study adds to the existing research by emphasizing the significance of not just the amount of protein consumed, but also the quality and digestibility. Whey protein, with its high biological value and all nine essential amino acids, is a fantastic choice for post-operative nutritional strategies.
5. Take Vitamin Supplements
Bariatric specialty multivitamins are formulated to meet your exact nutritional needs after surgery. They are a daily essential that you cannot miss as they help prevent nutrient deficiencies which can contribute to body weight changes and influence the body’s metabolism.
It has been found that people who take bariatric multivitamins lose more weight than people who take over-the-counter vitamins (because those do not meet your unique needs!), or none at all.
- Take a bariatric specialty multivitamin and 1,200-1,500 mg calcium citrate (RYGB and VSG) or 1,800-2,400 mg calcium citrate (BPD/DS and SADI-S) every day.
- Find something that tastes good to you and set reminders on your Baritastic app to help remember to take them daily.
To learn more about why you need these nutrients, read The Essential Guide to Gastric Sleeve and Gastric Bypass Vitamins.
6. Self-monitor Your Food Intake and Body Weight
Self-monitoring is the act of keeping track of various habits that have been shown to promote more weight loss and weight maintenance after surgery.
The two critical things to self-monitor according to the research:
- Track your food intake daily.
- Track your body weight at least once per month (once per week if you’ve been steadily gaining weight).
Download the app, Baritastic, and begin your self-monitoring journey today.
7. Portion Control Following Bariatric Surgery
Immediately following surgery, you will often be instructed to weigh or measure your food to avoid overeating. What many people experience is that they can’t even finish the tiny amount of food on their plate!
As time goes on, the pouch becomes more adaptable and can more easily accommodate larger quantities of food. That is why things like self-monitoring, mindful eating, and portion control are critical long-term habits to maintain to optimize the procedure.
The good news is that there isn’t just one way to use portion control. You have options! Try one (or all) of these strategies to help with long-term portion control.
Strategies for Long-term Portion Control (greater than 12 months post-surgery) After Bariatric Surgery
- Eat for 20 minutes or less at a time, 3 meals per day
- Weigh your food
- Protein = 3 oz. per meal
- Produce = 1 oz. per meal
- Whole grains (if consuming) = ½ oz. per meal
- Measure your food
- Protein = ½ cup per meal
- Produce = ½ cup per meal
- Whole grains (if consuming) = ¼ cup per meal
- Plate method
- Protein = half of your plate
- Product = a quarter to half of your plate
- Whole grains (if consuming) = less than a quarter of your plate
- Self-monitor your food
- Simply record what you eat every day to ensure you are not consuming too many calories and/or too little protein.
After bariatric surgery, staying on track requires purposeful nutrition, hydration, regular meal patterns, supplementation, and self-monitoring. Strategies like portion control and mindful eating support long-term health and weight management. Your bariatric journey is unique, and with the right tools and support, success is not just possible but expected. Embrace these habits as part of your new lifestyle and celebrate each step forward in your wellness journey.
Vij VA et al. Effect of ‘water induced thermogenesis’ on body weight, body mass index and body composition of overweight subjects. J Clin Diagn Res.2013;7(9):1894-1896.
Romeijn MM et al. The effect of additional protein on lean body mass preservation in post-bariatric surgery patients: a systematic review. Nutr J. 2021;20:27.
Dogan K et al. Optimization of vitamin supplementation after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery can lower post-operative deficiencies: a randomized controlled trial. Medicine. 2014;93:25.3(25):e169.