Although bariatric surgery offers you the opportunity to lose weight successfully if you have previously struggled to decrease your weight through other means, to achieve lasting weight loss after bariatric surgery you need to make life-long changes to your eating habits. You will receive detailed instructions following your operation about the types of foods you can eat in the initial weeks after surgery, but around 8 weeks after the procedure when you resume foods of a normal consistency, careful food choices are essential to allow continued weight loss. By following a well-balanced diet that is portion controlled, and combining this with regular physical activity, you have the best chance of losing fat, while preserving your muscle mass.
Eating Well for Weight Loss After Bariatric Surgery
The same advice about a balanced diet applies after bariatric surgery as for the general population, so you should include a starchy food with each meal, 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 to 3 servings of protein-rich foods and 3 portions of low-fat dairy produce daily, while limiting foods high in fat and sugar. However, you may find that after the procedure you cannot tolerate some of the foods you used to. Foods that may cause problems after weight loss surgery include pasta, rice, bread, fruit, and vegetables with tough skins, red meat, and seafood, but cooking foods well and chewing thoroughly, as well as removing troublesome skins can reduce the problems associated with these foods. You will also find that you can only manage smaller portions and as a guide you should serve each of your meals using a side plate or an equivalent sized bowl. However, despite the smaller portions, you should eat slowly to give your brain time to register that you are full, ideally speaking you at least 30 minutes to eat each meal. If you are tempted to eat beyond feeling full, you are likely to experience pain and vomiting.
As many foods high in fat or sugar are easily tolerated after a gastric band, gastrectomy or gastric bypass, you should limit these items as much as you can to preserve your weight loss after bariatric surgery. Examples of foods to avoid where possible are pâté, corned beef, full-fat soft cheese, mayonnaise and high-fat salad dressings, ice cream, sponge puddings, chocolate and full-sugar soft drinks. However, if you find yourself hungry between meals, a suitable snack would include a glass of skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, stewed or tinned fruit without any added sugar, or a 125g pot of yogurt that is low in fat and sugar.
For further advice on healthy eating after weight loss surgery, ask your dietitian, specialist nurse or consultant who can offer guidance.
Behaviour Change Promotes Weight Loss After Bariatric Surgery
Although you may have a good idea of what you should eat and drink after your operation, learning to change your behaviours can also help you to make healthy choices to support your weight loss. For instance, if you find that you are prone to eating for reasons other than hunger, such as boredom or sadness, this is something that is helpful to address. In this case, adopting alternative activities to occupy yourself with or lift your mood can help you avoid comfort eating. Alternatively, if you know you are tempted by certain foods, it is best to avoid buying these foods, so avoid those aisles in the supermarket if you can. However, changing your behaviour isn’t just about avoidance, as successfully maintaining your weight loss after bariatric surgery is helped by rewarding your progress. While food and drink are inappropriate rewards, thinking about the non-edible rewards you would appreciate to mark both small and larger achievements can help to reinforce the positive changes you have made to promote further weight loss.
Exercise to Aid Weight Loss After Bariatric Surgery
Although around 30 minutes of physical activity daily is recommended to maintain your general health, research suggests that you may need to take part in 60 to 90 minutes of activity each day to support weight loss and to maintain the weight you have already lost. However, this activity can include walking, vigorous housework, and gardening, so you do not necessarily have to join a gym or take up a sport to keep active, though these are options you may wish to explore as you continue to lose weight. It is also useful to know that you don’t need to complete the whole day’s activity all at the same time, so if it suits you better to include shorter bursts of activity 2 or 3 times each day, that is not a problem and is just as beneficial for maintaining your weight loss after bariatric surgery.