#43 How to Eat for the Long Haul after Bariatric Surgery, Part 1

beyond bariatric surgery podcast

HOST: Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Dr. Susan Mitchell 

Have you been thinking: “I made it thru these 6-8 weeks after bariatric surgery but I’m not so sure I want to go back to a so-called regular diet of real food. I don’t want to regain weight.” I hear you and I have 10 helpful tips. Let’s talk about five of them today in part one. 

Hi, I’m registered dietitian nutritionist Dr. Susan Mitchell. You’re listening to the Bariatric Surgery Success podcast episode number 43. 

This week, I want to give a thank you shout-out to Lyolka. She gave the Bariatric Surgery Success podcast a 5-star review on Apple Podcasts and said: “Thank you for the very helpful tips! I’m getting ready to have surgery and your podcast really helps me to learn more! Great format, not too lengthy, straight to the point. Love the energy and enthusiasm in your voice!” These reviews mean a lot to me. Your feedback is exactly why I do the podcast. If I’m not helping you, then I don’t need to be doing it. I so appreciate your time to share your thoughts. And speaking of getting to the point, let’s go.

Over the last 6-8 weeks your diet has morphed a lot starting with clear liquids and progressing to a soft diet. You did it. Now you are ready to think about how you’re going to eat for the long haul. Your decision to have bariatric surgery was a big deal. It’s not over after the first weeks of healing and constant tweaks in what you eat and drink. You’ve progressed and are now ready at this point to transition to a regular, healthy, balanced and let’s not forget tasty way of eating. I mention tasty because food nourishes the body from a nutrition standpoint but food also nourishes the soul and is about enjoyment of life, the time and tasty meals shared with family and friends. 

Moving on from soft foods to regular foods is so important. You’ve had surgery, yes, and you will eat less because of it, true, but you will still eat regular nutritious foods that help provide your body with A-Z nutrition and satiety or that feeling of fullness.You want to move forward from liquid meals and only soft foods. Why? Regular foods help prevent the weight regain you are worried about. How? Regular food, especially those foods that contain protein and fiber are more filling and satisfying than liquids so you feel full on less. You feel full on less food. Also and equally important is that we’re talking about the rest of your life here. Diets don’t work and never have. Learning to eat well and make smart choices does. A bariatric diet is not a diet from the viewpoint of drop the “t” and you feel like you’re going to die. Instead, it should be a bariatric lifestyle of behavior changes and tweaks in what you choose to eat so that you prevent weight regain, eat real food that the rest of the family can and will eat, and you don’t feel deprived. Real food, not diet food. 

At the risk of sounding like a message on replay, remember that your surgeon or surgery center may have their own nutritional regimen for you to follow depending on your surgery so check in with them if you have any issues.  

This week in part one, let’s look at the five of the 10 tips to eat for the long haul.

Tip #1: It’s so easy to take big bites of food and a habit most of us could benefit from changing. As you start to practice mindful eating, be aware of your bites and make them small. Chew them well, especially since liquids are consumed when? 15-30 minutes before a meal or 30 minutes after. This is easier to do if you sit down, relax and enjoy your food versus a gulp and go.

Tip #2: Stop eating when you’re comfortably full not stuffed. It’s a hard habit to change as we are use to eating until we feel stuffed. Feeling stuffed won’t make you feel good and can have a negative effect on your surgical outcome. This tip will also require you to begin to pay closer attention and listen to your body. More mindful eating techniques. If you retrain yourself to eat slowly, you’ll start to become more aware of when you’ve had enough. 

Tip #3: Divide your food into three meals and one or two snacks which will total somewhere between 900-1000-1200 calories per day. This calorie level will depend on your physical activity level, sex, age, surgery progress and what your bariatric dietitian feels is right for you based on your personal health parameters.

Tip #4: Decide how you want to monitor and keep yourself on track for success. In order words, some dietitians suggest you track what you eat daily so you know the calories you’ve consumed, others suggest count grams of macros, particularly protein and carbs, other say weigh and measure your food or use portion containers and forget the rest. I’ve found thru the years that what works is the method you prefer and will actually do. All of these can be successful as well as a mix. You can use small plates and bowls or products that are marked to help you know and see the portion size. You can track only fluid and protein intake on an app. Decide what is best for you and put it into action. Why? Personal accountability works. Also get into my private Facebook group. It’s called Bariatric Surgery Success with dietitian Dr. Susan Mitchell We’re all about accountability and helping each other.

Tip #5: Eat your protein food sources first. Long term success and the health of your body depend on an adequate intake of protein today, tomorrow and each day down the track. One big reason to reach your protein intake each day is that protein supports your metabolism. The more muscle you have on your body, the higher your metabolism rate will be and the more calories your body will burn. Aiming for that 60-90 grams of protein per day will provide the amino acids in the protein to your muscle mass and the myriad of other body processes where protein plays a role such as the formation of hormones, enzymes, and immune system antibodies to help your body function as it should. Remember you are dividing this total amount of protein over the day. To help you plan, 60, 80 and 90 grams of protein are equal to 240, 320 and 360 calories out of your daily total of somewhere around 1000 calories.  

When you have protein food sources at every meal and snack, you’ll start to notice that you’re not as hungry and feel comfortably full on less food. You might be wondering about high-protein liquid supplement drinks or powders. I recommend meeting your protein needs with food when possible for the reasons we just talked about, feeling satisfied particularly. But I also know on some days it can be difficult to get the grams of protein your body needs without a protein drink as they’re so convenient and make a good snack or backup meal plan. They will help meet your protein needs for sure but you may not feel satisfied enough. Pay attention and see.    

By the way, I have a freebie guide on how to add protein to your diet. You can download it from the my homepage BreakingDownNutrition.com 

Remember mindfulness. Pay attention to how you feel as you eat. Listen to your body. This may be totally new and that’s ok. Most of us haven’t listened to our bodies as we should but it’s never too late.

In part two, we’ll talk about why all protein sources are not alike and 5 more tips to eat for the long haul. Be good to yourself. You’re worth it.

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