Life after weight loss surgery is not all about deprivation. In fact, life after surgery is quite the contrary. It’s about having an extra reinforcement so that you are better equipped to lose weight and keep it off long term. As we have said over and over, surgery is a tool but you really need to know how best to use this tool for optimal long-term results. Our society is focused on the here and now. You will have an excellent tool that will help you quickly in the here and now after surgery. More importantly it will serve you well for the long haul so you can fully experience your life in a rewarding and active way. I see dreams come true each and every day!
Sure, there will be changes and I would be lying if we said they were all going to be simple. I am not trying to be vague here but the answer to the question “Will I ever be able to enjoy my favorite foods again after weight loss surgery?” depends upon a number of things. These include the type of surgery you have and what is included in your favorite food list. Not knowing exactly what those favorite foods are, I will include those that you will need to avoid altogether or enjoy in small quantities (we always like to focus on what you can have rather than what you can’t have).
The first category you will want to avoid or enjoy in small quantities is sugary sweets. This can be in solid (i.e. candy) or liquid form (i.e. sweet tea). After weight loss surgery, you should avoid food with >8 grams of sugar (5 grams if you are diabetic) because they can cause a negative reaction in your system, particularly if you have had a gastric bypass. These foods can cause what is commonly called “dumping syndrome”. Dumping syndrome occurs when there is a rapid passage of food into the small intestines causing a shift of fluid to the small intestine. This usually occurs when you ingest foods that are too high in sugar or fat. Symptoms include diarrhea, sweating, nausea, cold/clammy skin, dizziness, weakness, flushed appearance, and occasionally headaches. You will need to stop and rest until the symptoms subside. Remember to remain hydrated (water is best). Take note of the food/foods that caused these symptoms so that you can avoid them in the future.
The second category you will want to avoid is alcohol. Alcohol is full of empty calories, dehydrates the body, and has negative effects on the kidneys and liver. In addition, because of the small size of your new pouch and the fact that food/liquid now empties more rapidly into the intestines, alcohol will be more toxic and cause a higher blood alcohol level than before surgery. For these reasons, ingestion of alcohol should be avoided after surgery. If you choose to have weight loss surgery and then ingest alcohol, please be aware that a small amount can affect you to a MUCH greater degree than prior to surgery.
After you are a month or so out from surgery, you can begin to experiment more with various foods. Introduce raw fruits and vegetables cautiously. Although many people do just fine, certain foods may be difficult to tolerate because your digestive system cannot n handle them. The following may cause problems for you and may need to be avoided:
- Tough meats, especially hamburger. Even after grinding, the gristle in hamburger is hard to digest.
- Membranes of oranges or grapefruit
- Cores, seeds, or skins of fruits or vegetables
- Fibrous vegetables such as corn and celery
- Hulls, popcorn
- Breads – Fresh breads “ball up” in your stomach and can block your pouch. Try to avoid breads/crackers/cereals as much as possible.
- Fried foods
- Milk – If you are lactose intolerant you may use “Lactaid” products or soybean milk
- Rice – tends to expand further once in your stomach and can cause pain
This list may seem daunting but realize that the further you are out from surgery, the more tolerant your system tends to be. However, it is very important that especially throughout the first year you participate in a comprehensive program which should be available with any experienced bariatric surgeon/center. A comprehensive program should include:
- Follow-up visits with your surgeon
- Individualized coaching with a nutrition specialist who understands the needs of the weight loss surgery patient
- Personal trainer/fitness center that eases you into appropriate exercise activities in a safe and comfortable environment
- Access to delicious nutritional products that support your need for 90+ grams of protein each day
- An ongoing support group for you and your family/significant others.
All of this is provided on-site or online at the Center for Weight Loss Success and truly impacts the short and long-term outcomes of our awesome patients. For those that live farther away, most services are very effectively provided online, via Skype, via webinars and other engaging ways. Short and long-term comprehensive support is essential for optimal success.
Rhonda’s Opinion: Absolutely! I enjoy food in moderation even more than before because it tastes so much better when you slow down to enjoy it.