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The Top 5 Things You Need to Know about a Post-Bariatric Diet

The Top 5 Things You Need to Know about a Post-Bariatric Diet


Thanks to the public weight loss successes of B-list celebrities like Star Jones Reynolds, Al Roker, and Carnie Wilson, the popularity of bariatric surgery has skyrocketed in recent years. And while studies do show that bariatric surgery generally results in greater weight loss and more improvement in weight-related health problems than conventional diet and exercise programs, the decision to undergo surgery should never be taken lightly. Far from being an easy, effortless way to shed unwanted pounds, bariatric surgery requires patients to completely relearn everything they thought they knew about food and eating, from portion sizes and nutritional information to whether or not to drink water with a meal. Even the order in which food should be eaten during a meal may have to change.

Nevertheless, the procedure can be extremely effective for people who have tried and failed to shed unwanted — and potentially life-threatening — poundage in the past. If you're considering bariatric surgery, here are five things you need to know about a post-bariatric diet before scheduling an appointment with a bariatric surgeon:

1. Having Bariatric Surgery Does Not Allow You to Stop Watching What You Eat

In fact, post-bariatric patients usually have to watch their diets much more carefully after the procedure than before. Because bariatric surgery so drastically limits the volume of the stomach, patients must walk the thin line between getting adequate nutrition and subsisting mainly on small servings of high-protein, nutrient-rich foods without sugar or high levels of fat and starches.

2. You'll Be Able to Eat Your Favorite Foods…But You Probably Won't Want To

The typical American consumes more than 500 cans of carbonated soft drinks each year, but many post-bariatric patients find that the gas produced by carbonated beverages makes them feel uncomfortably bloated, and consumption of such beverages can actually stretch the stomach. And while the temptation to indulge in sweet, sugary treats may recur, indulging in these foods can lead to bloating, dizziness, vomiting, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, hot flashes, or cold sweats.

3. You'll Have to Eat Slowly and Chew Thoroughly

Studies show that most patients considering bariatric surgery are fast eaters, so chances are that you'll have to put the brakes on your eating habits after undergoing bariatric surgery. Two minutes between bites and 15 to 20 chews per bite are recommended to reduce the food to the consistency of a puree, helping facilitate proper digestion and ensuring that no unchewed pieces of food get stuck passing through the narrowed outlet from the stomach.

4. Three Meals a Day — No More, No Less

Between-meal snacking is one of the primary causes of weight gain, and post-bariatric patients are especially vulnerable to this common weakness — even drastically reducing the volume of your stomach won't help you lose weight if you're sipping on high-calorie Starbucks indulgences or munching on M&Ms all day. Conversely, because so much nutritional value must be packed into each small meal, post-bariatric patients who skip regularly scheduled meals when they don't feel hungry run the risk of developing nutritional deficiencies.

5. Stop Eating When You Feel Full. Really. Or Else.

It's okay for post-bariatric patients to ignore that inner voice that sounds like their mothers telling them to clean their plates, as they can easily overload the severely limited capacity of their stomachs and trigger nausea, vomiting, or other dumping symptoms. Worse, even the surgically altered stomach is not immune to stretching over time, so bariatric patients who overeat regularly run the risk of completely negating the positive effects of their treatment.

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