Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 24, 2014
You’ll have to start eating differently after having weight loss surgery, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to give up all your favorite foods. Let’s start by talking about how things will be different.
Your stomach acts as a holding tank for food and beverages and as a strong muscle that grinds and churns your food, helping with digestion. Depending on the procedure, weight loss surgery either removes a large portion of your stomach or significantly restricts access to your stomach. And, as you can imagine, reducing the capacity of your stomach makes it much harder for it to do its job.
To help your stomach adapt to this increased workload, you’ll be introduced to a staged diet that features gradual changes in food textures. You’ll drink protein shakes for two weeks and then slowly advance to soft foods for four weeks. With time, you should be able to tolerate a variety of textures, as long as you eat slowly and chew carefully. For more information on the post-operative (and pre-operative) diet, see the Nutrition Resources section of our Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery site.
Surgery + You = Weight Loss
Weight loss surgery alone doesn’t ensure that you’ll lose weight and keep it off. You also will need to change the way you eat for the rest of your life in order to be successful. This means reducing your calorie intake by eating small portions and avoiding calorie-packed foods and beverages. Fortunately, your modified stomach is a built-in portion control tool, so all you have to do is put healthy foods on your plate and stop when your stomach is full.
But how do you stick to the plan when you’re at a social event or eating at a restaurant? Don’t worry! Your social life doesn’t end after sleeve gastrectomy. Use the following tips for social eating:
Dining at a Restaurant
- Do some homework. Most restaurants post menus online, so you can scope them out in advance. Look for lean protein that is not fried or breaded. Aim for foods that are ‘grilled’ and ‘broiled,’ which are usually low-fat cooking methods. Avoid creamy sauces, which are full of calories.
- Choose veggies instead of starch. Ask for a side of non-starchy vegetables instead of fries, potatoes, or pasta.
- Don’t try to keep up with your neighbor. Restaurant portions are huge! Don’t worry about how much or how quickly others are eating. Listen to your stomach and stop at the first sign of fullness.
Eating at a Party
- Don’t camp out at the food table. If you hover near the food table, you’re destined to eat more. It’s just human nature. Find somewhere else to stand and chat.
- Look before you eat. Scan the food table before putting anything on your plate. You won’t have much stomach space, so don’t fill up on the first food you see.
- Fill up on protein and veggies. Look for lean protein and vegetables. Maybe you’ll find shrimp with cocktail sauce, grilled chicken skewers, or roasted vegetables.
With practice, you’ll find ways to comfortably manage social eating events after surgery. But if you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to lean on your nutrition team for strategies and support.