What Should I Eat Before and After Bariatric Surgery?
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Bariatric surgery can be a safe and effective way for eligible patients to lose life-changing weight and reclaim their health. Weight loss surgery involves making the stomach smaller, which reduces how much you can eat. However, long-lasting weight loss requires intentional and consistent lifestyle changes, including making sustainable choices about what and how you eat.

If you're
considering weight loss surgery, here’s what you can expect when it comes to optimizing your nutrition before and after surgery.

If you’re considering bariatric surgery, new eating habits will be essential for life-changing weight loss and renewed health. Bariatric surgeon Dr. Alrefai shares what to expect: https://bit.ly/46tXw3B.
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Preparing your body for surgery.

In the months leading up to your surgery, your care team will introduce you to your pre-operative nutrition plan. To help you prepare for a successful surgery, you’ll meet with a registered dietitian who will help you understand and adopt new behaviors for eating after bariatric surgery. These will be critical in helping you to achieve and maintain the benefits of surgery. While some of the nutritional details will vary based on your unique needs, most patients will need to commit to making changes such as:

  • Eating appropriate portion sizes
  • Consuming enough protein to maintain muscle mass (aim for 60 to 70 grams of protein per day)
  • Avoiding sugary drinks and foods
  • Incorporating physical activity into your daily routine
  • Drinking at least 60 ounces of water and sugar-free fluid daily

A full liquid diet optimizes your surgical outcomes in the week before surgery.

For about ten days before surgery, you’ll swap food for a high protein liquid diet. These guidelines are essential for shrinking your liver, which will allow your surgeon to more easily access your stomach during surgery. Your doctors will help you understand your specific preoperative caloric needs to optimize the procedure and reduce any potential risk of complications. 

Eating one week after surgery.

After surgery, your postoperative team will help you reach your fluid goal in the hospital. Once you are approved for discharge, you can expect to consume a full clear liquid diet for the first few days after surgery. It’s important to follow your nutritional protocol to give your stomach time to heal, avoid constipation and dehydration, and optimize your weight loss. 

Similar to the guidelines before surgery, you’ll need to consume 60 to 80 grams of protein daily and drink 60 ounces of fluid at minimum. After about five days, you can start to have thicker semi-liquids as well, such as:

  • Protein shakes
  • Sugar-free yogurt
  • Fat-free cottage cheese
  • Sugar-free pudding
  • Strained cream soups
  • Pureed foods

Incorporating soft foods back into your diet.

After 10 to 12 days, you can start to add soft foods back into your diet. Because you’ll want to focus on high-protein, you may consider eating scrambled eggs, steamed veggies, mashed potatoes, and other foods with similar consistencies. Your diet should continue to emphasize protein-rich foods while avoiding foods that are high in sugar and fat. 

Re-introducing solid foods at one month.

Around one month after surgery, you can begin to slowly introduce solid foods back into your diet. It can be useful to keep a food diary that tracks what you’re eating so you can notice how you feel after certain foods. While you can reintroduce foods from any food group, you will be consuming smaller portions of these foods. And, it’s still important to choose foods with a high nutritional value. 

Eating for long-term health.

Because bariatric surgery shrinks the size of your stomach and affects your metabolism, you’ll want to continue lifelong eating habits that will ensure you get the right nourishment while you lose weight. The goal is to have healthy, gradual weight loss over time, not a sharp, dramatic drop in weight within the first few weeks. The following eating habits can help you reach your health goals and support long-term success:

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals
  • Prioritize protein and whole, natural foods
  • Monitor your caloric intake
  • Consume your meals and snacks slowly
  • Drink liquids in between meals
  • Chew food slowly and thoroughly
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking
  • Limit foods high in fat and sugar
  • Take any recommended vitamin supplements
  • Exercise three to four times each week

Choosing a bariatric surgeon.

If you’re considering weight loss surgery, it’s important to seek care from a Center of Excellence like ours with expertise in the different types of bariatric surgery, including minimally invasive and robotic techniques. At MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, we’re the only accredited weight loss program in the Southern Maryland area. This underscores our commitment to meeting rigorous criteria that helps our patients achieve their goals and the best possible outcomes.

Before your first consultation, you’ll attend an informational session that will help you understand
your eligibility and options. This will ensure you're prepared to discuss the benefits and risks at your first appointment. Throughout your journey, you’ll be supported by a team of caring professionals, including a dietitian who will help you transition to a new, healthy way of eating. 

The decision to have bariatric surgery is often life-changing, leading to dramatic improvements in a patient’s health and happiness. Many patients report that surgery enabled them to do things they could never do before, like getting a good night’s sleep, getting off a certain medication, or going on a hike for the first time. These changes can all add up to a longer, healthier lifespan, as studies show that people who undergo weight loss surgery are less likely to die from obesity-related conditions than those of similar weight.

Want to find out if bariatric surgery is right for you?

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