Gastric bypass surgery can completely change your life. Though everybody's situation is unique, the numbers indicate that it is an effective weight loss tool for many people: the average weight loss is 65% of your excess weight, with more than 85% of people managing to lose (and maintain) 50% of their weight.
Of course, these changes don't just miraculously occur after the surgery. If you're considering gastric bypass surgery, it's important to keep in mind that successful outcomes require some major life changes. For one thing, mealtime on a gastric bypass diet is probably going to look a lot different from usual. From portion size, to healthy food, to foods you want to avoid, here's a guide on what to expect from a typical gastric bypass diet.
How Gastric Bypass Surgery Changes your Digestion
During gastric bypass surgery, your surgeon uses a stapler device to close off most of your stomach and create a "pouch." Because this pouch is much smaller than your stomach was previously, you will no longer be able to eat as much food at one sitting. In addition, changes in gut hormones will mean that you probably get full faster. Lastly, your body isn't going to absorb as many calories or nutrients from what you do consume, so you will have to adjust accordingly.
Obviously, these anatomical changes are going to create many changes in your approach to mealtime. To ensure you absorb all the nutrients you need, a gastric bypass diet prioritizes healthy, protein-rich foods and eliminates empty calories. Expect smaller portions, changes in water consumption, and an adjustment period.
Post-Surgery Phases of Eating
After your surgery, your team of doctors will explain that there's a certain timeline to keep in mind when it comes to transitioning to regular meals. Though it may vary based on what your doctors recommend, here's a general time frame to expect:
Clear Liquid Diet
At first, you'll probably be advised to stick to a clear liquid diet. Just like it sounds, this means that you'll be drinking liquids you can see through. Choosing options like vegetable or chicken broth will ensure you get adequate nutrition. Because you're just starting out, only drink 4 to 6 ounces at a time, and try to make meals last as long as 30 minutes.
Full Liquid Diet
After a few days to a week, you'll probably be able to move onto eating full liquids — or liquids that you can't necessarily see through. Nutritious foods like yogurt, smoothies, and protein shakes can keep you sustained during this phase.
Pureed Food Diet
After a couple weeks of liquids, while your stomach is slowly recovering and adjusting, you'll likely be able to move onto pureed food. In general, this involves blending soft foods with broth or milk to create food that's roughly the consistency of applesauce. Choose options like cottage cheese that provide high-quality protein.
Soft Food Diet
By the time your doctor suggests soft foods, your body will have done a lot of healing. Foods like cooked vegetables, eggs, and ground meat should sustain you throughout this period. If your doctor recommends it, you can probably start reintroducing solid foods slowly back into your diet. While you're adjusting, avoid foods that are difficult to digest, like popcorn, fried food, or tough meat.
Fully recovered diet
Eventually, you'll be able to transition to eating many of the same foods you're used to eating in the past. Of course, in order to reap all the benefits of your gastric bypass surgery, it's pivotal to adhere to the healthy diet that your healthcare provider recommends. Additionally, it's important to keep your calorie intake around 900-1,000 calories a day.
Before weight loss surgery, your stomach could hold around four cups of food. Post-surgery, your stomach capacity only holds a maximum of one cup of food at a time. To get adjusted to your "new normal," make sure you're portioning out your food correctly.
Over the course of your journey into better health, make sure to keep in mind that each individual's experience will vary slightly. If your doctor recommends a different course of action for your recovery diet, follow their recommendations.
What to Eat — and What to Avoid
When starting your gastric bypass diet, it's important to keep in mind that quality and quantity go in hand. So in addition to making sure you're eating smaller meals, you want to ensure that those meals are nutrient-packed and healthy. It's especially important to pay attention to getting protein after gastric bypass surgery, since this will help your body in the recovery process and help maintain your lean muscle. Once you've recovered, you should aim for 60-80 grams of protein a day.
Once you're eating solid foods again, your mealtimes can more or less return to normal. Granted, you'll be eating much smaller portions that usual, but you can still stay satisfied with delicious and nutritious whole foods. When you're enjoying meals, make sure you eat in the following order of importance to ensure your body gets all the nutrients it needs:
- Protein like skinless chicken, fish, eggs, dairy, and beans
- Cooked and raw vegetables like spinach, broccoli, green beans, and avocado
- Fresh fruits like apples, oranges, and bananas
- Healthy grains and starches in moderation
All of these foods are healthy and wholesome, and should help provide you with many of the vitamins and minerals you need to thrive. However, your doctor will still probably recommend that you take a multivitamin to fill in any gaps in nutrition. You also might need to take a calcium supplement combined with vitamin D, and possibly supplement with iron and vitamin B-12. Your healthcare team will guide you through the correct vitamins that your body needs.
Foods to Avoid
Getting gastric bypass surgery is a life-changing event and the start of an exciting journey. Start that journey off right by eliminating harmful elements from your diet:
- Avoid alcohol, since it's high in calories and low in nutrition
- Reduce or eliminate refined sugars
- Avoid carbonated drinks
- Avoid caffeine
- Eliminate hard-to-digest foods like fried foods
- Don't drink liquid with your meals.
Important Mealtime Tips
To keep your body functioning optimally after gastric bypass surgery, you'll need to adjust some of your regular eating and drinking habits after your surgery. Luckily, most of these changes should be simple for you to incorporate into your life, and will become easier the longer you practice your new habits:
- Stay hydrated. It's important to stay hydrated by drinking around 64 oz of water a day.
- Don't eat and drink at the same time. Because water can take up extra room in your pouch, it's important to leave space between drinking and eating. Don't drink water while eating. Stop drinking 30 minutes before you eat, and wait 30 minutes after eating to drink again.
- Protein first. Since protein is so important, and you may find yourself getting full after relatively little food, try to eat your protein sources first at mealtimes to ensure you always have room.
- Don't overeat. This is one of the most important concepts for post-gastric bypass patients. Overeating can have negative consequences, including vomiting, so it's important to measure your food out carefully.
- Eat slowly. In addition to allowing you the opportunity to really savor your meals, eating slowly can encourage you to chew your food more thoroughly and avoid overeating.
- Avoid snacking. Once you've transitioned to your diet of solids, it's important to stick to three meals a day without snacking in between. Generally, snacks will just add calories to your diet without offering you the nutritional punch you need.
Because the foods you'll eat in your gastric bypass diet are ordinary nutritious foods, your gastric bypass diet shouldn't interfere with your routine too drastically. In fact, it may become enjoyable to prepare and eat healthy meals with friends and family post-surgery.
Change That Lasts a Lifetime
When you make the decision to get gastric bypass surgery, you're embarking on a new stage of your life where you can hope to lose weight, improve your energy, and feel more satisfied after meals.
By following a gastric bypass diet, you can maximize the benefits of the surgery and increase your chances of a positive post-surgery experience.