How to Ace the First Three Months After Bariatric Surgery
Bariatric surgery is a big deal. After the procedure, you may feel as though you have been caught in a whirlwind and you do not know which way is up. What should you do in the hospital and then when you get home to give yourself every opportunity to succeed? Here are some tips for how to ace the first three months after bariatric surgery.
You know this from talking to your surgeon. You’ll do a lot of prep work before bariatric surgery! You may have a special diet to follow for a few weeks or at least a couple of days before surgery. There will be pre-op tests to make sure you are physically and psychologically ready for weight loss surgery.
There are more steps you can take beforehand to prepare for surgery. For example, it is best to clear your kitchen of anything that’s not on your post-op diet. Sometimes that is not possible if people in your household, such as a significant other or children, are still planning to eat things that are not on your post-op diet.
You might also want to check to make sure you have a few soft cushions and blankets around so you can be more comfortable while you recover.
Early Steps Post-Op
Right after surgery, the main emphasis may be on feeling better, staying hydrated, and getting moving.
You may have a good amount of discomfort. Symptoms may include the following.
- Pain in the abdominal area
- Nausea and vomiting
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Not feeling hungry
- Feeling tired or weak
While some pain or discomfort may be normal, it is important that you tell a nurse or healthcare provider about any worrisome symptoms. As time passes, these symptoms should become less severe and should resolve.
Even while you are still in the hospital, and possibly not feeling very strong, it is important to try to drink as much as you can. Since your throat will possibly be sore, you may need to start with sucking on ice chips before moving to water and other liquids.
Drinking fluids is a priority. You need to stay hydrated to feel better and to heal optimally. Even more severe is if you get dehydrated. It can land you back in the hospital or emergency room if you require an IV to get your fluids.
It may seem hard at first, but getting moving can help you feel better. You may need a nurse to help you stand up when you first try to get up in the hospital, but you may be able to make fast progress. Usually, the more you walk, the better you will soon feel.
Ready to Come Home from the Hospital
You may be released within a day or two from the hospital. Are you ready to come home? Here are some things to think about before you are on your own.
Know Your Contacts
What happens if you need help? Do you know whom to contact and how to get in touch? These are some people to have on your list.
- Personal contacts in case something comes up, such as needing groceries or needing a ride.
- Phone number of the surgeon’s office.
- After-hours number in case you need help on weekends or late at night.
- Contact information for members of the team such as a dietitian and psychologist.
Also, be sure you know when your next follow-up appointment is scheduled.
Fully stocked kitchen
What you eat after surgery helps set the stage for the next few months. Your kitchen should be ready for your arrival. It is not just about getting rid of problem foods that are especially sugary, fatty, or starchy.
It is also a good idea to stock up on protein and other items that you will need after surgery. That way, you will not be scrambling to obtain them when you come home from the hospital and need them immediately or may not be feeling 100%. These are some items that may be especially important to get your protein in a liquid form.
It is good to try and stock up on a variety of flavors to be sure you have ones that you like.
Post-Op Diet Progression After Bariatric Surgery
Your diet will progress after bariatric surgery. You will start with clear liquids and progress to full liquids, pureed foods, semi-soft foods, and finally solid foods. Be sure to check with your
The amount of time that you stay in each phase depends on the type of surgery you had. It also depends on how your body is doing. It is never worth it to rush to the next stage if your body is not ready.
The clear liquid stage could be as short as a day, but it could last a little longer. These are the liquids that may be on it.
- Water, flavored water, or ice water
- Diet juice drinks and other drinks that are not carbonated
- Broth or bouillon
- Popsicles or sugar-free ice pops
- Gelatin or sugar-free gelatin
- Decaf or herbal tea
- Decaf coffee
- Sports drinks
- Pulp-free fruit juices (orange and other citrus juices may be off limits due to acidity)
A clear liquid diet does not have enough nutrients for the long term, but it can help you stay hydrated.
After hours or days, you can move to a full liquid diet. That means you can have liquids that have protein in them. That way, you can start to hit protein goals, which may be around 65 grams of protein per day.
These are some examples of liquids that you may be able to add when you start your full liquid diet.
- Protein Shakes, Protein Powders, and Meal Replacement Shakes
- Protein Soup, Broth, and Bouillon
- Skim milk and soy milk
- Protein Hot Drinks, such as Hot Cocoa, Cappuccino, and Mocha
- Cream Soups
When choosing protein shakes and other items, be sure to check for sugar content. Many brands of protein shakes and meal replacement shakes are high in sugar or carbs. The BariatricPal Store has a wide range of brands and flavors that are low-carb and suitable for bariatric patients.
Protein shakes may be what come to mind first when you think about liquid proteins, but Protein Soups can be a nice option. They can offer a contrast to cold shakes, since they are warm and comforting. They are also a nice contrast in flavor, offering a salty or savory flavor when the rest of your diet may be sweet.
The BariatricPal Store has many varieties of Protein Soup. They are easy to use, since they come in single-serving packets and only need water and a stove or microwave to prepare. They are easy to take to work or use at home.
These are some flavors.
- Clear Soups, such as Chicken and Beef Bouillon
- Cream Soups, such as Cream of Tomato, Chicken, and Vegetable
- More fun flavors, such as Bacon and Cheese, and Broccoli and Cheddar
Most have between 12 and 15 grams of protein, and they are low in carbs.
After a few days or weeks, your surgeon or dietitian can give you the go-ahead to start eating pureed foods. This can be a treat after such a limited diet! Here is a list of what you may be able to add during this phase.
- Pureed cottage cheese
- Creamy peanut and nut butters
- Protein Pudding and Protein Gelatin
- Yogurt without fruit chunks
- Canned fruit, mashed ripe bananas, and unsweetened applesauce
- Silken tofu (the soft kind)
- Pureed potatoes or sweet potatoes with water
- Cream of wheat and farina
You can try putting unflavored Protein Powder in foods that are not naturally high in protein, such as mixing it into watery mashed sweet potatoes or pureed carrots. You can also add it to higher-protein foods to increase the protein content, such as mixing it with yogurt or pureed cottage cheese.
Finally, you will start to get to more normal eating patterns! These are semi-soft foods you may be able to enjoy a couple of weeks or a month after surgery.
- Canned tuna or chicken
- Extra—lean ground beef, chicken or turkey
- Eggs, egg whites or fat-free, cholesterol-free egg substitute
- Well-cooked rice and pasta
- Fresh, ripe fruit
- Well-cooked vegetables (not broccoli, asparagus, celery)
- Low-fat or fat-free cheese
- Imitation crab meat or fresh crab meat
- Fish—be very careful of bones
- Cooked beans and lentils
Protein Soups can help make your diet more interesting while adding to your protein intake. Protein Beef and Chicken Bouillon are good for baking and adding flavor and protein, while you can take any BariatricPal Protein Soup and add well-cooked vegetables, ground turkey, or fish to make a more satisfying meal.
You may be able to add solid foods after a month or two, but you may not get here within three months. It depends on how everything goes. During this phase, your eating patterns should start to be close to how they will be long-term.
The goal is to include nutritious foods. That means emphasizing lean proteins and vegetables, and choosing healthy fats and high-fiber carbs to fill in the rest of your diet.
Staying Nourished After Bariatric Surgery
Bariatric surgery patients need to take vitamins for life. That is because they are at risk for nutrient deficiencies. Gastric sleeve and biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch (BPD-DS) patients are at higher risk, but all bariatric patients are advised to take vitamins. It is also good to keep watching your protein intake.
Best Bariatric Vitamins
Compared to regular vitamins, bariatric vitamins have higher amounts of key nutrients. The best bariatric vitamins are easy to take. BariatricPal Multivitamin ONE:
- Is formulated according to ASMBS standards.
- Comes in options with varying levels of iron.
- Is easy to take.
- Comes in easy-swallow, coated capsules or pleasant-tasting chewables.
Bariatric surgery patients should take a separate calcium supplement because of absorption issues. BariatricPal Calcium Soft Chews taste like candy but are sugar-free and packed with calcium and vitamin D for absorption and probiotics for gut health.*
These are some flavors.
- French Vanilla Caramel
- Belgian Chocolate
- Strawberry Watermelon Twist
- Caramel Apple
- Wild Grape
- Orange Creamsicle
Best Meal Replacement
Meal replacement shakes can offer protein and nutrients in a convenient formula. BariatricPal Protein ONE comes in delicious Strawberry Delight, Double Chocolate Fudge, and Creamy Vanilla flavors. It has the following.
- 27 grams of high-quality medical-grade whey protein
- 28 essential vitamins and minerals
- Calcium, iron, and 5 grams of fiber
With BariatricPal Protein ONE, you can get nourishment anywhere and anytime.
Weight Loss Goals
Actually, we put this section last for a reason. That’s because your weight loss goal is not really the best thing to focus on during the first few months after bariatric surgery. Instead, it is more important to get healthy and to set a solid foundation for weight loss. That can mean doing the following.
- Drinking a lot of fluids.
- Following the orders of your surgeon and dietitian.
- Walking as much as you can.
- Practicing new eating habits.
If you do the actions you are supposed to do, and you make the choices that your healthcare providers recommend, the weight loss will follow. The exact amount of weight you lose during this time is not consistent for everyone, and it is more important to learn new, healthy habits.
Bariatric surgery changes your life without a doubt. What happens in the first three months after your procedure can set the stage for successful weight loss and a healthier lifestyle in the months and years to come. You have a lot of control over your fate, so prepare yourself well and depend on the BariatricPal Store for the products you need. We are here to make your health and weight loss journey easier and more successful every step of the way.
*The Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated these statements. BariatricPal Store products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Anyone with a medical condition should seek the advice of a licensed medical practitioner. Individual results may vary.