Post Weight Loss Surgery Secrets to Success


Eat only at mealtime

A meal is not just what and when you eat, but also how you eat.  You should be eating five to six small meals per day. These meals will be small portions, so will feel more like “snacks”.  You will need to plan out these meals as much as possible, eliminate distractions while eating, and although portions will be small, think of these small portions as a meal.  Many of our calories throughout the day come from mindless eating, snacking, grazing, and liquid calories. Your total caloric intake will determine how much weight you will lose long-term.


Protein is the main source of the building materials our bodies require to repair and maintain our organs. Your protein needs as a bariatric patient are 1.5 times more than someone who has not had surgery.  When you eat, always eat your protein first, and plan your meals around your protein source.  You will need protein for healing of your stomach, staple line, and incisions.  In a state of severe caloric restriction, your body likes to take muscle mass for energy.  Prevent this from occurring by ensuring you are meeting your protein needs through foods and supplements.  Healthy hair, skin, and nails rely on sufficient protein in your diet as well. Hair loss can be temporary for the first 6 months following surgery due to the stress of surgery and hormone shifts that occur, but ultimately is dependent on your protein intake, as is collagen and elastin in your skin tissue.  Protein also is the nutrient that keeps you satisfied (feeling full), and protein takes more energy to burn in your body than other nutrients.

Eat slowly

You should be consuming your meals over a 20-minute period, as this is the time it takes for your brain to get the signal that your stomach is full.  Your stomach capacity will be much smaller after surgery, so you will fill up quickly. It is essential that you slow down your meal time to ensure you do not overfill your stomach.  A good way to slow down your meal time is to chew every bite 15-20 times before swallowing. This will not only force you to slow down, but will also make sure that your food is adequately chewed so that it is safe to swallow.

Avoid Sweets and Sugars

Foods that contain added sugar may not make you feel well after surgery.  “Dumping syndrome” (for bypass patients) is the rapid transit of sugar into the small intestine.  Symptoms experienced with dumping syndrome include weakness, lightheadedness, diarrhea, and cramping which usually lasts 30 to 40 minutes after ingestion of sugary foods or liquids.  Regardless of which procedure you are having, sugar should be avoided. Sugar is an addictive substance that adds to caloric intake without providing any nutritive value. To identify added sugars in foods, read the food labels.  Learn “code words” for sugar. If the list of ingredients contains sucrose, glucose, corn syrup or fructose in the first 4 ingredients, it should be avoided. There is another section in this packet that will outline how to read a food label so you can identify added sugars in a product.

Stay Hydrated

Drink generous amounts of water or any calorie-free, caffeine-free, non-carbonated beverage frequently throughout the day.  You should try to drink a minimum of 64 ounces per day. Fluid needs are calculated based on your height, so taller than average patients will need more than 64 ounces per day.  Carry a bottle of water or other beverage with you at all times, and take small sips of this liquid throughout the day. Gauge your hydration by the fact that you are urinating several times during the day, and that your urine is light yellow in color.  The main focus immediately following surgery is staying hydrated.

Take Your Vitamins

Vitamins are necessary for the proper functioning of the body’s systems.  The body does not make vitamins. We must take them in as food or supplement them as needed.  Following bariatric surgery, there are some nutrients that have the potential to be depleted. We recommend that you take a bariatric-specific multivitamin and calcium every day (starting 2 weeks after surgery) to avoid nutritional deficiencies.

Limit Fats

Fats have a very high content of calories (9 calories per gram vs 4 calories per gram for protein or carbohydrates), but no real nutritional value.  Any significant intake of fats, such as cooking oils, salad dressings, mayonnaise, or butter will seriously decrease your rate of weight loss. Avoid adding fats during cooking or at the table to reduce your overall caloric intake.  Remember that daily total caloric intake will determine your weight loss. When cooking, it is better to bake, poach, broil or boil instead of frying or sautéing.

Avoid Carbonated Beverages and Straws

It is recommended that you avoid carbonation and straws after surgery due to the introduction of air into the stomach, which potentially could stretch your stomach.  Stretching of the stomach leads to you taking longer to feel full when eating, which could lead to weight regain. Pain is usually experienced when drinking carbonated beverages due to the introduction of air into the stomach.

Avoid Alcohol

It is recommended that you avoid alcohol for 6 months following surgery due to the stress on the liver.  Alcohol will be absorbed quickly, as your stomach is the site of alcohol absorption. You will metabolize alcohol differently as well.  You must count calories of alcoholic drinks if you choose to consume alcohol after the 6 month period, as calories will add up quickly. Never consume more than 2 drinks within a 24 hour period.

Do Not Smoke

You must quit smoking prior to surgery due to the dangers of nicotine and tobacco after surgery. Nicotine constricts blood vessels and therefore decreases blood flow to the stomach.  It can slow healing of your staple line or anastomosis. Tobacco has been linked to bleeding and the formation of marginal ulcers in bariatric surgery patients.