I had my first week of maternity leave this week!…
Here are my golden rules for life after gastric bypass surgery. Literally everything in my life in regards to food has changed after gastric bypass surgery. There are things I have had to give up and will never eat again and obviously because I have a markedly smaller stomach than before, I have much smaller portions. There are some other new habits I have had to adopt to make sure my gastric bypass is successful and to make sure I take care of my new physiology.
- Take small bites
I have a tiny tummy now and sitting just above it is a siliastic ring. The purpose of the ring is to make it much harder to stretch the stomach back out post surgery. This is one of the reasons why I now have to have small bites of things. If I eat to fast things get a bit ugly and I am in pain for a while until things pass. I make this easier for myself by using smaller cutlery.
- Chew, chew, chew
The vast majority of my stomach has been taken out of action and I have been left with a very small pouch. As well as that the main acid producing part of my stomach has been taken out of action. This means I need to chew every mouthful about 30 times (or as I affectionately call it ‘to death’) before swallowing to make sure my system can break it down and process it properly. The chewing lots goes hand in hand with the small bites really and helps to stretch out time between mouthfuls.
- Have a break from fluids before and after eating
I can’t have fluids for 30 minutes before and after eating. The main point of this is that I have such little volume in my stomach now that if it was half full with water at meal times I would never get all of my protein in. There is a bit more to this though and I will be writing a whole post specifically relating to it soon. This is the one rule that took me ages to adjust to and that still frustrates me from time to time.
- Don’t take more than 30 minutes per meal
My capacity restriction is only helpful to a point. If I was to graze over a meal say for an hour or so I could technically get twice as much in. You also tend to eat much more when you eat in a relaxed fashion over a longer period of time. So as an occasional one-off it’s ok but it not an appropriate eating style long-term and too often. Also if I was to take forever to eat I would seriously cut into the already limited time I have for fluids .
- No snacks allowed
I specifically have three meals a day. I can comfortably get my protein in in those three meals so there is no need for me to snack. Also snack time tends to be the easiest time to make poor food decisions and it can be a bit of a slippery slope and create new habits that can be hard to break. Also if you were snacking a couple of times a day that again would cut too much into fluid times and would make that challenging.
- Vitamins EVERY day
Malabsorption can be a big issue post bariatric surgery depending on what procedure you have and for gastric bypass patients it is a daily concern. I have vitamins morning and night and have to keep this up for the rest of my life. Because of the physiological changes and the impact that has on malabsorption I need to take 200 percent of my daily vitamin needs and all kidding aside if I didn’t I would die. This can be looked at one of the downsides to a gastric bypass in particular.
- Stop eating as soon as you feel full
Having such a small tummy there is a very fine line (literally a teaspoon or two) between I feel okay and I’m full. What I saw as a benefit prior to having surgery is if you eat too much after surgery you will throw up. It’s a good physiological limit that I now can’t ignore. I have always been really careful and haven’t pushed myself in this respect because especially initially I was really scared of rupturing the newly sealed lines.
- Say Yeah, Nah to straws
When you use a straw you tend to take in lots more air that drinking normally out of a cup so it’s not recommended. I stuck to this religiously after surgery for about the first year and gave myself a huge fright the first time after surgery when I realised I was inadvertently using one. I will occasionally use one now but it usually just leads to lots of little burps so it’s not much fun I have to say.
- Focus your eating on protein
I know I have gone on about this quite a bit on here but protein is really important to focus on food wise for post gastric bypass patients. The first thing I work out about any meal is the protein portion of it and then let the rest come together around that. The goal of 60-80 grams of protein a day is not set for fun or to torture us it’s to make sure we stay healthy and feel good.
- Limit alcohol
For the first year after surgery there is a very strict rule not to drink any alcohol for a multitude of reasons. One of the most important is that it’s filled with empty calories and has absolutely no nutritional value. It is also quite common for women, in particular, to develop alcoholism after surgery so that is something to be aware of. Even after the first year it is important to always be mindful of your behaviour around alcohol but I will save that for another post!
I’m really interested in your reaction to these golden rules that I have made the commitment to live by for the rest of my life. I am a person who thrives on structure and direction and one of the big advantages I saw for myself prior to surgery were these rules and how that would positively impact on my ability to maintain my weight. I’m so used to all of these now that they are automatic for me and just a part of my everyday life. If you’re considering or have had a gastric bypass which ones stick out as the ones you think will be hardest to live with? Let me know in the comments below.