Guide to Get Back On Track With Healthy Living After Bariatric SurgeryNovember 11, 2020
Guide To Get Back On Track
Weight loss surgery is a powerful tool to aid you in making better nutrition choices, but your lifestyle changes go far beyond surgery. And, of course, things happen (hello, worldwide pandemic!), life changes, and it may not always feel easy or natural to adjust healthily. This is a guide to get back on track with weight loss and healthy living. Even if you've "fallen off the wagon," use this guide to get back on track! These suggestions are tailored for those 3+ months post-surgery and should be approved by your medical team.
Guide To Get Back On Track - 10 Tips
QUANTIFY YOUR INTAKE
The best way to get accuracy in terms of consumed calories and nutrients is to track all food and beverages that you take in. This method is backed by research. It’s optimal to do this daily.
For the best results: use a nutritional tracking app, record frequently, and use accurate portion sizes. Don’t forget that beverages and ingredients added during cooking should also be recorded. Tracking your intake allows you to know precisely how many calories you are taking in to be sure you are not exceeding your daily goals.
LEARN ABOUT NUTRITION
You should take six months to a year to learn about nutrition. Basic topics you should master are foods and food groups, bariatric serving sizes, what a balanced bariatric meal should look like, and proper protein intake.
Learning this will help you when you’re on vacation, in a rush, eating out, or any other situation where you are not cooking your own food. Knowing this info thoroughly will help you meet your daily goals. Lean on your dietitian and clinical team during this time.
FOCUS ON WATER
Proper hydration is important in many essential body functions. To keep everything running smoothly, be sure to get at least 64 oz of calorie-free, carbonation-free fluid each day.
Water is considered the healthiest option, but there are many calorie-free alternatives on the market. Carbonation is not recommended because of the volume that can be created by the gas. With a smaller stomach, you may have to sip more often throughout the day to reach your needs. Also, remember that it is recommended not to drink liquids with meals. This helps save space for whole foods and can reduce stomach stretching.
GET ENOUGH PROTEIN
Protein is a key nutrient of concern for bariatric patients. Protein is needed for many functions in the body. Muscle growth and maintenance is dependent on proper protein intake. This is important because muscle is key factor is successful long-term weight loss.
Bariatric patients usually need 60 – 80 grams of protein per day. This equates to about 3 – 4 deck of cards-sized servings of meat per day which can be a considerable amount post-surgery. You may opt to use a protein supplement to ensure that you are getting enough.
EAT MORE PLANTS
Non-starchy vegetables like squash, broccoli, artichokes, radishes, etc. are great for creating a healthy meal. They are low in calories, high in fiber, and packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. Choose fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables.
The best options are without added sodium, fat, or sugar. The more colors on your plate, the better! If you’re struggling with hunger, this is the food group to increase in size. The volume and fiber of vegetables help make us feel full without calorie surplus.
GET CREATIVE WITH FOOD AND RECIPES
There are countless foods that are healthy and appropriate for a bariatric lifestyle. If you feel like you’re in a rut with healthy meals, start getting creative!
You can use low-sodium herbs and spices like ginger, garlic, cilantro and more to infuse flavor into meals. Try enhancing your recipes with robust fruits and vegetables like lemons, jalapenos, and artichokes.
You can invest in new cooking equipment like slow cookers, air fryers, pressure cookers, and more. Scour the Internet for bariatric recipes or low-calorie recipes. Check out cookbooks from the library for free. Don’t be afraid to try new things, taste changes are common after bariatric surgery. Dip your toe into ethnic foods like Asian, Indian, or Mediterranean.
This guide to get back on track includes more than food but exercise and activity are important components. Exercise is essential to maintaining weight loss. Studies show that only a small percentage of bariatric patients regularly exercise after initial weight loss. The weekly recommendation for exercise is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise with strength training at least twice.
Cardiovascular exercise is typically more heart-healthy while resistance exercise helps build muscle. With substantial weight loss comes some muscle loss and metabolic changes. Resistance exercise can help combat that loss and boost your metabolism.
As you exercise and become stronger and gain endurance, your activities may need to change to continue to challenge yourself. As you continue to exercise, you should change the frequency, timing, type, and/or intensity of your exercise. If you have not been exercising regularly, remember to start where you are. Walking or aquatic exercises are great for beginners!
Consider using an experienced personal trainer for safe progression. Exercise should be scheduled into your daily routine and should be above-and-beyond activities of daily living (i.e. standing for work, a step-goal, house cleaning, etc). These activities are also part of a healthy lifestyle but do not replace planned exercise.
Having a food plan will exponentially improve your weight loss success. However, this may be one of the most difficult habits to implement. Meal planning can make a vast impact on healthy eating. Start with your meal pattern and timing (i.e. how many times a day you will eat- breakfast, lunch, dinner? Snacks? and when). Then think about where you will be and what is food and storage-options are accessible. Coupling this with your meal prep and nutrition goals will complete your plan.
Planning your meals also gets most of your grocery list done! Shopping with a list can keep junk food and impulse-buying to a minimum. You can save money, reduce food waste and eat healthier with a meal plan.
Lose the rigid diet mentality. Don’t expect perfection. Pat yourself on the back for the healthy things you have done. Weight loss is a journey and there will be ups and downs along the way, but its hard work! Remember that you’ve already done a lot of great things and will continue to build.
There is not one “bad” action that undoes all the “good” ones you’ve done so far. Bullet journaling/habit tracking is a fun way to see your progress build. Focus on healthy behaviors more than numbers or outcomes.
Bariatric weight loss in not a solo journey. Seek out and rely on friends, family, medical professionals and others who have had surgery for support. Building a strong supportive team around yourself will help hold you accountable and provide comfort as you navigate this new lifestyle. Reach out to those you know.
There are also great resources or online, via bariatric organizations or social media. Your team should provide you encouragement with nutrition, exercise, emotions, side effects, and stress relief. Don’t forget about your medical professionals.
If you’ve fallen off the wagon for a while, remember, you CAN do this! Getting back on track is about being consistently better, not perfect.
Use any resources and tools you need to help you get back on track. Good luck and keep working hard!
ABOUT THE AUTHORDanielle McClure is a registered dietitian for UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. Danielle is a Wellness Dietitian, working with people for weight loss and weight gain. She meets with bariatric patients prior to surgery to promote weight loss and success post-surgery. Danielle has extensive experience and interest in education, public speaking, event planning and wellness.