long haul after wls

How to Eat for the Long Haul After WLS-Part 2

October 2, 2023

In part one of How to Eat for the Long Haul After WLS Part 1, we talked about the important role that mindfulness plays in your success. A mindful attitude means that you pay attention to details that you may have ignored before, such as how you feel when you eat. You listen to your body for cues such as recognizing you’ve had enough to eat instead of eating until you are over full. You focus on small bites and eat protein first, keeping yourself accountable.

These mindful strategies help you build and keep a healthy lifestyle. No more diets. It’s a lifestyle, a bariatric lifestyle, that includes behavior changes and tweaks in what you choose to eat so that you prevent weight regain. You eat good food that the whole family can enjoy and make sure you don’t feel deprived. Real food, not diet food!

Add these next five strategies to your bariatric lifestyle to move forward in eating long haul after WLS:

Strategy #1

Do a deep dive on protein

Protein is made up of amino acids, often called the building blocks of protein. There are nine essential amino acids we need from food because your body doesn’t produce them. After bariatric surgery, your primary goal is to consume high-quality protein sources containing these nine amino acids so that you meet your nutritional needs. There are many good protein sources from plants but because of your need for high-quality protein with all nine amino acids, animal-based proteins such as seafood and fish, poultry, beef, pork, eggs and dairy along with plant-based soy protein are better choices. Known as complete protein, these high-quality protein sources contain all nine of the essential amino acids your body needs in the right amounts. Don’t miss those last four words…in the right amounts.

Plant-based proteins such as lentils, split peas, beans including pinto, black or kidney are considered incomplete proteins as they lack one or more of the nine essential amino acids that your body needs. They are also higher in carbs, although they do contain the type of carbs you want to eat, called complex or smart carbs with fiber. What should you do? You can absolutely work them into your diet as they are so nutritious but with a close eye on portion size along with grams of carbs. Think of the protein in them as a bonus to the complex carb and fiber benefits. Nuts and seeds also contain some protein but are high in fat, the heart healthy fat typically, but still keep an eye on portions due to the calories in them.

Strategy #2

For every 100 calories, 10 grams should be protein

Let me explain. For every 100 calories you eat, a minimum of 10 grams should come from lean, high-quality protein sources. For example, let’s say you drink a protein shake with 200 calories. It should contain how many grams of protein? Right …20 grams of protein at a minimum, which is 10 grams of protein per 100 calories. So if the drink has 25 grams of protein, you would be in good shape. How do you know if you are on track? If the food you are about to choose comes in a container, go to the Nutrition Facts label. Look to see the total number of calories per serving and then look at the total grams of protein per serving. Remember, for every 100 calories per serving, there should be 10 grams of protein too.

Strategy #3

Ditch the grazing

You know what I mean about grazing. Picking up food to munch on it just because. Because it’s a bad day, someone was a jerk at work and made you mad, your favorite TV show is on and you mindless munch, or some person made a rude remark that upset you. Unfortunately, in this world, these things probably won’t stop happening, so how you respond becomes much more important. What matters is you and your success…period. The problem with grazing for all of us (or emotional/stress eating as I call it) is that we tend to feel even worse after we eat to cover our emotions. Plus, when you reach for food to graze or snack on, what do you typically reach for? Not lean chicken or tuna, but more likely chips or ice cream or some type of candy. Likely a slider food or one that is highly processed with zero nutritional value that goes down easily with little chewing or thought. You know the ones…the goodies you tend to reach for under stress. Finding another outlet that doesn’t involve food is critical here…read a book, work on a craft project, walk, call a friend, just don’t graze or emotionally eat. It will derail all of your hard work.

Strategy #4

Choose smart carbs

Smart carbs are vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans and lentils that contain fiber and are considered complex carbs versus highly processed empty-calorie carbs that we mentioned above in grazing. Total carb grams per day vary individually but aim for around 90-130 depending on how far out from surgery you are and what your dietitian suggests. Often at 6 months out, the carb suggestion will be around 90 grams a day, working up to 130 grams over 1 year down the track. However, this can really vary and you may need a lot more carbs depending on how hard you work out, if you’re an athlete, and the type of surgery, so a carb discussion with your dietitian is one to put on your list.

Strategy #5

Focus on fluids to stay hydrated

Focus on fluids to stay hydrated and to help prevent constipation. Do you remember your fluid needs? At least eight cups, 64 ounces or 2 liters. And when? Before and after meals, not at the same time. Again, if you work out regularly, your fluid needs will increase. If you’re an athlete, consider a consultation with a bariatric sports dietitian for a specific plan.

You’ve got this. Think of it for what it is…healthy eating with a bariatric spin on it to go the long haul.

Bariatric dietitian Dr. Susan Mitchell is host of the podcast Bariatric Surgery Success.

Susan Mitchell


Bariatric dietitian Dr. Susan Mitchell is host of the podcast Bariatric Surgery Success. Selected as one of the Best 35 Dietitian Podcasts, Bariatric Surgery Success was chosen from thousands of podcasts on the web ranked by traffic, social media followers, domain authority & freshness. Dr. Susan helps you conquer cravings, emotional eating and weight regain after bariatric surgery with a focus on your nutrition and health, journey and success. Read more articles by Susan!