Ensuring Proper Portion Control After Bariatric Surgery
Portion control is one of the hardest aspects of post bariatric surgery life. After surgery, you may only be able to eat 20% or so of what you ate before.
In the early stages of postoperative life, patients quickly realize that they simply cannot eat as much as they used to. This is particularly true for patients who have undergone stapled surgical procedures such as the gastric bypass, gastric sleeve or duodenal switch. These procedures physically reduce the size of the stomach so drastically that it is uncomfortable, and in many cases, painful when patients eat too much. Some surgical patients also have a self-limiting condition known as dumping syndrome making them feel physically ill if they eat too much food; or the wrong foods (sugary, fatty, etc.).
However, in the years after bariatric surgery, your portion size may gradually increase. This is normal – the stomach is a very adaptable organ. But, this also makes it easier to overeat and ultimately start to regain weight. This is where continued portion control becomes particularly important.
So how do you make sure that you are getting the right portions?
The most critical piece of advice each of our surgeons will try to impress upon you is to eat slowly. When you eat slowly, you give your body the opportunity to be satisfied and send the appropriate fullness signals to the brain. Eating quickly often leads to consuming too much and ultimately feeling overfull, not enjoying your meals and gaining weight.
If you will be ordering from a restaurant, or even going out, it is best that you select from the menu beforehand and ideally shortly after your previous meal. Why? When you create a plan in advance, you are more likely to stick to it. Further, choosing your food when you’re not hungry eliminates the emotional and impulsive eating that comes with last-minute food choices.
Unfortunately, portion sizes have gotten bigger and bigger over the years. For example, hamburgers today can be more than double or triple the size of those just a few decades ago. Therefore, when eating out and not having control over your portion sizes, it’s a good idea to take half of and put it in a to-go box before you even start eating. Not only do you make the most of your food, but also you are far less likely to overeat.
Drink a big glass of water 45 minutes to an hour before your meal. Doing so reduces the likelihood of your body mistaking thirst for hunger. Head hunger, as it is known, is a leading cause of overeating. Along the same lines, you must stay hydrated making sure you drink 64+ ounces of water each and every day. You may need even more water throughout the day if you are particularly active during the summer months.
Don’t drink liquid with your meals. Drinking water forces food through your G.I. tract largely undigested and, amongst other things, can increase the risk of dumping syndrome.
But portion control is not always enough. You can eat smaller amounts of the wrong foods and still gain weight. The goal here is to eat the right amount of food AND ensure it is healthy food that conforms to your diet. Pay particular attention to your postoperative bariatric plan so you understand the principles of your new nutritional plan. For example, not all carbs and fats are bad. In fact, the healthy ones in these areas are really good for you and necessary for your continued health.