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Proper Portions After Weight Loss Surgery

By: Dr. Scott Perryman

Weight loss surgeries cause weight loss, in part, by restricting the amount of food the stomach can hold at one time. The stomach pouch capacity will depend on the type of procedure performed, the time elapsed since surgery, and what type of food the person is eating. While the stomach pouch is swollen and limited in space immediately following surgery, it will allow a slightly larger portion of food after healing. 

3-6 ounces of food at a time is the general rule of thumb, though it will vary per individual. This amount of food is ideal for getting enough protein and other macronutrients while staying in a caloric deficit. The 3-6 ounce guideline mainly applies to balanced meals, which are critical following weight loss surgery. The stomach restriction makes portion control a necessity; however, the practice should become a lifelong habit if patients want to keep weight off long-term.

How To Stay Within Your Limits After Weight Loss Surgery

Following surgery, patients must stick to small, nutritious, and well-balanced meals to avoid harming the stomach and weight loss efforts. There are several ways that patients can keep their portions small, including:

  • Eating balanced meals with essential macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat) 
  • Eat lean meats, veggies, whole grains, healthy fats while avoiding sugary processed foods.
  • Track food intake using an app like Fitbit 
  • Savor food and eat slowly, taking lots of bites 
  • Drink an adequate amount of water and avoid soda and juice 

Generally, in the first few months following surgery, your calorie intake should be no more than 1,000 calories per day, focusing on liquids as the stomach swelling goes down. Solids should be introduced gradually.

What To Eat

While patients should eat no more than 1,000 calories per day, they also need to ensure that their meals are balanced with enough protein, carbs, and fat. 

To keep things balanced, here is a guide for the daily limits of major food groups: 

  • 3 servings dairy 
  • 3 servings meat or meat alternatives
  • 3 servings starches
  • 1 serving fruit
  • 2 servings vegetable (well-cooked)

Recommended portion sizes are 1/4 cup for solids and 1/2 cup for liquids. Regardless of food type, patients should always stop eating just when they begin to feel full. Even mild over-eating could result in pain and stretching the stomach pouch over time. It’s best to focus on mindful eating and recognizing satiety signals. 

While some patients opt for the traditional three meals per day schedule, other individuals may find that when they eat smaller, more frequent meals, they notice that hunger, appetite, and blood sugar are more balanced and controlled.

What To Drink

Drinking water is essential to help our body systems function at their best. While coffee, soda, and tea are liquids, they do not hydrate the body the way that water does. Sip about eight ounces of water between each small meal, six to eight times a day. You can set a reminder on your phone if that helps you to remember. 

It’s best to avoid drinking any alcoholic beverages; following surgery, alcohol is absorbed more quickly, and it can be a hindrance to weight loss goals.

Supplements

In addition to eating a nutritious diet, supplements can also help ensure you are getting the proper blend of nutrients. Following weight loss surgery, vitamins should be crushed up and not taken whole to avoid stomach discomfort. Here is a quick list of beneficial vitamins for patients to take: 

Multivitamins

Take a high-potency daily chewable multivitamin and mineral supplement that contains a minimum of 18 mg of iron, 400 mcg of folic acid, selenium, copper and zinc. 

Calcium Supplement

Take 1,200 to 2,000 mg of calcium daily to prevent calcium deficiency and bone disease.

Vitamin D Supplement

Take a total of 800 to 1,000 International Units (IUs) of vitamin D each day. This total amount should be taken in divided doses of 400 to 500 IUs twice a day. 

Vitamin B12 Supplement

Take 500 mcg of vitamin B daily. It can be taken as a tablet or placed under the tongue.

Other supplements can be discussed directly with your provider.

Looking Ahead

Though weight loss surgery helps you lose weight by limiting the amount of food you can comfortably hold in your stomach, it is no magic, and patients still need to pay close attention to their diet, water intake, and satiety signals. Portion control is imperative to reducing calories and ultimately losing weight. As time goes on, patients will get used to recognizing appropriate portions. 

Each meal should look roughly like this: 

  • Vegetables or salad: Half a plate
  • High-quality protein: Quarter of a plate
  • Complex carbs: Quarter of a plate 
  • High-fat foods: Half a tablespoon (7 grams)

Protein is especially beneficial to patients if eaten first, before other foods. Due to the nature of protein taking longer to digest, eating it first will reduce appetite and delay how quickly other foods will be broken down. Adequate protein will help keep you full longer and support better blood sugar control. 

Contrary to popular belief, carbs are not the enemy. Patients should opt for healthy, high-fiber options like oatmeal, whole-grain bread, sweet potatoes, squashes, etc., instead of processed, refined carbs. 

Above all, losing weight and keeping it off after weight loss surgery comes down to mindfulness. You must align your mind with your goals to reach them. Setting daily intentions can be powerful. An intention can be a simple thought like:

I will choose a protein first. 

I will avoid the 4 horsemen of obesity. 

I will devote 45 minutes to aerobic exercise today. 

I will choose consciously.

While weight loss isn’t easy, weight loss surgery, proper diet, and mindfulness can help patients achieve their wellness goals.

Schedule a consultation with the Whole Health Weight Loss Institute to start your weight loss journey today through medical intervention, exercise, nutrition, and mindfulness.