Here’s a hard truth about bariatric surgery:
If you don’t change your habits, you will fall behind your goals.
If you don’t change your mindset, you won’t make it as far as opposed to when you do.
When it comes down to the bariatric basics – there are 7 key lifestyle habits that lay at the foundation of your bariatric journey.
And we’re going to tell you exactly what these habits are. Make sure to read all the way to the end of this post to learn how to get a head start with changing your habits.
But first, let’s start with key habit number 1. Ready? Let’s go!
1. Follow your post-surgery diet plan to a T
So you had your surgery, now what?
You may feel anxious to jump on the scale right away – but now is the time for rest and recovery. Yes, everyone’s post-op timeline looks different, but one thing is for certain: your body needs to heal.
(by the way, let’s not forget about the HUGE adjustment that’s going on in your brain right now – eating and drinking is so different, right?).
It’s important to follow the specific dietary guidelines provided by your surgeon and dietitian in order to maximize the success of your surgery and to promote proper healing.
The post-op diet isn’t an option, it’s an absolute non-negotiable!
In the post-op diet, you slowly introduce new foods and textures to your new stomach.
It allows your sutures to heal properly too. Will it be easy? Absolutely not!
But remember, you can do hard things. And this is only the beginning of your journey. One hurdle down – many victories to go!
Let’s move on to habit #2.
2. Drink plenty of water
That’s easier said than done right?
There are many things that can get in the way of staying hydrated after bariatric surgery, such as:
- Feeling too much restriction (simply put: you’re too full)
- Not being able to tolerate plain water (just the thought of it makes you gag….)
- Not being able to drink with your meals, which makes it a real puzzle to get your liquids in!
Nevertheless, it’s crucial to stay hydrated after bariatric surgery. If you can’t tolerate water, there are other ways to keep up with your guidelines. Click here if you need 7 hydration tips that actually work.
Generally, it’s advised to drink about 64 fl ounces a day, although hydration guidelines differ from person to person.
3. Eat slowly and chew thoroughly
Why is it so important to follow this rule after bariatric surgery? Like, what would happen if you eat too fast – or don’t chew your food well?
For starters, it can be the beginning of a not-so-fun rollercoaster ride where that “too big of a bite” hits your stomach like a brick (ouch!). In other words, it can be very painful when you swallow a large chunk of food.
Secondly, you may completely miss your fullness cues if you’re eating too quickly! You see, your brain needs about 20 minutes to catch up on the feeling of fullness. So yes, you really need that time to prevent downfalls like overeating.
Now, of course there’s a bit of nuance here.
If you eat a bowl of yogurt, you probably finish quicker than when you eat chicken, broccoli and mashed potatoes. Not every meal is created equal. And some foods become liquid in your stomach faster. Like slider foods for example (if you don’t know what slider foods are, the we highly recommend downloading our free nutrition guide here).
Let’s end this section with 3 prompts to practice mindful eating:
“I will enjoy my meal”
“I will stop when I’m full”
“I will savor every bite”
Set your intention. Do it. Repeat it.
4. Avoid foods high in (saturated) fats and (added) sugars
By now, you’re probably an expert when it comes down to the foods that support and don’t support your long-term goals (if you’ve tried every diet in the books and counting every calorie hoping it would be helpful, but it only led you to the path of toxic diet culture – we hear you!).
Now, here comes the tricky part to be cautious about.
Finding balance in your meals and building a healthy relationship with food is a journey that never really stops.
Is it important to find some form of “food freedom” where you don’t have to feel guilty when it comes down to your food choices? Absolutely.
But do we also need to emphasize that not all foods are going to be a great fit after bariatric surgery? 1000 times yes!
You see, not all foods can lay at the basic foundation of your every day diet. We’re not a fan of diet culture (at all!) – but we do have to acknowledge that certain food (groups) can turn into a slippery slope real quick.
Bariatric surgery isn’t about “eating clean” or following another FAD diet. It’s about creating habits that last way beyond the honeymoon stage.
But foods that are too high in (saturated) fats and added sugars can sabotage your long-term (health) goals.
And here’s why.
After bariatric surgery you have to choose your meals wisely (you don’t have much space, so what you CAN eat, has to be of high nutritional value). Let’s call this the quality of your meals. And this is especially important, since bariatric surgery can already increase the risk of certain nutrient deficiencies.
Your top picks after bariatric surgery are going to be high protein and high fiber food sources that you’re able to tolerate well and also, of course, enjoy. Meal planning after bariatric surgery can be a tedious job. But it doesn’t have to be if you have a simple method at hand!
Let’s move on to habit number 5 (yep, a life-long habit to commit to!).
5. Take your vitamins and minerals every day
There’s no denying that nutrient deficiencies can lurk around the corner when you had bariatric surgery. Common deficiencies post-op are vitamin D and iron for example. Not all nutrients are absorbed the same way after bariatric surgery, and this is especially the case in malabsorptive procedures like the Gastric Bypass.
Here’s our quick vitamin checklist that include the general guidelines. Always consult your surgeon and dietitian about which vitamins are right for you.
6. Find daily movement that you enjoy
It’s a no-brainer that exercise is part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Exercise is linked to improvements in both physical and mental health. And this also rings true after bariatric surgery.
But you know what?
If you create exercise goals that aren’t sustainable, you won’t follow through. And you already know what happens next. You feel defeated and may give up entirely.
Here are 3 tips to help you get started:
- Find a physical activity that you enjoy (at least for 80% of the time!)
- Start small (starting with 10-minute walks is great, you don’t have to run a marathon from day 1)
- Track your progress to celebrate each milestone!
7. Find support – you’re worthy of it!
Whether it’s professional support from a surgeon, dietitian or therapist. Or loving support from friends, family or the bariatric community itself. You deserve to be guided in your journey.
We see it all the time.
You had bariatric surgery. You were given the bariatric guidelines in a folder. You have all the information on paper to get started. But where you may have been fallen short, is a long-term support system. A group of people who know what you’ve been through. And who you can rely on when things get tough (because yes, it’s going to be a bumpy road).
Find a bariatric bestie. Find your bariatric team. Find support groups online. Find a community that’s rooting for you!
Final thoughts about changing your habits after Bariatric Surgery
The habits that we discussed in this post lay at the foundation of your bariatric journey. Are these the only habits to focus on? No, there’s more. Way more.
And your habits will look different than someone else’s. That’s okay. Bariatric surgery is a personal journey – always do what works best for you.
If you’re having a hard time getting started with changing your habits – then this bariatric mindset journal may be just what you need!
And remember, Rome wasn’t built overnight. It’s okay not to be perfect. And it’s okay to take your time to evolve in the person you truly want to be.
You got this and we’ll be here every step along the way!
How we help you find your way back to the Bariatric Basics
It’s normal to feel stuck sometimes. You won’t feel motivated every single day and that’s more than okay. You see, changing your habits doesn’t come from motivation. Rather, when you truly want to change your behaviour, you’ll need to take small steps every day to create helpful habits to do just that.
But how do you create new habits? It’s not by doing things drastically different. That only works for a short period of time, before you find yourself back to old ways again.
What truly helps is to keep yourself accountable while you take small actionable steps that you can measure every single day again.
Discover Your Onederland’s signature bariatric planner collection to always have something to fall back on no matter what.
We believe that you can change, now the question is: do you?
- Aills, L. et al. (2008). ASMBS Allied Health Nutritional Guidelines for the Surgical Weight Loss Patient. In: Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases (4); S73-S108.
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