Incase you didn’t know, as a weight management dietitian I work with patients both before and after bariatric surgery (including gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, gastric band and gastric balloon). Most patients have a body mass index (BMI) of over 50 and have gone through years of yoyo dieting. Surgery offers patients a life line and new lease of life, however it shouldn’t be undertaken hastily as it does come with (obvious) risks.
Weight loss after bariatric surgery is a given for the first 12-18 months, but what happens after that is not guaranteed and is in YOUR hands.
To make sure that your healthy weight loss journey continues beyond 18 months here are my top 10 tips:
- 1) Plan your Meals: Planning your meals for the week ahead is essential if you lead a busy life and want to keep to a healthy eating routine. It helps you to write your shopping list and could even save you money. Make sure to write down where you’re going to be throughout the week and remember that you don’t need seven new or different breakfasts, lunches and evening meals; you could alternate between a couple or add in just one new recipe that you want to try out along with classic recipes the you know and love.
- 2) Eat your Protein First: Protein is an essential part of weight loss as it helps to preserve lean muscle tissue and promote fat loss. You should aim for a minimum of 60-80g of protein a day which equates to 1/2 a pint of milk (10g), a pot of Greek yoghurt (15g), a tin of tuna (25g) and a chicken breast (25g). Always try to eat the protein part first of your meal and if you struggle with tough meats choose wafer thin, minced or a meat alternative such as Quorn.
- 3) Take your Vitamins: Your journey after bariatric surgery isn’t just about weight loss, it’s about staying healthy or becoming healthier, and taking your vitamins is a crucial element. BOMSS nutrition guidelines recommend that after a gastric bypass or a sleeve gastrectomy patients should take a daily multivitamin such as Forceval, a calcium and vitamin D supplement (usually twice a day) and an iron supplement (once or twice a day depending on if you menstruate), and receive vitamin B12 injections every 3 months. Speak to your dietitian or doctor for more information.
- 4) Stay Hydrated between Meals: A simple way to tell if you’re hydrated is to look at the colour of your urine; if it’s dark then it’s probably a sign that you need to drink more (it should ideally be a pale straw colour). All drinks count towards our fluid intake, but water is one of the best as it’s both calorie and sugar free meaning that it won’t rot your teeth or contribute to weight gain. Drinking water helps us to regulate our true hunger signals, prevent headaches and keep our body regular.
- 5) Chew your Food well: Your stomach needs a helping hand after weight loss surgery meaning it is essential to chew your food well. Ideally every mouthful of food should be chewed at least 20 times before swallowing to prevent sickness and to maximise nutrient absorption.
- 6) Check your Weight Once a Twice a month: Weight has a habit of creeping on which means that it’s a good idea to schedule regular weight checks. Most pharmacies or GP practices have calibrated scales that patients can use for free or for a small cost.
- 7) Get Creative with Greens: Green vegetables are loaded with fibre and are relatively low in calorie; meaning they help you to feel full whilst losing weight. Smoothies aren’t just for fruit, they’re for vegetables too, and I promise you that adding leaves such as spinach, iceberg lettuce and kale doesn’t alter the taste, it simply turns them green! Another way of getting creative with greens is to turn them into noodles; you can spiralize vegetables such as courgette, or you can even use a Julienne peeler!
- 8) Cook in Bulk: If you’re making dishes such as chilli or curry make sure to cook more than what you need. Leftovers are great for packing up and taking to work the next day for lunch, as well as being an ideal back-up for when you don’t have time to cook on an evening; you could keep leftovers in a container either in the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer for a couple of weeks.
- 9) Keep Frozen Vegetables in your Freezer: As well as having a much longer shelf life, frozen vegetables often have more nutrients than their fresh equivalent; this is because they are frozen soon after the point of picking; retaining almost all of their nutrients. Frozen vegetables are low in calories, packed with fibre, require no chopping and cook quickly.
- 10) Stay Accountable with a Food Diary: It’s easy to forget what we eat and interestingly, research shows that the larger that someone is, the more they tend to under-estimate how much they eat. Writing down what you eat during the day can be a powerful tool to helping you to become more mindful about what you’re eating. You don’t have to do it life-long but doing it every so often for a week can be really powerful.
I really hope these tips help you in your weight loss journey!