Relearning how to eat after surgery

December 08, 2008|By ELLEN ROWLAND / Special to The Herald-Mail

Editor's note: Ellen Rowland, a Herald-Mail columnist who writes about the North End, plans to undergo bariatric surgery to help her lose weight and regain health. So that others might get a clearer picture of the costs and benefits of the procedure, Rowland offered to write a monthly journal describing the process. This is her third entry.

I feel as if I will be eating like a newborn after my weight-loss surgery: liquids for the first few weeks, then the gradual introduction of pured foods.

The exception is that even after I can eat solid foods, I will never be able to eat like most adults if I want to remain healthy.

My poor eating habits are part of the reason I have problems with weight and soon will undergo gastric bypass surgery. I am learning that if I want to do well after surgery, the food I eat will always have to be low fat, low calorie, sugar free and portion controlled for the rest of my life.


Trust me, this is going to be a challenge all on its own. But I'm up for it.

Earlier this month, I left an appointment with a Baltimore nutritionist with a whole new attitude about eating.

The bottom line: Not eating the right foods and not getting the right nutrients could lead to malnutrition and not losing weight.

Food after surgery

Initially after the surgery, I can only eat between four and eight tablespoons of liquid nutrients. Here is an example:

  • 8 a.m. - Two tablespoons of fat-free yogurt

  • 11 a.m. - A protein drink made with eight ounces of 1-percent milk

  • 1 p.m. - Eight ounces of broth

  • 3 p.m. - Protein drink

  • 6 p.m. - Eight ounces of Crystal Light and four ounces of sugar-free pudding

  • 8 p.m. - Protein drink

    After two weeks, unsweetened applesauce, pured fish and baby food meats will be on the menu.

    After four weeks, I'll be able to eat solid foods again, though I will only be able to eat four to six ounces of food at each meal.

    I will also have to take at least six to seven vitamins every day for the rest of my life. The daily doses would include multivitamins, calcium, iron, vitamin C and vitamin B-12, though I can opt for a monthly B-12 shot.

    Changing current eating habits

    When I decided to have this surgery and go through the process, I knew I needed to start eating better. I decided that it was time to cut back portions and watch my fat and sugar intake.

    Before, I was used to going to my refrigerator and taking out what I wanted, when I wanted it. I never really watched what I was eating until about two years ago.

    For lunch, I might have a lunch-meat sandwich or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with potato chips and junk food. On the evenings I didn't have to work, I might eat a hot dog, French toast, a grilled steak and baked potato, or pasta. My problem was eating late at night, when I might eat ice cream, cake or pie.

    Going out to eat, I would usually order a pasta dish, a salad and sometimes dessert - usually entrees that were very high in calories and carbs.

    I would not eat breakfast. Sometimes, I did not eat anything all day, which I know is not good, either.

    Today, things are different.

    Almost every kind of meat I have for an evening meal, I bake. I bake fish and chicken and I also bake French fries - no more cooking in oil. If a recipe calls for oil, I use canola. I also buy butter, which is said to be better for you than margarine.

    I am eating more vegetables, and, in place of the unhealthy late-night snacks, I eat yogurt.

    When I buy groceries, I read labels for carbs and fats, whereas before I just bought what looked good.

    I've also changed some other bad habits: I quit smoking. I have been taking smoking cessation classes at the Washington County Health Department. This is one of the prerequisites for surgery. I will be tested for nicotine in my blood, so I cannot cheat.

    I quit smoking as of Nov. 20, and will continue to be smoke free as I know it is not healthy and quitting might help me heal better. I've been using Chantix, and it is a blessing. I do not crave nicotine, and that is exactly what the medication is to do.

    Early signs of progress

    In mid-November, I went to my fifth weight-loss visit and learned that I had lost 2 pounds. That is not much, but at least I did not gain. Plus, I've lost a total of 40 pounds since June 2007. I like hearing that.

    Also my cholesterol levels are down to normal, thanks to medication and watching what I eat.

    My last weight-loss appointment is Dec. 17 and I am so excited. This has been a long six months so far, and I want to get this surgery done.

    I still have to get an EKG, chest X-ray and blood work before my last visit. These are routine before any surgery. So after my appointment, the paperwork will be sent in and I wait to hear.

    I have come so far. I am committed to this and I will do whatever I have to for this to become successful. The most important part of all of this is my food intake and exercise. I do like some challenges too, and I will make this happen.

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