Proper Nutrition in the Three Stages of Weight Loss Surgery

There are three stages of weight loss surgery- the preparation, the surgical recovery phase and the postoperative phase. Each one is very important and should include the mental and physical preparations so that it goes as smoothly as possible and so that you can get the best possible results for your efforts. The more information that you have, the better you can prepare for your weight loss surgery.

Weight loss surgery is one of the most common procedures done in American hospitals and surgical centers today. Education is important, especially when it comes to the expectations of the bariatric patient because unrealistic hopes can lead to disappointment with the final results. It is important to note that the psychological aspects of being obese and working towards a healthier weight is important because for those who have tried other programs before the surgery, a disappointing three percent or less have been able to maintain their weight loss for any length of time and typically regain the weight after ending any weight loss diet or program that they have been affiliated with (Source: Carlson, 2008).

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Before the surgery can be completed, some patients will need to lose some weight; ironic considering the type of surgery that they are having. However, those who have excessively high BMIs are at higher risks for a number of problems and complications during surgery.

Most weight loss surgery is done for patients who have a BMI of 35 or higher with the average being 40. Lower BMI requirements will be considered for gastric weight loss surgery if there is a secondary, weight related health condition that threatens the life. There is a cut off for the surgery however, with the extreme cases having to either wait until they are in a safer category or opting for another surgical type until they have lost this weight.

The months or weeks leading up to the weight loss surgery is not the time for a splurge or one last feast before the whole way that you eat has changed. Instead, this is the time to start learning a little bit about how much you really need to eat to stay healthy, what a balanced diet really looks like and how to make the most of your nutrition without taking in more calories than you really need.

Pre-Surgical Nutritional Needs

The body is getting ready to go on a journey. Just as you would fuel up your car for a trip, you need to make sure that your body is ready to go as well. You need to learn about how much food you really need. Every day, your body takes in a set number of calories. Whether or not you get the right amount of foods and nutrition is up to the foods that you eat and how they react in your body.

When you eat certain foods (saturated fats and simple carbohydrates for instance) the blood glucose level skyrockets, very quickly leading to a sugar rush. The body reacts to this by flooding insulin which deals with the problem by sending the food to be stored as fat. Very little of the food is converted to energy which is why you get the sudden slump or crash after eating a candy bar or a donut. You start with the euphoric sugar rush and then end with the plummeting crash and feel worse than you did before. The problem with the sugar high/sugar crash cycle is that you just eat again- and may just repeat the problem over and over. The more you do this, the more weight you gain and the harder the weight will be to lose when you are ready to do so.

During the time before the surgery, you should be learning what a good carb really is, how much protein is the right amount for you and what kind of fats you should steer clear of. You should also learn a few simple exercises so that you will be more active once you are back up and moving.

The Surgery

There are a number of different surgery types for weight loss including the most common, the Roux-en Y gastric bypass. In this procedure, the stomach is created into a much smaller pouch and the upper level of the small intestine, the duodenum is bypassed altogether with all food passing straight into the jejunum instead. All enzymes that would have entered the digestive system in the duodenum, including trypsin, a pancreatic protease enzyme that breaks protein down into amino acid molecules, are still released and will continue their work as usual. (Trypsin breaks down protein through a process called hydrolysis where a molecule of water is inserted between two amino acid molecules to break their bond) (Source [] )

Other surgical types include: the Lap Band surgery and the sleeve gastrectomy. The Lap Band is an adjustable gastric band that fits over the top of the stomach. The advantage is that it can be adjusted as weight loss occurs, ensuring that it is always effective. There are disadvantages that should be discussed with the doctor.

After the surgery is completed, the stomach will only hold a small amount of food at a time. You will no longer be able to drink with a meal; beverages will have to be 30 minutes before or 30 minutes after each meal. Because you can only eat such a small amount at a time, it is important that the foods that you eat are very high in nutrition.

Other protein sources are beneficial, but most supplements are too large for consumption by the surgical patient. The typical protein shake is a full 12 fluid ounces and will have to be consumed a little at a time. Using a protein supplement powder might be more beneficial instead, but again, may be too much for the small pouch created by the surgery.

After Surgery

Once you get back to eating solid foods, your body should be adjusted to the smaller amount of calories. Mentally, you should also be changing the way that you think of food. Food is not comfort or entertainment: it is the fuel source that keeps your body going. The right nutrition will keep you healthy and strong enough to continue on your weight loss journey, working toward a stronger, more resilient body that is free from the dangerous diseases and conditions that obesity can bring, including diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.


Neil R. Carlson. Foundations of Physiological Psychology Seventh Edition. McGraw Hill Publishing Company. Boston MA 2008

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