For those who believe bariatric surgery is a walk in a park, let me give you some insight.
My life hasn’t always been a sum of good nutritional choices, rather the opposite, but after the surgery you don’t have many options. You need to rediscover your digestive system and relearn how to eat.
During the bariatric surgery, 75% to 80% of the patient’s stomach is removed, but your habits are still engraved in your behaviour. Little by little you get to understand how this new you functions and you let go of those bad old habits.
The first 48 hours you are not allowed to drink water, you only keep your lips hydrated using a wet pad. Your body gets all necessary liquids through IV-therapy. After the first three days you start having the smallest sips of water from a syringe. By day six you’re allowed to drink clear soup and by day ten this soup barely thickens.
Two weeks after the surgery you’re back home and you are the sole responsible for your diet. If you do not respect the doctor’s recommendations you will definitely experience pain and sickness after eating.
The first two months you can only eat boiled and mashed food, basically you’re back on baby food. Everything needs to be soft not to harm your newly sliced stomach and mess with the healing process.
You can’t eat like a normal person anymore, you can’t have a single large meal a day and be done with it, like I so often did. You can’t eat fried food, you can’t drink soda, and definitely can’t eat spicy food. Salt is the only fixen that you should use with your food. Of course. one can ignore these recommendations, but pain is a good teacher so if you don’t want the easy way, you’ll learn the hard way. Trust me, I made one too many mistakes myself. If you look at it from a logical perspective, since you have only 20% of your stomach left, you will want to treat it with kindness.
For the first two months following surgery, my calorie intake was somewhere between 300 and 600 calories a day, with a focus on thin and thicker liquids. Even though I hated them at the time, I still have them in my diet now, in the form of smoothies or cream soups precisely because they meet both the nutritional and the hydration demand.
After integrating solid food in your diet you have to constantly remind yourself to eat slowly and chew small bites of food thoroughly, because the first part of digestion starts there and then. Actually this is the right way to eat even if you haven’t had bariatric surgery.
I gradually added new flavours in my meals and for a long while I stood away from caffeine.
For me this new way of eating was overwhelming at first, but over time, all guidelines became an unconscious part of my daily routine.
Another important topic is hydration. You can’t drink large amounts of liquids anymore, but at the same time your body needs almost two litres a day to function properly. So, there’s the problem. You aren’t used to drinking water every 15 minutes and all of a sudden you must do that in order to meet this target and avoid dehydration. It’s really frustrating to feel thirsty but at the same time not be able to drink because there’s not enough space in your stomach. This is why you need to drink when you’re not feeling thirsty. If you feel thirsty it’s already too late, dehydration is one step ahead of you and you’ll soon experience nausea.
I was gradually able to meet this target, now it’s like my second nature. I always try my best to respect a strict drinking schedule and to include in my nutrition vegetables and fruits as a secondary source of fluids, which I recommend you do too, no matter the size of your stomach.