The six months to one year time period after gastric sleeve surgery can represent a time of significant transition for bariatric surgery patients who are still committed to losing weight. The first four to six months after surgery is commonly referred to as the “honeymoon phase,” meaning patients are seeing the immediate results of their surgery, losing a substantial amount of weight quickly, and feeling motivated with their recent life change.
However, after this phase is over, weight loss naturally begins to slow down. One of the most important elements of overall weight loss, but especially after weight loss surgery, is to maintain the proper diet that will allow you to still lose weight while also nourishing your body. The diet one year after gastric sleeve surgery is set in place to accomplish this goal.
If you’ve had gastric sleeve surgery and are wondering what your diet will look like one year out from your procedure, here is a breakdown of some of the diet components and why they are so important.
Calories, Calories, Calories
The most fundamental piece of any weight loss program is how your body processes calories in the context or your caloric intake. Simply put, if you absorb fewer calories than your body burns throughout the day you will lose weight. If you absorb more, your weight will go up or, at the very least, remain the same.
In any normal diet, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests a range of 1,200 – 1,500 calories per day for women and 1,500 – 1,800 for men in order to lose weight. However, for bariatric patients, the calorie recommendations are much lower.
Medical weight loss patients are sometimes placed on what is referred to as a Very-Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) that needs to be recommended and monitored by a doctor. A VLCD usually consists of 900 – 1,200 calories per day. Compared to other weight loss diets, and especially to a regular diet, this can seem like an impossibly low-calorie count.
If you are worried about cutting your calories so drastically, or you’re nervous you won’t be able to stick to such a strict cut, here are some tips.
Start at the High End
If you’re worried 900 calories is too low for you, or you’re not sure you can commit to such a drastic change so quickly, start your diet at the higher end of the range. Check with your doctor before you make any decisions regarding your diet but starting at 1,200 rather than 900 might seem more doable and you’re therefore more likely to stick to your new count.
Decrease by 100
If you decide to start your calorie cut at the higher end of the VLCD calorie range, try slowly decreasing your calories in increments of 100, either weekly or biweekly. This will give your body time to adjust to a lower calorie intake and will allow you to make smaller changes over a longer amount of time rather than one big change all at once.
Be Honest With Your Count
If you’re on the VLCD diet, and you feel like you aren’t seeing the results you want or decreasing the amount of calories you’re currently eating is too hard, take a moment to be honest with yourself about your current calorie count. Are you really sticking to your new intake range regularly? Or are you only occasionally eating at the proper number of calories? Sometimes all it takes is a quick mental check-in to reevaluate yourself and your weight loss goals.
Protein is Important
Another crucial element of weight loss programs is the amount of protein you are consuming, especially if you have added exercise to your daily routine. Protein helps to produce and protect lean muscle mass during exercise, and if you aren’t getting an adequate amount, your body may have a more difficult time building or retaining muscle. Many people also will be more likely to gain weight if they are eating higher percentages of refined fats, refined carbohydrates, and yes even if they are eating refined protein.
The recommended amount of protein for bariatric patients is 60 to 80 grams or more per day for women and 75 to 90 grams or more per day for men. Foods like lean meat like chicken or turkey are good ways to ensure you’re getting a good serving of protein in every meal.
Keep Carbs and Fat Low
Just as in the diet you most likely followed immediately after gastric sleeve surgery, it’s important to continue to keep carb and fat counts low. Of course, healthy fats, such as those found in fish, avocado, and flax are important to include in a well-balanced diet. However, even the healthy fats should be kept in low moderated use throughout your one-year gastric surgery diet in order to maximize your weight loss potential.
Other Helpful Tips
Some other helpful tips when it comes to the gastric sleeve diet one year after surgery pertain to meal size and what to eat when. In terms of meal size, gastric sleeve patients should eat meals that contain 4-6 ounces of food. You also need to be very careful to eat this mall amount of food slowly over 20-30 minutes to avoid stretching your sleeve. This approach allows you to eat a decent amount of nutrient-rich food without stretching or damaging your stomach sleeve.
You should also focus on eating the protein on your plate first. This ensures you are able to eat and absorb your full serving of protein before feeling full.
Don’t Give Up
One year out from gastric sleeve surgery, you’ve made it through the “honeymoon phase” where you most likely experienced rapid, high amounts of weight loss, and now your weight loss may normally be plateauing. The most important thing to realize is that following the training and process that you have been taught is very important to maintaining the optimal long-term weight loss. Diets can be tweaked here and there, but completely giving up and reverting to your pre-surgery diet is one of the worst things you can do.
You’ve made an investment in yourself and your health, so keep going, talk to your doctor, and don’t give up. Weight-loss journeys are a marathon, not a sprint. In time, you will be living the life you deserve to live, happy and healthy.
If you have experienced a loss in your life or have gotten off track following your sleeve with resulting suboptimal weight loss or even weight regain, you need to reach out to a surgeon and team that can support you and help you get back on track.