How To Stay With Your Diet Before Bariatric Surgery

You’re considering weight loss surgery, but you’re daunted by the bariatric surgery pre-op diet you’ve heard about. Maybe you’ve heard friends or stories describe all-liquid diets or dramatically cutting back on food. How can you do that and manage the hunger and cravings that seem like they would necessarily go with it?

In this blog we’ll talk through why a healthy pre-bariatric surgery diet is essential, what that diet entails…and how to succeed at this diet so that when you finally have bariatric surgery you’re setting yourself up to achieve the long-term weight loss that you deserve.

Why Your Pre-Bariatric Surgery Diet Matters

Why is it so important to have the right bariatric surgery pre-op diet? There are two big reasons. First, your diet will change dramatically after weight loss surgery. Weight loss surgery is a powerful tool to help you level the playing field in your battle against obesity, but it’s not a cure-all. You’ll need to stick to a strict diet and exercise regime after surgery in order to maximize your ability to lose weight, keep it off, and reclaim your quality of life. Our patients report that this is easier when they already have the structure of the diet down before surgery. Surgery represents a big change, and it’s better for you psychologically if you’re not trying to change too many things at once. If you have some good dietary habits before surgery, then making other dietary changes after surgery is a lot easier.

This is especially important when it comes to taking daily vitamins, because certain types of bariatric surgery require that you be extremely diligent about committing to a daily vitamin regime for the rest of your life in order to get necessary nutrients. This is easier to do if you’ve already been sticking to a vitamin regime before surgery. This is an especially important component of a pre-op diet for gastric bypass surgery and for duodenal switch surgery, as both surgeries can lead to vitamin deficiencies if you don’t take daily vitamins; but is still an important part of the pre-op diet for gastric sleeve surgery. 

Second, some of the dietary changes are important in order to help you have a successful surgery. For example, adopting a liquid diet for 1 week before surgery is important because it shrinks your liver and removes some excess body fat. This can improve laparoscopic and robotic access to the abdomen and make surgery safer. At a certified ASMBS comprehensive MBSAQIP center like the BMCC, with careful preparation including your preop diet, your surgery is already as safe as any minor outpatient surgery such as gallbladder surgery; but it’s also important to us to give you every edge and help you minimize the risk of any complications.

What Foods Should I Eat Before Bariatric Surgery?

Before bariatric surgery, it’s important to consult your dietitian to create a diet that works for you. At the BMCC, we have a dietitian on staff who will meet with you multiple times and help you to develop and stick with a bariatric pre-surgery diet that works for you. The details will vary patient to patient, but here’s the dietary regime that you’ll need to adhere to before surgery:

  • No smoking for 3-6 months before surgery
  • No caffeinated beverages before surgery
  • No carbonated beverages before surgery
  • Liquid diet for 1 week before surgery
  • Take daily vitamins (multivitamin, calcium citrate, vitamin D3, iron, vitamin B12, and B complex)

After surgery, you’ll need to keep to a very strict bariatric diet in order to lose weight and keep it off; and getting these behaviors down now will set you up for success down the road. After surgery you’ll also need to stick to nutrient-rich foods and avoid empty calories, so many patients find that now is a good time to start practicing this as well.

How Can I Stick to My Pre-Surgery Diet Plan?

Adhering to the above plan may sound hard…but it is doable. Thousands of patients just like you have done it, and have set themselves up to lose weight and keep it off after surgery. There are two keys to sticking to your bariatric surgery pre-op diet.

1) Set Yourself Up For Success

The first key is to set yourself up for success when it comes to daily decision-making. As human beings, we all have limited willpower. When we end up in situations that tempt us over and over again, a lot of us end up hitting a willpower wall and giving in. The best way to stick to a diet is to plan ahead and proactively avoid those situations. If you know that you’re really tempted by meals in restaurants (which tend to be very high in calories), then plan ahead and pack your lunch for work so you don’t have to eat out. If you know that you’re really tempted to have a margarita with the girls after work, then instead of going to the bar and *then* trying to resist, proactively suggest a different activity. By avoiding situations where you know that keeping your diet will be a struggle, you can manage the diet much more easily.

2) Remember Why You’re Doing This

Second, remember why you’re doing this. You’ll have hunger and cravings, especially during the liquid phase of the diet; and remembering what it’s all for can help you push through these cravings. You’re doing this so you can lose weight and keep it off, and reclaim your quality of life. More specifically, you might be doing it so that you can have a super soaker fight with your kids or grandkids, or go out and meet that special someone, or go on hikes or just feel better in your body and wake up every day without the aches and pains of obesity. Whatever your reason is, keep your eye on it and let the desire for that carry you through.

Taking the Next Step: Scheduling Your Bariatric Surgery

Sticking to your pre- and post-surgery diet can be difficult, but the rewards are worth it. Your health and your life are worth the mental and emotional investment. If you’re considering bariatric surgery and want to learn more about what your bariatric surgery pre-op diet will look like and how you can keep to it, we  encourage you to schedule a bariatric assessment with us or visit our Getting Started page.

Our patients routinely say that surgery was the best decision they ever made.

“I feel like I have won the lottery and have been given a second chance in life! March 25, 2014 was the first day of the rest of my new life and I can’t even start to express in words how grateful I am.”—Rochelle Goforth, patient.

If you’re suffering, don’t wait. Contact our Denver office today.

Dr. Joshua Long headshot

This page was medically reviewed by Dr. Joshua Long, MD, MBA, FACS, FASMBS. Dr. Long is a double-board-certified bariatric surgeon and bariatric medical director for Parker Adventist Hospital.
Full Bio: Dr. Joshua Long, MD, MBA, FACS, FASMBS
Page Updated: July 31st, 2023

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