5 WLS Myths You Need to Stop Believing for 2023

Article By: Whittany Gibson, RDN

Whittany is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in bariatric nutrition counseling, providing education and support prior to and following weight loss surgery.

How often have you been told that you can't do something after weight loss surgery? "You'll never be able to eat ___ again." "You'll never be able to drink ___ again." "You'll never be able to do ___ again." We've all heard these phrases a million times. And while some things may be true, others are complete myths! Keep reading to find out 5 myths that you should stop believing!

1) You can’t drink alcohol after WLS. It's a common misconception that having weight loss surgery means you can't drink alcohol again. While it is strongly advised to avoid drinking alcohol in excess at any given time (or at all) in the first few months after surgery... If consumed in moderation, alcohol should have very little impact on the success of your weight loss surgery. Safety is also a concern, so be careful. Alcohol can affect your blood alcohol level much more now than before, so when we say “in moderation,” we really mean it! Alcohol can also irritate your stomach lining, so you will need to wait a while after surgery to consume it. So while it's best to proceed with caution, downing a glass of cabernet sauvignon should still be on the cards, just no more than one or two glasses maximum!

2) You have to give up the foods you enjoy. People always tell us that if we want to stay healthy, we must give up the delicious treats we love. But there's no need for extreme measures like completely eliminating these foods. I’ve seen too many people shame others after WLS for picking up one cookie or having half a slice of pie. Ignore this. Know that you are making a mindful decision, and if you are comfortable, go for it. Just don’t go down the rabbit hole of keeping stuff like that in the house and eating it until it’s gone. Get it out of the way and move on. It really is about finding balance, or you will drive yourself nuts. The trick is identifying and practicing portion control with your favorite food items. That way, you can enjoy the tasty delights with fewer worries about sabotaging your dietary goals. Sounds like a compromise to me!

3) You can’t drink out of a straw. We’ve all heard, “don't drink out of a straw” after WLS. Let’s dive in here to understand the “why”. First, immediately following surgery, most people will experience a considerable amount of gas buildup. This is due to the usage of CO2 for insufflation during the procedure. That’s just a fancy word for inflating your abdominal cavity for ease of operation. Anyway, we know gas can be painful and uncomfortable, and drinking out of a straw has been shown to cause extra air intake (thus worsening gas). So the objective here is to help you avoid excess gas by just not using a straw at all the first days or even weeks after surgery. Unfortunately, this can really put a damper on the act of drinking water. When you’re ready, using straws can help you to pace your sips and increase overall fluid intake for the day. So, if you know you’re not taking in air when using a straw (and it helps you to reach your goals), go for it!

4) You’ll stretch your stomach out and gain your weight back. A common myth is that after bariatric surgery you can "stretch out your stomach," making metabolic procedures such as a gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy ineffective. While the size of your stomach is significantly decreased with surgery, it's just not possible to stretch it out to the pre-surgery size. However, if you continue to push the limits beyond suggested meal sizes on a daily basis, you can certainly alter your hunger hormones, creating an imbalance and making you feel hungrier and possibly craving the wrong things. And what happens next..? You end up making the wrong choices consistently and perhaps stop prioritizing your healthy diet, which causes a domino effect in other areas like self-care and exercise. The truth is that these metabolic surgeries are designed to promote healthy changes and create lasting weight loss by decreasing calorie absorption and suppressing hunger hormones. The behaviors that you practice are up to you as well as following guidelines for nutrition.

5) Bariatric surgery is the easy way out. Many assume that undergoing bariatric surgery is an easy way to lose weight without actually putting in the effort. Unfortunately, this is a huge misconception. In reality, bariatric surgery requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice for the patient to succeed. Anyone who has had WLS is still expected to do the same things anyone else would have to do to live a healthy life and achieve a healthy weight including following a reduced, calorie-controlled diet and incorporating a consistent exercise routine. On top of this, they also have to follow specific eating behaviors and guidelines. So despite popular belief, bariatric surgery is far from being the easy way out.

Bariatric surgery is a tool that can help you lead a healthier life, but it's not the easy way out. You still have to ensure you're eating healthy foods and exercising regularly. Weight loss surgery is just a starting point. You’ll hear many different opinions, thoughts, and misconceptions about life after bariatric surgery... But with a healthy amount of research and education, you can be your own myth-buster help educate others.

BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

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