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.
Dealing with the changes that come after weight loss surgery can be challenging. From changes in what foods you can tolerate from week to week (or day-to-day) to fluctuations in your weight, hunger, and energy levels, it can sometimes feel overwhelming figuring out what’s going on. But with the right tools and mindset, you can navigate these changes and maintain a healthy and happy lifestyle. In this post, we’ll cover some tips for dealing with day-to-day changes you may encounter after WLS.
1) Understand the changes. After WLS, expect the unexpected. Know there will be changes, and LOTS of them. From how your stomach behaves to your energy level, your hunger level, your weight, you name it, the list goes on... Foods you tolerated prior to surgery may not settle so well anymore. Your taste buds will change, and you may develop cravings for things you’ve never craved before. Your energy levels can yo-yo, along with your hunger. And the biggest change is of course your eating behaviors, essentially learning how to eat all over again and learning communication with your new stomach at the same time. It can be a bit much at times, but always remember why you’ve chosen this new lifestyle and the rewards you will reap.
2) Ever-changing stomach behaviors. After WLS, you take it one day at a time, and some days just aren’t as fantastic as the next. Your stomach feels the same. What you tolerated yesterday might not be the same as tomorrow, which can drive you insane! One day you can handle scrambled eggs like a champ, and tomorrow, you’re nauseous or running to the toilet because your stomach didn’t quite like it then. Yep, it’s frustrating to say the least. But patience is key.
Many times, there isn’t an answer as to why this happens, and you’ll drive yourself nuts trying to come up with one. If this happens to you, give that problem food a few days or a week before reintroducing it, and you’ll likely be okay the next time around. Even the manner and timing of when you can drink water (and how much at one time) is something you’ll have to learn to manage.
3) Ever-changing hunger levels. After your operation, your hunger levels will be lower overall, which is part of the appeal of having bariatric surgery. Now that you have a smaller stomach, the hunger hormones that tell you you’re hungry have dramatically decreased. However, be prepared that some days your hunger may be off the charts. This can be pretty confusing and frustrating. And there could be many answers as to why.
Here are a couple of scenarios: Maybe it’s because one day you exercised much harder than the rest of the week, which spikes your metabolism, causing hunger. This is just your body’s way of saying, “Feed me! I need more food energy to support myself and burn fat!” Or maybe one day you ate more protein or fiber-rich foods, and you felt fuller all day... And the next day you ate less of these foods, and felt hungry all day. I know what you must be thinking — you wish things could be predictable. It might be relieving to know that the further down the road you get after surgery, the smoother the ride will be.
4) Ever-changing energy levels. Just like the changes in your stomach and hunger levels, your changing energy levels can also leave you confused. One day your energy could be through the roof, and other days you may feel like slumming it in your jammies on the couch... That’s okay. There will always be an ebb and flow depending on many things, and it might serve you well to understand why.
Becoming aware and reflecting on your day or week can help. For instance, take a look at your past couple of days. What has changed? What has your diet been like? What was your activity level? Did you meet your fluid goals? Have you consistently been taking your multivitamins? These are all things that can affect your energy levels. Pro tip: create schedules and routines so that when you’re having an off day, you can somewhat identify the issue.
5) Ever-changing weight measurements. Ahhh, the love-hate relationship with the scale. If I had it my way, I’d have everyone throw the scale away and depend on measurements and other methods to provide feedback. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I gained three pounds today! I’m just not going to eat today.” But this could just mean you’re hydrated versus dehydrated. Accounting for water weight fluctuations is one thing, and gaining an actual three pounds is another. Bathroom habits also play a role. Were you constipated for three or more days? That will definitely affect the weight on your scale, but you would likely also feel that in your body (bloated, gassy, pants don’t fit well, uncomfortable, not hungry). See why being “aware” is so important? All that to say being aware of your weight daily can be helpful but not if it’s driving you nuts. Weigh yourself one day per week (same day, same time — upon waking in the morning), and you’ll be able to gather a true analysis of whether you are losing weight as expected.
In conclusion, navigating changes after weight loss surgery can be a challenge, but with a few changes, it’s definitely possible. Remember to be patient, be aware, and follow these tips. This will help you maintain a healthy and happy lifestyle post-surgery. If you have any specific questions, always remember to reach out to your doctor and bariatric team who will be happy to guide you and ease your concerns.
BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.