Bariatric dieticians work primarily in tandem with bariatric programs that offer weight loss surgery to patients with morbid obesity. Since a significant component of weight loss surgery is a change in diet and lifestyle before the surgery, bariatric dieticians can work with patients to help them prepare for their weight loss and to ensure long-term success.
What is nutritional counseling in regard to bariatric surgery?
Unfortunately, losing weight isn’t the cure to improved health if it’s only temporary. A working knowledge of good nutrition and forming healthy eating habits are essential to having positive outcomes after bariatric surgery.
Working with a dedicated nutrition counselor can prepare a prospective surgery candidate with long-term diet and lifestyle changes that will set them up for success after surgery. These can include:
- Evaluating individual needs
- Helping to tackle personal conflicts
- Creating a supportive environment
- Emphasizing personal responsibility
- Placing value on small, achievable changes
Bariatric surgery is not a quick fix for morbid obesity. It is a stepping-stone that works best with specific diet and lifestyle changes that facilitate weight loss. A nutritional counselor can give their patients a realistic outlook of the postoperative experience.
Pre-Bariatric Surgery Diet
The bulk of a bariatric dietician’s work occurs before the patient has surgery. They help patients by modifying their diet and lifestyle approaches. Assessing individual needs and readiness for change can be components of preoperative nutrition counseling.
Making small changes at this stage can have the biggest impact. Focusing on healthful eating, and making gradual changes, such as adding more fruits and vegetables, drinking less sugary drinks, or avoiding fried food can have great benefits. Your nutritional counselor can help you implement these into your unique lifestyle to create healthy eating habits for the long term.
Post-Bariatric Surgery Diet
Bariatric surgery changes the size of your stomach, so you won’t be able to eat the same amount of food after your surgery. This can lead to problems with nutritional deficiencies. Without proper dietary guidelines and counseling, surgical outcomes could start to diminish.
Smaller portions of food are standard, as well as food choices that won’t be hard to digest. These changes are often not easy to make on your own but working with a nutrition counselor can help you make the necessary changes without being overwhelmed by the process. Eating a low-calorie diet and practicing portion control is important after surgery. Food that isn’t easy to chew, like raw vegetables, fruit, rice and meat that is tough to chew will probably have to be avoided at first. Increasing your fluids will be an essential part of your postoperative care but avoiding carbonated or caffeinated beverages will be required.
For the first few days after your surgery, you will only be able to consume clear liquids. You will then slowly be able to add thicker fluids like milk, broth and sugar-free juices. After a few days, your stomach will be able to start tolerating softer foods, like yogurt, mashed potatoes, puréed vegetables and lean fish.
What to Expect Long-Term
Depending on the type of surgery you have, there may be certain long-term dietary restrictions such as carbohydrates or fructose, but most patients can gradually return to a normal healthy diet. Being mindful of protein can help you keep off the weight, and adding supplements like iron, calcium and folic acid can ensure you get the nutrients you need while being mindful of the food you consume.
Working with your nutritional counselor can help you make long-term changes and help you form lasting habits but joining a support group that offers continual education on topics like healthful behavioral changes, exercise and nutrition can help form community and support, long after your surgery has taken place. These can help you feel less alone when facing the challenges and struggles of adapting to a new way of life.
It’s important to realize that everyone struggles when making changes to their diet. Working with a nutritional counselor that makes you feel comfortable and supported when being honest about your nutritional needs, is an important part of the postoperative journey. At Advanced Laparoscopic Associates, we provide a comprehensive aftercare program that has a dedicated nutritionist post-surgery. If you are considering bariatric surgery as an option, schedule an appointment with one of our specialists today.