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Are There Any Absolute Dietary No-Nos After Bariatric Surgery?

Woman balances food options contemplating what foods are off limits after weight loss surgery

We often discuss bariatric surgery with patients who do not know much about the process. Near the top of the list of concerns is trepidation around eliminating something they love. This usually revolves around food or drink that they particularly enjoy or may represent comfort in times of stress or sadness. This brings up whether anything is genuinely off-limits after bariatric surgery.

The Short Answer Is No. With a Few Caveats

You are human, and you live out in the real world. As such, you will be exposed to food and drink that will not be conducive to your long-term weight loss. It is not so much avoiding these foods and drinks entirely that will make you successful. Instead, success means choosing to only occasionally eat or drink these items, preferring to moderate your consumption of these less healthy items, and ultimately bounce back should you overindulge. The old-school tactic of complete abstinence from the “bad stuff” doesn’t work and, in some cases, pushes you toward that food or drink purely for the novelty and “danger” of it.

Which Are the Most Egregious Foods

With the above said, particular food and drinks are to be avoided as much as possible and only consumed in the rarest of circumstances.

First is added sugar. It’s hard to overstate how bad added sugar is for the body. As a society, we have become accustomed to adding hundreds of calories worth of sugar into our drinks and food. Not only does sugar add empty calories to our diet, which necessarily leads to weight regain or greater difficulty losing weight, but it truly is addictive. In fact, there is research showing that the addictive properties of sugar are like those of cocaine. Lastly, these massive blasts of sugar can dull your pallet, making regular healthy food taste downright disgusting. You can see how its slippery slope may develop.

The other item to consume as infrequently as possible is alcohol. To be sure, having a drink here or it is perfectly fine after the initial recovery phase of bariatric surgery – about six months out. Once again, practicing moderation and making it a rare treat versus a regular staple is critically important here. However, there is also a darker side to alcohol consumption after bariatric surgery. When the comfort of food is taken away after surgery, many patients look to other substances to fill the gap. This can include alcohol. While relatively rare, there is the possibility of alcohol abuse after bariatric surgery. The other factor that many patients do not understand (particularly true for gastric bypass and duodenal switch patients) is that less alcohol can cause significant inebriation versus before surgery. It is not uncommon for motor vehicle accidents to occur even when the patient believed that their consumption was minimal, comparatively speaking. The body does not react the way it once did.

So, you should not be afraid of the food in front of you in the end. You should make a concerted effort to moderate what you eat and drink after surgery. Of course, we are always available to guide you and help in any way we can. You can also rely on other patients who have been there before to give you an idea of what has worked and what hasn’t for them.

Most importantly, we want you to be successful in your postoperative life, so follow our tried-and-true postoperative directions, and you will be the better for it.

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