If you eat healthy, you make your body healthier and feel better. When you eat trash, you trash your body and feel sluggish.
One thing my insurance required me to do to qualify for the surgery was to visit a nutritionist once a month for six months. This is to get you into the mindset of eating healthier and get on the path to eating right. The nutritionist also prepares you for your dietary needs after the gastric bypass. I learned so much from just those six visits. I also got a handbook from the nutritionist breaking down what food is allowed after the surgery and during which time period (right after the surgery, two weeks after, six weeks after, etc.).
Just from what I learned during those nutritionist visits, I went from my starting weight of 419 pounds to 394 pounds in six months. This showed my insurance company and my bariatric doctor that I am motivated to lose weight and a great candidate for the surgery as I will be more likely to stick with the program and diet even after the surgery. One thing they mention when you join the program: “If you gain weight while in the program prior to the surgery, there is a chance you will be kicked from the program”. I wasn’t perfect….I fell off the wagon a few times and gained weight. The important thing is, I got back on the wagon and was able to lose the weight again. I know I won’t be able to do that forever. In the past, I eventually stayed off the wagon after every diet. That is why it is important that I still get the surgery – even after showing that I can lose weight by sticking to the program. In the end, I weigh less than when I first joined the program and that is what they look at.
I weighed myself every month at the nutritionist’s office so I used the same scale every time. Here is how my weight loss went:
419 – Starting weight in November when I had my first nutritionist visit.
412 – Early December visit.
412 – January visit ~ this is what happens when you spend Christmas with your family and eat all the family meals over the holidays. But at least I maintained my weight.
402 – February visit ~ back on track!
394 – March visit ~ under 400 pounds! Yay!
399 – Early April visit and last nutritionist visit ~ Easter happened….I admit I am a chocoholic. My parents came to visit and brought some Easter chocolate with them. I thought I could handle it and just eat a little at a time. Nope….
394 – April 28th ~ Had an appointment with my bariatric doctor – yes it was a different scale, but should only be off by a pound or two. Either way, it shows I am back on track again!
The biggest improvement to my diet and the very first thing that I did was cut out soda completely. That was so hard to do. I was a soda hound. I used to drink 4 of the 16oz bottles of Dr. Pepper every day. For me, quitting soda felt like what it must be to quit smoking. If I smelled it, I wanted it. Certain foods that I always ate with soda made me crave it so bad. In fact, all meals tasted a bit different without soda. I craved it all the time! Even now, 7 months after my last soda, I still crave them to some extent. I can still remember what they taste like and I miss it. I used to drink diet soda, but still gained weight. After I heard about how bad Aspartame is, I switched to regular soda. I still gained weight. But either way – soda is very bad for your body. All the sugar, chemicals, carbonation, acid and caffeine are destructive to your good health. I am very glad I don’t drink soda anymore. With all of that caffeine, my moods were always up and down all day. Now I am “steady as she goes” as the nautical term says. It was so hard to quit soda that it made it easier for me to not go back and drink one. I remember how hard it was to quit and don’t want to have to go through it again.
Another thing that I cut out that I admit I occasionally fall off the wagon with is fast food. Did you know that you can make a taco or hamburger at home and have it be only a fraction of the calories that it would be at a fast food restaurant? I asked my nutritionist why this was, and she said it was the quality of ingredients. By using the leanest beef you can get, light versions of sauces, etc. – you can eat similar food to what a fast food chain would carry but at only a meager portion of the calories. Well, at least I eat fast food a LOT less than I used to – and it shows in my weight. I used to stop by a fast food restaurant for a meal at least 3 times a week. Now, I only do it once every two to three weeks. After the surgery, I know I will have to stop eating fast food all together as the grease and fat will make me very ill. Sure I could still get a salad at many fast food joints, but I make a far better salad at home.
The third item that is cut out of the diet is fried food. Nothing that is cooked in oil or deep fat fried. That cut out my favorite fast food restaurant – Long John Silver’s. I adore their shrimp. I used to get a very large portion of their shrimp every Friday as part of my weekly routine. They got to know me by the sound of my voice at the drive-through speaker and we would chat for a while at the window. Good sign that you might be eating unhealthy if you are on a first name basis with the staff at a fast food restaurant. I even said goodbye to them at my last visit there. It was the week before my first nutritionist visit. I told them I would miss them and they said to just stop by anytime and say hi – don’t even have to order – just say hi and catch up. I guess part of this is also because I live in the South and people tend to be more friendly here. I never have gone back – I don’t want to tempt fate…or challenge my will-power.
In going to the nutritionist, I learned to eat healthier. Not just less, but healthy and balanced meals. I was instructed to keep a log of what I ate, when I ate it, how much I ate, how many calories it was and how much protein a day I consumed. Protein is very important for someone having weight-loss surgery – it is needed to help with the healing after the surgery. They stress the need for protein constantly. Whether it be lean meat, low-fat cheese, nuts, eggs, or protein drinks – the requirement is 60-80 grams of protein per day. I was told not to go over 80 if possible because too much protein per day every day will make your kidneys over-work and possibly fail. After the surgery they stress liquids first (so no dehydration), protein second, produce third (fruits and vegetables) and all else is last (grains, etc.) – depending on how much room you have in your stomach.
I was trained to eat small portions of every food group. My nutritionist suggested something like a bento box for meals (a segmented box with a lid). I got 5 and on Sunday would make all my lunches for the week. I took a photo of my bento boxes after I filled them and showed it to my nutritionist. She said it was perfect! Lots of variation in food (something she had been drilling into me) and each of the food groups. Here is the photo:
Looks pretty good, huh? That is tuna fish, by the way, in the bottom right section. I liked putting it on the Ritz crackers. Of course, as my nutritionist told me, Ritz crackers were not the best choice in crackers as they are buttery and have more calories than other options such as Wheat Thins. I got Wheat Thins as well – I like both crackers. I am not a big vegetable person, but I like cauliflower and carrots, so I stuck with them for lunches. I love tomatoes, so grape tomatoes were easy for me to eat. Blueberries are also a favorite of mine – and something my nutritionist encouraged me to eat as they have very few calories. Yet, sometimes I had strawberries or raspberries instead of blueberries. I would also often switch out the vegetable and meat choices for variety. For dinners, I would have a chef salad which would have all my veggies and protein in one meal. Sometimes I would cook some chicken wings (baked not fried) or have some artichokes that I would dip into fat-free calorie-free Parkay Spray butter. Guilt-free butter – gotta love it! I have even made homemade hamburgers with lean meat or tacos which provide lots of protein and veggies.
I also learned that there are four stages of diet after the surgery.
First two to three days after surgery – nothing but clear liquids. This includes hot broth, ice if you want to chew on something, flavored water (I hate those), caffeine-free herbal tea (no milk and no sugar – bleck), sugar-free sports drinks, clear protein drinks (GNC has become my best friend for protein drinks!), sugar-free popsicles (yay!) and sugar-free Jello (yes not a liquid but if you dissolve it in your mouth until it is a liquid, not a problem). I can still take my medicine and vitamins, but must crush them with a pill crusher and dissolve into water.
For two weeks after stage 1 – everything in stage 1 including any opaque liquids. Still nothing with lumps or anything that could get stuck in the stitches of your stomach which would cause complications. So this includes skim milk, decaffeinated tea and coffee with skim milk, low-fat yogurt with no fruit included and cream soups such as tomato soup (again nothing with any solid chunks in them). I am sure there are other things as well that are opaque liquids, but these are some of the items listed in the handbook.
For two to six weeks after stage 2 – everything in the previous stages but also soft foods. Sugar free pudding, soft low-fat cheese, low-fat cottage cheese, all soup, eggs, canned chicken or canned tuna (soft and moist – they say to avoid dry meat or poultry at this point), 90% or more lean ground beef (boy will I be looking forward to this one – I adore beef!), canned fruit in unsweetened liquid, unsweetened applesauce, bananas, hot cereal such as oatmeal and Cream of Wheat and mashed potatoes (with only with light butter or margarine on top). I am pretty sure watermelon would be included in this list – one of my favorites! Again, there are more than listed, just soft and moist foods.
Last stage – this will be the regular bariatric diet. Everything from the previous stages including all fruit, any lean beef/chicken/fish, all vegetables, whole grain bread/pasta/rice/cereal/crackers, potatoes (no this doesn’t include french fries lol), low-fat dressing and just eating healthy and sensibly. NO fried foods, NO sweets and everything has to be low-fat.
All stages require 60-80 grams of protein per day and you must sip every liquid – no gulping. Also food must be chewed thoroughly before swallowing. You must drink your liquids 30 mins before and 30 minutes after each meal so that your tiny stomach doesn’t get filled with water when it should be meal time and getting protein, vegetables, fruit, etc.