An Expert Dishes Out on Portion Control After Bariatric Surgeries

Medically Reviewed by Katelyn J. Mock, US-Registered Dietician (R.D.)

I have had a few people ask me lately about portion size that they should stay within at meals after bariatric surgery (gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, and others) as far as you know, there is so much protein, so many carbs, and so many calories levels one should stay under, and so, I wanted to take a few minutes and address that today.

It is really something that I try to limit as far as giving you a specific amount of calories to stay under for a specific day. If anything, I will tell you, “Hey, you need to raise those… at least get it to 800 or to a 1000”. But, as far as an amount to stay under, I usually don’t.

Is Calorie Counting Important After A Bariatric Procedure?

One, if you are really less than 6 months from the weight loss surgery or even the first year, I really just want you to focus on getting your protein and starting to add fresh vegetables and fruits and getting those vitamins and minerals.

I don’t want you to be hung up on the calories per se. I really want you to focus on that intuitive eating.

So, eating when you are hungry and stopping when you start to feel a little bit full or that little bit of tightening that we have talked about before, in your abdomen and using those signals to eat and when to stop as well. That takes practice!

That time right after surgery, those first 6-12 months, is such a good time to do it because you usually do have that sense of restriction. Not everyone! As we have talked about it, some of you don’t. This doesn’t mean that your pouch is bigger than somebody else’s.

Calorie-Counting Post Bariatric Surgery
Calorie-Counting Post Bariatric Surgery

Eating Restrictions After Weight Loss Surgery

For whatever reason, some people just don’t have that physical restraint as much. That depends on the kind of food you are eating too. So, if you are having more casseroles, soft foods or soups, you might not have so much restriction.

But, if you are having more solid foods, more fibrous foods… you also tend to have a faster tolerance… or you notice a fullness… maybe more extreme or faster than if you have softer foods.

Sometimes, you don’t tolerate those foods that you get full of. So, those vegetables and fruits, maybe some meats… So, it is a balancing act of trying to figure out what to have and when.

Intuitive Eating After Bariatric Surgery

This is why I really try not to give the calorie levels specifically. I really want you to focus on intuitive eating. It is a practice. It takes time to do it. Now, if you are having a stall for over a month at a time or if you are starting to have weight regain… which most people don’t, at least in the first 6 months… but if you are noticing those things, whether you are a few years after surgery or a few months after surgery, let me know.

But I don’t want it to be your ‘end-all-be-all’. I want you to have a life. So, that’s my reason, at least for that.

If one keeps ignoring the feeling of fullness while eating, they could end up stretching their stomach pouch, which could result in failure of the surgery.

Portion Sizes Following Bariatric Surgery

As far as how much vegetables to have, how much meat to have or not… it really depends on your activity levels and how much you can tolerate at a meal.

At some times, you may be able to have more at one meal than what you normally can. You know, it is the same way. If I am really active one day, I can eat a lot more before I feel full.

Then, on a day where I am just kind of slugging it around the house… or if we have been driving around in the car, I am not as hungry because I haven’t expended as much energy. So, just really try to pay attention to that.

One thing that I do notice is that people generally do not eat vegetables and fruits, and I know it is a cliché as a dietitian to say, but it is really, really important for one to focus on including vegetables in your diet after bariatric surgery.

The earlier post-op you are, you might not be able to get in a solid 3-5 servings. You could probably get in a quarter cup of steamed veggies maybe a couple of times a day, but just finding ways to get those in is really important.

So, some food for thought! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments.

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