Bariatric Diet Explained:
The "5 R's"

Having weight loss surgery is one thing. Following a bariatric diet for the rest of your life is another.

Surgeons know surgery, but dietitians know food. I'll tell you what to eat, and how to do it.

I'm a bariatric dietitian.  I’ve helped thousands of patients prepare for weight loss surgery and succeed afterward.

It's one thing to talk about what to eat after surgery and a whole other thing to do it. I'll simplify what to eat, and then help you apply that knowledge whether you're in your own kitchen, a restaurant, or eating on the run.

I'll help you make the most of your surgery so you can get your life back: get down on the floor and play with your kids again, stop worrying about airplane seats and seat belt extenders, buy clothes off the rack, wear blue jeans. Get back to doing more of the things you love.

gastric sleeve diet
gastric bypass diet
gastric lap band diet

I work with:

You’re in the right place.  

Finally! An answer to "what can I eat after weight loss surgery?!" This website is where I get to share my 30 years of experience as a dietitian and my expertise in bariatric nutrition to inspire you with professional, practical advice, creative menu ideas, and strategies to implement healthy eating habits once and for all.

Different Surgeries, Similar Diet

Whether you have a gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, or gastric band, you’ll be following a bariatric diet from the moment you open your eyes after surgery thru the rest of your life.

While the bariatric surgical procedures are anatomically different from each other, the journey before and after any kind of weight loss surgery is very similar.

I’ve thus coined the term:

The "5 R's" of the Bariatric Diet©

This is how the journey looks from the time you start to prepare for surgery thru all the years beyond:

  1. Getting Ready 
  2. Recovery 
  3. Rapid Weight Loss 
  4. Rest of Your Life
  5. Possible Regain

Getting Ready 

This is the time in the months leading up to surgery. Your insurance may require 3-6 months of pre-surgery diet counseling, or even as many as 12 preop diet/behavior counseling sessions to prepare you for the changes in eating that are necessary after surgery.

These months leading up to surgery are the times to do your BEST eating, not your worst.

It’s common to have a “food funeral,” or “last supper” mentality where you want to have a last hurrah and say goodbye to all the favorite foods you think you’re never going to eat again.

Bad idea.

Think “Prehab” vs “Rehab.”

Prehabilitation, aka Prehab, is a strategy to begin “rehabilitating” before surgery versus waiting until after.

In the case of the bariatric diet, getting in a prehab mindset means using the time before surgery to start eating better, losing weight, and correcting possible nutrient deficiencies instead of waiting until afterward to do so.

Your doctor or insurance company may even require you to lose a particular amount of weight prior to surgery.

The best case scenario is that you establish improved eating habits in the many months leading up to surgery.

Going into surgery well nourished improves your odds of having a better outcome.

It just makes sense, doesn't it?!

PreOp Diet

1-2 weeks prior to the actual operation, your surgeon will most likely ask you to follow a very low calorie, high protein “liver shrinking diet.”

Your liver is located above your stomach, so the surgeon must lift it out of the way. Having a smaller liver makes the surgeon’s visualization better during surgery. If he/she has an easier surgery, YOU have an easier surgery😉

"Getting Ready:" Nutrition Priorities

 Healthy Eating/Weight loss before Surgery

 Preop Diet

Recovery 

Obviously, it’s going to take some time to recovery.

The recovery phase refers to the first few months after surgery. You’ll progress through a series of bariatric diet stages starting with clear liquids and advancing to solid foods over time.

Read more about the Bariatric Diet Stages.

Rapid Weight Loss 

This phase is definitely the most exciting, and I think it’s the one everyone dreams about when contemplating weight loss surgery. This is also called the “Honeymoon Phase.” Weight comes off easily, usually quickly, and you don’t feel hungry.

You’re excited, motivated, and if someone offers you a favorite dessert or snack food it’s easy to decline.

You have no problem eating small portions in this phase, and even when others eat “bad food” in front of you, you’re not interested in the least.

Even if you “slip” and indulge in something you know you really shouldn’t be eating in this phase, you quickly realize you can only eat a very small portion of it and rationalize that it’s ok. But STOP right there…

It’s NOT OK to think like that.

In the honeymoon phase of the bariatric diet, it’s easy to stick to small portions of any kind of food…good food OR “bad” food. But it won’t always be like that.

A honeymoon eventually comes to end, and so will this one.

honeymoon after bariatric surgery

Surgery helps you control portions of the RIGHT foods…

…lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats.

But bariatric surgery won’t help you control portions of the wrong foods in the long run. In the honeymoon period, yes. But in the long term, no.

That doesn’t really get talked about until after the fact. You eventually come to learn what the term “slider foods” means.

The goal after surgery isn’t to just eat smaller portions of the same foods that got you into the predicament in the first place. That’s the wrong way to use the surgery.

If you never overhaul your diet and behaviors, you’ll find you jump straight into the weight re-gain phase.

Burning Questions

At some point during this phase you’ll start to have A LOT of burning questions…

 …and I have your answers in the FAQ section of the website:

  • Has my stomach stretched out?
  • How big should my portions be?
  • How many carbs can I eat?
  • How many calories "should" I be eating now?
  • How much protein do I need now?

And Questions Like:

  • What if I can’t stop eating and gain all my weight back?
  • Can I ever eat “normal” again?
  • What do I order when I eat out?

And Even:

  • How do I satisfy my craving for sweets?
  • What do I do when I crave pizza?
  • Are there any foods I’m supposed to avoid?

The Rapid Weight Loss/Honeymoon Phase may last from 6 months - 2 years.

While that’s a pretty big range, the take home message is that it eventually will come to an end.  

So this phase is the time to enjoy your almost seamless weight loss and to work on overhauling your diet at the same time.

You’ll only experience the Rapid Weight Loss/Honeymoon Phase of the bariatric diet once, so make the most of it while you can!

Rapid Weight Loss:" Nutrition Priorities

“Protein First” Nutritional Strategy

 Mindful Eating

  Behavior Modification

Get the Right Tools

Rest of Your Life

Weight loss slows and eventually stops at the end of the honeymoon period.

You may find that food starts to look good again or your resolve isn’t as strong as it used to be. You may even start to feel a little hungrier than before.

This is the phase when you need to shift from a “protein first” nutritional strategy to a “produce first” nutritional strategy to maximize your chances for long term weight loss success.

If you haven’t started establishing new healthy habits by now, it’s time to put the pedal to the metal!

From here forward you have the rest of your life to work on maintaining the lost weight. If you start slipping into old eating habits, it’s possible to move to the weight regain phase.

"Rest of Your Life:" Nutrition Priorities

 “Produce First” Nutritional strategy

Continue Mindfully Eating

Accountability

Possible Regain 

You’ve probably heard stories about “that person” who had weight loss surgery and gained all their weight back.

I don’t think anyone goes into surgery thinking they’re going to be that person. But someone always is. And I guarantee they never thought it would be them. And you might think it will never be you. But it could be.

Bariatric surgery is just a tool. It’s not a guarantee you’ll lose weight.

It’s kind of like owning a watch. Owning one doesn’t automatically make you on time. You have to use it correctly.

One particular brand of a watch won’t make you on time any more than a different brand. Again, it’s how you use it.

And so it is with bariatric surgery. Regardless of whether you have the gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, or gastric band, you own a tool. How compliant you are with the bariatric diet afterward is up to you.

Weight regain is possible if you don’t do YOUR part.

"Knowing" vs "Doing"

knowing vs doing mountains

Now that you know all this, it doesn't necessarily ensure appropriate action.  Learning what the bariatric diet involves is the just the first step.

Sometimes there’s a huge gap between the 2 mountains of “knowing” and “doing.”

This is where I come in. I share my practical tips and pro strategies here to assure you easily and consistently implement what you need to do. And if you need a little extra help, I can work with you virtually. I’ll be your personal bariatric diet guide! 

Ways I Can Help Right Now:

I show you What to Do, and How to Do It. Simply.

Weight loss surgery isn't magic. 

You’ll need to do your part. I’ll help you! 😊

In Health,

Suzette Kroll, RDN