Understand Portion Sizes
After Gastric Sleeve, Bypass,
and Lap-Band®   

Wondering about the proper portion sizes after gastric sleeve, gastric bypass or gastric Lap-Band® bariatric surgery? Here's the low down on how big your meals “should" be after weight loss surgery.

Buzz kill alert...

...The truth is...

...there's no evidence to support what volume of food you “should” eat at any given time after surgery. That's because...

Portion Sizes After Bariatric Surgery Ultimately Depend On:

  • How long ago your surgery was
  • Which surgery you have: sleeve (VSG), bypass (RNY), or Lap-Band®
  • The texture of food being consumed

How Long Ago Was Your Surgery?

In the early post op period, your small new stomach (referred to as the “pouch”), is swollen because it’s inflamed and therefore VERY limited in how much  it can hold. It's usual to tolerate only a few bites, tablespoons, or ounces at a time.  (Most of your nutrition will therefore come from protein shakes in the beginning).

As you heal and inflammation goes down, you're slowly able to eat a little more. Portion sizes will most likely continue to increase gradually throughout the first-year post op. But don’t worry…

…THIS IS NORMAL!

No need to fear your stomach stretched back out just because you can eat more than you did in the beginning.

Once healed, your pouch allows a larger, yet still limited, amount of food.

Which Surgery?

The maximum capacity of the pouch varies a little depending on whether you have a sleeve, bypass or Lap-Band®.

If you’re gaining weight, it’s not because your portions are too big, it’s because you’re eating the wrong foods. "Slider foods” are notorious offenders.

If you eat the right healthful, quality foods, the portions, and thus calories, will fall into line.

What Affect Does the Texture of Food Have on Portion Sizes After Gastric Sleeve, Bypass, and Lap-Band®?

Liquids and soft mushy textures are better tolerated and more comfortable to eat than hard, dense textures, especially in the first year post op.

 This means you can eat a larger portion of cottage cheese (soft) than chicken (hard).

  • You may be able to drink an entire protein shake, but only eat ½ protein bar
  • You may be able to eat 6oz of Greek yogurt but only 1-3 oz of chicken

Different foods feel different in the stomach. Cubed chicken feels different than lettuce. You get the idea. It’s thus impossible to define an absolute “right” gastric sleeve meal size or “right” portion after gastric bypass or post Lap-Band®

…or to give an exact answer to the frequently asked question: “How big “should” meals be after bariatric surgery.

It’s best to avoid “shoulding” on yourself 😉

How to Discover Your Cinderella Portion Size

Not too little, not too much. Just right.

That’s what I call a “Cinderella” portion at any given meal.

No bariatric surgery nutritionist, not even me, can tell you how much that is.

Eating mindfully is the only way to figure it out. YOU are the one who lives inside your body and YOU are the ONLY one who can determine this. Take a small bite, chew carefully and listen to how your stomach feels.

Mindful eating means you never decide in advance how much you’re going to eat. Rather, you evaluate how you feel after every single bite and gauge whether or not you should take the next bite.

This is TRULY the key to determining the proper portion sizes after gastric sleeve, bypass or Lap-Band®. And it can be a different amount meal to meal, day to day.

Stop When You’re Full

Avoid forcing yourself to eat a particular amount because you think it’s the “right amount.” Stop when you’re full regardless of whether you eat 1 Tablespoon or 1 cup of food.

In life before weight loss surgery, you know you’re full when you feel pressure behind the bottom of your sternum. “Full” feels different after surgery.

You may have:

  • Pressure high up in the chest
  • Back pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Sneezing
  • Excessive salivation
  • Hiccups

What Happens if You Overeat Portion Sizes after Gastric Sleeve, Bypass or Lap-Band®? 

  • Severe discomfort
  • Possible vomiting

This is why mindful eating is SO important 😉 

It’s unlikely you’ll stretch the pouch back out from overeating occasionally. However, if you’re regularly overeating, it’s time to take a look in the mirror, draw a line in the sand, reel things in, and get back to the basics before you experience weight regain.

Portion Sizes After Gastric Sleeve, Bypass, or Lap-Band®:  What Are The Best Tools?

  • Small plates
  • Small bowls
  • Invest in a bariatric portion plate or portion control dishes
  • Portion controlled bariatric food containers
  • Cocktail fork 
  • Small baby utensils

Portion Control Top Tips

  • Carry your snacks in portion-controlled bariatric food containers
  • Use measuring cups and spoons as serving utensils to dish up your meals
  • Pre portion foods from larger bags to avoid eating directly from the package
  • And here is again...eat mindfully!

Can I ever Eat “Normal” Portion Sizes after Gastric Sleeve, Bypass or Lap-Band®?

To paraphrase a famous quote of Henry Ford: “If you only do what you’ve already done, then you’ll only get what you already have.”

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” ~ Albert Einstein

Stop and remember WHY you had weight loss surgery in the first place! Bariatric surgery procedures cause weight loss, in part, by restricting the amount of food your stomach can hold at one time. There should never be a goal to eat as much as you used to eat. What’s the point of having surgery then?

Redefine “normal.”

You’ll have “new normal” portion sizes after gastric sleeve, gastric bypass or Lap-Band®. Embrace the new normal!

I saw a great meme once that said…

…”Normal” is simply a setting on the washing machine. HAHA! ;)

Summing it Up: The Key to Mastering Portion Sizes After Gastric Sleeve, Bypass, or Lap-Band® Surgery

Rather than worrying about the “right” portion sizes after bariatric surgery or how big meals “should” be:

And remember...

...The goal after weight loss surgery isn’t to just eat smaller portions of the foods you used to eat. The goal is to totally overhaul your diet. You'll be following a bariatric diet for life!

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