Let’s talk about… food after weight-loss surgery

For those of you who haven’t seen our previous posts yet, my husband Alan and I both got a Gastric Bypass done at Irmet Hospital in Turkey. I get a lot of questions about what our food intake looks like now and immediately after surgery, so below I’m going to highlight our experience with re-introducing food to our new, much smaller stomach.

Food needs to be re-introduced slowly and in stages, similar to that of a baby growing into a toddler and progressing further. The same rules apply – start with liquids, then puree, then soft foods then solids.

This is what our food plan consisted of.

01 January 2021 – This was the day we started our 2 week liver reducing diet (LRD). This is done to minimize complications and to give the surgeon enough room to work around your organs easily. Everyone is given a different variation of this diet, as well as different lengths to follow it. I had to follow it for 1 week, but Alan had to follow it for 2 weeks, so I decided to start it 2 weeks before surgery too with him so it’ll be easier for both of us. This consisted of an abundance of vegetables, lactose free cheese, very small amounts of protein, and absolutely no sugar, carbs, oils or alcohol.

12 January 2021 – This was our last day in Malta and so far we’ve stuck to the LRD to the letter, but today we both wanted one last round of our favourite meal – Sushi – and so we indulged in a large number of sashimi, but also added a couple of temaki and uramaki which obviously included rice, but we both agreed that we just needed one last guilty pleasure especially knowing that rice was one of the most common foods which bariatric patients have trouble digesting after, so it could be months before we try it again.

13 January 2021 – The day we flew out to Istanbul. We caught the morning flight and on the plane I just wanted to take the water but with Covid restrictions, all in-flight food and drinks were served in a brown paper-bag, so I took the bag thinking to myself I’ll just take the water and that’s it – little did I know I would find a nice moist pound cake with a strawberry drizzle inside the bag too, and me knowing how much I love that normally, I decided to eat it too. Alan restrained from eating his, but then again he has never had a sweet-tooth. We got to the hospital, and I was feeling guilty for indulging in that little piece of cake, but I was reassured that it wouldn’t affect my surgery as the rest of the LRD would have already worked it’s “magic”. The hospital then gave us pureed soup, which we both took 2 big bowls full in the evening as we were so hungry that day.

14 January 2021 – Surgery day. Before surgery we weren’t allowed any food or drink, not even a sip of water. As soon we got out of surgery however we were given a spray bottle which we could use to wet our mouth for the next 24-hours if we get thirsty. Let me tell you; it doesn’t sound like much, but this bottle came so useful.

15 January 2021 – Day 1 post-op. We were given two small bottles of water and asked to take a sip every few minutes. Alan managed to drink around a bottle and a half in a day, whilst I didn’t even manage to finish one bottle. I was always very picky with my water, there’s about a handful of brands I liked throughout the years, the others seem to be a bit too salty for me. I was hoping this would change after surgery, but it actually got worse.

16 January 2021 – Day 2 post-op. Today we were give two small bottles of water and four small packs of juices each to introduce different tastes and consistencies to us. Alan managed to drink them all, and went to get more water in the afternoon. I however drank about half of them.

17 January 2021 – Day 3 post-op. Today we were given the same amount of drinks like yesterday, but then we were also given 2 cups of chicken broth. Alan drank all the water and went to get more throughout the day. He also drank one of the juices and both cups of the broth. I drank the water and the juices I was given only, took one look at the broth, tried a tiny sip and put it as far away from me as possible as I wasn’t even a fan of the smell.

18 January 2021 – Day 4 post-op. Today we were also given everything like yesterday, but we were also provided with a protein shake (mixed with half water, half lactose free milk). I was excited for this as I desperately needed a different taste in my mouth, and I could choose any flavour from chocolate, vanilla or strawberry. I got chocolate, Alan got Strawberry. Us being us, we obviously tried each other’s too. Whilst Alan liked both shakes and drank his within 2 hours – it took me a whole day to down three-quarters of mine and I felt it was too thick (even though it was literally liquid). Late afternoon came and we were offered another protein shake which Alan tried the vanilla, but I declined as I couldn’t stomach another one. Today Alan also realized he can decline any of the drinks they give us, and declined the broth (Bless him, he thought we had to drink everything they provided even if we didn’t like it).

19 January – 05 February 2021 – The infamous liquid stage. This means that anything that goes inside your stomach needs to be clear liquid. Water, home-made fruit juices, broth or no-sugar protein shakes was our whole menu for these weeks. Boring, dull and you’ll start regretting ever having the surgery if you loved dining out and organizing dinners with your friends and family before all of this, but if you’re on this stage, hang in there. It does get much better. Also take advantage of this stage as this is the most amount of weight you’re gonna loose in such a short period of time. In fact on 05th February I had lost 15.2kg by then, whilst Alan had lost a whopping 24.6kg since we started this journey.

06 February 2021 – Today we were allowed to start our Puree stage. Some programs require a 3-week puree stage, followed by a 3-week soft food stage. Ours were amalgamated and required us to join them together, as long as we introduced food slowly and giving our stomach a balance mixture of pureed and soft foods to heal slowly. On the 6th of February we also realized that we need to stock up our kitchen again since we had gotten rid of absolutely everything and hadn’t even thought about going to the supermarket yet. So we decided we’ll go on Monday, and this weekend we’ll eat out. In hindsight this might not have been the best of ideas, both for the choice of food we’ll find as well as for our morale. The Saturday we had a salmon salad from a sushi place. We only ate the salmon pieces, and this is where we found out that suddenly both of us do not like avocado anymore! The next day we decided to eat something in the afternoon and we headed to a Turkish place and ordered a chicken shish, hummus and a meatball beef stew. I got as far as half a meatball and a little drop hummus before I was feeling like I just came out of an all-you-can-eat Buffet in Las Vegas. Alan managed 1 full meatball and a bit of hummus. None of us even touched the second plate and we ended up taking it home and spent a whole week eating from it.

27 February – 26 April 2021 – This was meant to be the stage were we start introducing different kinds of solid foods, seeing what your new stomach can tolerate, what hurts you, what tastes you like/dislike, etc. This wasn’t a necessary stage, but we found it useful, especially when pro-longed to a 2-month stint. You can say that we have tried almost anything, all in small portions and we have identified healthier versions of our old favourites. Things we have tried included, but are not limited to:

• Oven baked rabbit;
• Chicken breast marinated and cooked in the wok or on a skillet;
• Various different kind of soups;
• Chicken escalope & nuggets;
• Pizza;
• Sushi;
• McDonalds (Yes, we went once, got one of those small burgers, removed the bottom bun and managed to eat the top bun and the patty);
• Butter croissants from Starbucks (My new fav desert – not too sweet, but just enough);
• Omelette;
• Yogurts;
• Various kinds of fruit;
• Fresh fish – cooked and carpaccio;
• Lamb shanks;
• Lasagne, ravioli and cannelloni;
• Shrimp;
• Various wraps;
• Home-made Indian curry;
• Ice cream, and many more items.

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27 April 2021 onwards – From this day we have decided now that we know what we can tolerate and what we cannot, we’ll start having more structure in when we eat and what we eat, rather than trying out new stuff. Our days right now look like this food-wise:

• Light breakfast; – (generally a yogurt simply to open up our stomach for the day);

• Lunch; – Snack (This is not daily as some days you will feel more restricted and can’t consume as much as the day before, so on those days we skip the snack to have a good dinner at the end of the day);

• Dinner. Our portion sizes however has reduced dramatically. We can consume about a starter portion per meal. We need to follow other certain rules whilst eating too, such as:

• Take a small bite, wait a few minutes, then take the second bite (This is cause there’s no middle ground, you either have an empty stomach, or a full one);

• No drinking whilst eating;

• You need to chew your food so many times that it’s broken down more than minced meat before it goes down.

We have a number of vitamins we need to take daily for the rest of our lives. These include calcium, B-complex, B12, multi-vit, Vitamin D, etc. I also take Biotin (for me only not for Alan) to help combat the hair loss.

Do we go out to restaurants often? Well… I’d like to say yes, but truth be told, a few days after we started eating solids, restaurants in Malta were forced to close for the semi-lockdown due to high Covid-19 numbers. However we have managed to go out a few times before they were forced to close down.

We have in fact found a fish restaurant in M’Xlokk called La Nostra Padruna which we’ve never been to before the surgery. We explained to the owner that we had just done the gastric bypass and so we have certain restrictions, such as no use of oil in any of our foods, not only did he comply, but he also was knowledgeable about the procedure and was suggesting stuff himself from the menu which we could eat with ease. He also explained that a friend of his has done it recently in Turkey too and he got his insight from this friend. We ended up going there three times that week and each time was amazing.

We do feel awkward sometimes at restaurants, mostly because if the restaurant is full we feel bad about taking up a table for a small bill. So we end up buying an extra portion of something and take it all home with us most of the time. We also order a bottle of water, even though we can’t drink 30 minutes before/after a meal, and we just take the bottle home with us. We also try to stick to restaurants when they’re not so busy cause of this, such as Friday lunch-time.

We used to live to eat. Now we eat to live.

We’ll be sharing some of our favourite bariatric friendly recipes with you all on this blog very soon. If you have any which you’d like to share, do send them over, we’ll try them out ourselves and share them with our readers.