Endobariatric weight loss procedures can be completely life-altering—offering patients rapid, long-term weight loss that can lead to a fuller, healthier life. Yet, like any weight loss procedure, patients will have to navigate a series of changes that can be overwhelming if you don’t know what to expect. Former bariatric patient, registered dietitian and nutritionist Laura Sebring, MS, RD, LDN, provides this list of tips to help True You Weight Loss patients prepare for eating and mealtime after an endobariatric procedure.
- Expect mealtime to feel different. Let’s face it—your stomach is reducing in size by 80-90 percent, so there’s no way mealtime will feel the same as it did before your procedure. This has its pros and cons for most of us, since overdoing it at mealtime is often what leads to weight gain. However, food is very social and many associate mealtime with positive feelings. The significant change in how much you can eat can be challenging for some to navigate, and there’s a bit of “food grief” that many patients feel after a procedure. These feelings are completely normal, and it’s important to acknowledge them, while also remembering this is an exciting time and the beginning of a new YOU!
- Eat to satisfaction, not fullness. We talk a lot about this, and an endobariatric procedure is an incredibly effective tool to help patients learn to eat and be satisfied with smaller portions. Yet, still, many patients try to push the limit and eat until they’re uncomfortable. While it’s new in the beginning and patients will often eat to fullness as they adjust to their new stomach size, once you learn how much you can comfortably eat at the end of your transition to a full diet—stop eating when you feel satisfied (rather than when you feel full). This will help you establish this healthy habit for the long-haul.
- Be mindful. Eating mindfully can help you maintain long-term weight loss. Paying attention to your hunger cues, learning when your body is truly hungry (versus boredom or seeking comfort), and eating slowly and thoughtfully are all examples of mindfulness around eating. Chew slowly and savor your food, and focus on what you’re eating—which may mean you should avoid eating in front of a screen (including your phone!) or even limiting discussion or music that can distract you from the task at hand, which is nourishing your body.
- Use smaller dishes. Perception of portion size plays a role in how much we eat, and how satisfied we are with what we’ve eaten. That’s why many find that eating off a smaller plate or bowl can help us feel like we’re eating a full portion—even when we’re not. That’s why Laura recommends her patients eat off a lunch-sized plate and/or snack-sized bowl for all meals.
- Try not to live in fear. Laura shares that many patients are so fearful of failure that they’ll try eliminating full food groups (such as carbohydrates or fat) in an effort to lose weight. Others get worried that their procedure has failed any time they’re able to eat larger portions. (Note: This panic often sets in once the swelling from an endobariatric procedure goes down, which often leads to adjustments in how “full” a patient feels after eating—this is completely normal). She encourages her patients to trust the process, and to focus on eating a full, well-balanced diet in smaller portions. “Establish sustainable habits, and avoid succumbing to fear—and the weight will come off. We’ve done this enough to know what works and what doesn’t, and we’re here to offer the long-term guidance and support you need to achieve your weight loss goals,” she concludes.
Generally speaking for ESG or intragastric balloon patients, Laura recommends eating 2-3 ounces of animal protein per meal (the palm of your hand is 4 oz, so ½ to ¾ of that size), ½ cup of veggies, and one serving of starch (¼ c. brown rice or one piece of bread). (Note that bariatric revision patients will need to eat less due to the smaller pouch size.) She also encourages mixing nutrients together to slow digestion. For example, pairing a serving of almonds (protein/fat) with apple slices; or a tablespoon of hummus (protein/carbs) with carrot sticks. Doing so can help you feel full for longer.
“Managing your expectations around eating and mealtime before a procedure can help make the transition easier,” Laura explains. “I encourage patients to take some time to think about these things before their procedure to help them prepare for what’s to come.”