Living Well after Gastric Bypass: Diet, Nutrition, and Weight Control - My Bariatric Life

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This is  the first article  in a comprehensive series that covers diet, nutrition, and weight control after gastric bypass surgery.

You know that eating healthy after gastric bypass surgery will help you to maintain your weight loss for the rest of your life. And eating healthy also may protect you from a number of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. But you can probably use some clear advice on what a healthy diet is, and how to put the "pouch rules" dietary guidelines and plan of eating into action.

I recall how I struggled to make healthy food choices after my gastric bypass surgery in 2003. At the office, I would pull up the cafeteria menu online and study it, contemplating what would make a healthy lunch for my bariatric life. It has taken me years to truly understand where my food comes from, what healthy food really is, and the profound impact of what I eat has on my weight, my health, and my life. I am constantly learning more and refining my food choices.

Despite the vast amount of food available, you may not be getting the best nutrition. And since you are eating a small amount of food and not absorbing all the nutrients from that food as a result of your altered anatomy, getting the maximum nutrition from the foods you eat is paramount for optimal health.

There are many challenges to eating well: conflicting information on nutrition, an abundance of convenience foods, the cost to eat fresh healthful foods, and your busy schedule. Like me, you also may struggle to understand what is healthy. In this series of articles, we will explore good nutrition and maintaining your weight loss after gastric bypass surgery.

Let's begin with understanding nutrition.

Nutrition Basics from Johns Hopkins Medicinutrients

Food provides the energy you need to function and the nutrients needed to maintain your body's health. There are largely two main categories of nutrients:

Macronutrients like protein, fats, and carbohydrates are needed in large amounts to supply energy and maintain and repair the body.

Micronutrients like vitamins and minerals are needed in small amounts to regulate chemical processes and build strong bones.


Calories measure the amount of energy in a food. Carbohydrates and proteins contain four calories per gram, fats contain nine cal ­ories per gram and alcohol contains seven calories per gram. All calories consumed in excess of what your body needs for energy get stored as fat.


Proteins make up our muscles, bones, cartilage, skin and antibodies, as well as some hormones and all enzymes in the body. Proteins in food are broken down in the intestine into amino acids -- the building blocks of proteins. The body can manufac ­ture 13 of the 22 amino acids in proteins; they are called nonessential amino acids because they don't need to be obtained from food. The other nine are essential amino acids because they must be supplied by food. Read Amino Acids Overview to learn more.


Carbohydrates are starches and sugars obtained from plants. Sugars are known as simple carbohydrates and starches as complex carbo ­hydrates. All carbohydrates are broken down in the intestine and converted in the liver to glucose, a sugar that is carried through the bloodstream to cells, where it is used for energy. Carbohydrates are con ­verted into fat when intake exceeds your immediate needs and your body's capacity to store glycogen.

Fats and Oils

Fats and oils belong to a group of substances called lipids. All fats are combinations of saturated fats and unsaturated fats. Fats are vital for the proper functioning of your body. They are used to store energy, are required for the membranes of cells, are converted to important hor ­mone-like substances, and form triglycerides that provide a layer of insulation under the skin. Since the body cannot manufacture all the types of fats it needs, certain ones that must be obtained from foods are called essential. In addition, dietary fat is needed to help the intes ­tine absorb vitamins A, D, E and K.


Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance produced mainly in the liver that can also be made by all cells (except red blood cells). The liv ­er produces all of the cholesterol the body needs, but cholesterol is also found in animal foods, such as meats, poultry, fish, eggs, butter, cheese and milk. For transport in the blood, cholesterol is bound to certain proteins to form lipo ­proteins. Cholesterol is present in the membranes of all cells, acts as insulation around nerve fibers, serves as a building block for certain hormones and is needed for the formation of bile acids, which are required for the absorption of fats from the intestine.


Vitamins are needed to regulate metabolic functions within cells. They do not supply energy, but one of their jobs is to help convert macronutrients into energy.


Minerals serve many functions, including helping to build cer ­tain tissues (particularly bones) and to maintain the water con ­tent and pH (acid-base) balance in the body.


Fiber is present in fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes (peas and beans). Fiber is not digestible and has no nutrients or calo ­ries. Its value lies in its ability to speed foods through the digestive tract and bind toxins so they do not harm the intestine. Some types of fiber also help control blood glucose and choles ­terol levels.


Water is an essential nutrient because it is involved in all the body's processes. In 2004, the Institute of Medicine established a general fluid recommendation of 91 oz a day for women (about 11.5 cups) and 125 oz a day for men (about 15.5 cups).

In the next article in this series, we will explore the specific vitamin and mineral needs of the bariatric patient.

What to read next: Essential Vitamins and Minerals after Bariatric Surgery for Optimal Health** References**:

Johns Hopkins White Paper: Nutrition and Weight Control, Your Personal Guide to eating Healthy and Managing Weight accessed 10-11-12

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My Story...

You can read about  my decision  to have weight loss surgery back in 2003, and since that time  my journey  from processed food junkie to healthy living so as to  maintain a lifetime of obesity disease management. My wish is to help you on your own journey of  lifetime obesity disease management.  Whether you are planning or have had bariatric surgery, or you want to lose weight through non-surgical means, my shareposts along the way will help you to navigate your journey successfully.