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How Do I Eat Enough Protein after WLS?

By Michelle May, M.D.

Woman Cooking On A BarbequeEating enough food may not be as easy as it sounds after WLS! Eating enough protein after WLS may be particularly challenging.

For the first few months after WLS (weight loss surgery), the capacity of your stomach is much smaller (only about the size of an egg after bypass, and about the size of a banana after the sleeve), making it difficult to eat more than a few bites at a time. It may take 3 to 6 months—or more—before you’re able to eat a palm-full amount of protein at one sitting comfortably. In addition, after surgery, particularly gastric bypass and the sleeve, you may not feel very hungry, further affecting your ability to consume enough protein. You’ll probably find it easier to eat six mini-meals a day rather than three larger meals. Your surgical team may also recommend protein shakes right after surgery to help you consume enough protein.

Some people find that certain protein-containing foods are difficult to tolerate. For example, fatty meats can delay the emptying of your stomach and cause a heavy feeling and/or loose stools. Dry, tough, or grilled meat, pork, or chicken can increase the chance of food getting stuck.

To help prevent these symptoms, choose lean meats but use preparation methods that keep them moist and tender, such as braising or cooking them in a slow-cooker. You can also keep a small bowl of warm low-fat or no-fat sauce or gravy at the dinner table to add as needed to keep it from getting cold and dry as you’re eating. Eat slowly and mindfully, chewing each bite carefully and thoroughly.

If necessary, a protein supplement can be used in place of a meal a few times a day. (Keep in mind that after gastric bypass, some people will develop dumping syndrome if they drink a highly concentrated protein shake. If that’s the case, thirty grams of protein at a time is generally the upper limit that won’t cause problems.) However, most people find that chewing their food leads to more satisfaction than drinking it. In addition, whole foods are recommended for nutritional balance and variety.

(This excerpt is from Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery Companion Workbook and Journal.)

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About the author

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle , winner of seven publishing awards. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery. Michelle shares her compelling message and constructive keynotes with audiences around the country, offers workplace wellness programs, and has trained and licensed hundreds of health professionals to facilitate Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs worldwide. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah Radio, and quoted in Diabetic Living, Fitness, Health, Huffington Post, Parents, Self, USA Weekend, US News & World Report, WebMD and many others. Her personal success story was published in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. Michelle cherishes her relationships with her husband, Owen and grown children, Tyler and Elyse. She regularly enjoys practicing yoga and hiking near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She and Owen, a professional chef, share a passion for gourmet and healthful cooking, wine tasting, photography, and traveling.

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