How much should I be eating after weight loss surgery?
Those who have had weight loss surgery often ask how much they should be eating. Whilst is seems a simple question, there is no simple answer.
How much you should be eating is a hot topic on many online forums or support pages, where it becomes clear that clinics and support teams widely differ in how much they recommend their patients eat.
Some teams recommend you limit meals to half a cup, some may say one cup, and others will say a bread and butter plate of food. Interestingly, one cup of food nicely fits on a bread and butter plate and this is the guide we often use. Some say to eat three times per day, some say only two, others may say six small meals.
Accredited Practising Dietitians (like us!) are university-qualified experts on food and nutrition. Whilst even our recommendations on what you should eat following surgery will vary, what we will generally agree on is that it is difficult to meet your nutritional requirements eating half a cup of food or less, two or three times a day.
To date, there are no scientific studies on the exact amount of food people should include after weight loss surgery. Research from Mercy Bariatrics in Perth, Western Australia, has found however that whilst initially following a sleeve very small amounts of food are tolerated, at six months after surgery most people will manage about half a cup of food at a time. By 12 to 18 months most people will manage about one cup of solid food. This is a guide only and will vary between people, as there are different size sleeves, and whilst this research was in sleeve patients, we often see similar in bypass patients.
An important point from this study is that people found they could indeed ‘fit’ more food in beyond the amount they felt satisfied with, which is not advised. Your goal when eating following surgery is not to see how much you can eat and get away with, but rather how little you can eat to feel satisfied.
Continually testing the limits of how much you can eat increases your intake, particularly if it occurs repeatedly, and can compromise your results.
We recommend you tune in to your feeling of satisfaction after eating and let that guide the amount of food you need to eat. Always stop eating before you feel any discomfort.
If you need help learning to read your hunger and satiety signals, we cover that in more detail here.