3 Month Pre Bariatric Surgery Diet: 7 Dietitian Tips

Are you nearing your bariatric surgery date? Check out my recommendations for a 3 month pre-bariatric surgery diet below to help you become confident and well-prepared going into weight loss surgery. 

overweight woman eating a plate of healthy food

Why Focus on a 3 month Pre-Bariatric Surgery Diet?

The 3 months before surgery is the most important time to establish good eating habits and make sure you are ready – physically, mentally, and socially for surgery. 

I discussed the 6 month diet before weight loss surgery previously, which is often a requirement either by insurance or the weight loss clinic/hospital where you choose to have surgery. 

Refer to that blog for all the ins and outs of healthy eating habits to establish before surgery, or even just to be healthy and lose weight.  

When you are about 3 months out from possible surgery that is the time you want to add in some extra habits specific to preparing for your post weight loss surgery journey. 

Follow my 7 tips below to feel confident and prepared for your bariatric surgery and beyond. Whether you are getting a sleeve gastrectomy or roux-en-y gastric bypass, these will all apply. 

1. Make Hydration your Main Focus

Be sure you are consistently getting 64 ounces of hydrating beverages daily. 

These beverages should be non-caffeinated, have no bubbles, and not contain protein. This could be herbal tea, electrolyte beverages, or just straight water. 

Avoid Carbonation

Carbonated beverages are a definite no after surgery. So ensure you can go without energy drinks, beer, sparkling water, soda, etc. 

It is super painful to drink a carbonated beverage after surgery, so stop now to avoid the temptation later. 

No Chugging, Gulping, or Pounding

Pace yourself to reach your hydration goal by the end of the day. 

You cannot drink more than 2-4 ounces of liquids at a time (over 15 minutes) post-surgery. 

Initially, it will only be 1-2 ounces over 15 minutes! Sip, sip, sip. Drinking too quickly can cause a feeling of chest pressure and discomfort. 

No Drinking with Meals

Start keeping your liquids separate from your meals. 

Do not keep a glass of liquid near you at dinner time, this is too tempting and leads to many “oops I forgot” moments. 

After surgery, the goal is to stop drinking 20 minutes before you start eating and to wait 20-30 minutes after you finish eating before you start drinking again. 

Drinking with liquids can easily cause dumping syndrome, which will make you feel nauseous, lightheaded, sweaty, have a rapid heartbeat, and possibly lead to diarrhea or throwing up. 

Set a timer to be aware of these time constraints. 

Use the Baritastic app or ask your Alexa or Google Home type device to set a timer for 20 minutes the second you finish your meal or snack. Then, wait for that timer to go off before you start drinking. 

Give Up Alcohol

Yep, best to give it all up. Preparing now will help you feel confident that you can continue after surgery. 

Alcohol is metabolized much differently after surgery, and it will affect you substantially more. I’ve heard stories from people post-surgery who passed out on the floor after 2 glasses of wine. 

This isn’t just during the time directly after surgery; this is even years down the road. 

It is also well documented that those who undergo bariatric surgery are at a higher risk for alcohol use disorder (1). 

So start analyzing your drinking habits now. 

Are you a social drinker? What will you do in social situations if you can’t drink alcohol?

Are you an “ahhh, finally it’s the end of the day I’m going to relax and have a glass of wine” type of drinker? If so, what can you do to relax without the wine?

You don’t want to wait until after surgery to find out. 

Have a plan and start to implement it now so you can assess how well it works and if you will need more help. 

2. Protein is your Second Priority

Get in the habit of hitting your daily protein goals – typically about 80-120 grams per day, double check your goals with your dietitian. 

You want to know what protein you can have at each meal and with most of your snacks to help meet your daily needs. 

It’s super hard to get protein in with such small portions after surgery, so make sure you are diligent now so it’s easier after surgery. 

Now is also the time to try out various protein shakes to find one that works well for you, taste and digestive-wise. 

You can use these to replace a meal or snack to get used to having liquid protein meals. Premier protein is a popular option, and although there are protein waters on the market, the reviews are not great. 

Note that protein is slightly dehydrating as it takes your kidneys a lot of work to process, so these do not count as hydrating beverages

Start thinking about how you will bump up your protein when doing a liquid and eventually pureed diet after surgery. 

  • Do you like Greek yogurt? 
  • Will you try out some protein powders to mix into your meals? 
  • Are you going to puree chicken or lentil soups? 

Definitely have some savory options available as things taste overly sweet after surgery and relying primarily on protein drinks adds to the sweetness overload. 

3. Eat Regularly

Your 3 month pre-bariatric surgery diet should definitely include eating something every 3-4 hours. This will be your routine starting now until forever. 

This makes it easier to keep portions small and ensures you are balancing blood sugar throughout the day. 

Portions after surgery will be super small (¼ – ½ cup). You won’t be able to make up for the lunch you skipped earlier that day by having a larger dinner.

Eating too much in one sitting (or too quickly) is very uncomfortable after surgery and, for some, can lead to dumping syndrome. 

Skipping meals or snacks will also make it difficult to meet your macronutrient (protein, carbs, fats) and micronutrient needs. 

Set an alarm on your phone for every 3 hours to build the habit now, so it’s on autopilot after surgery. 

4. Completely Eliminate Added Sugars

Now is the time to go cold turkey and give up the added sugar. 

Not only will it help you lose those final pounds before surgery but it will also set you up for success in keeping the weight off post surgery. 

Plus, eating sugar after surgery almost always leads to dumping syndrome, which is miserable. 

So, now is the time to figure out your triggers for eating sweets. You’ve got 3 months to get it under control. 

Are you craving sugar because you’re sad, mad, lonely, bored…? What are your triggers? Try to identify them (optimally in a journal) every time you reach for sweets. 

Then start to find other things to do besides eat. 

Building new habits will make it easier to avoid sugar in the future. 

If every time you get bored, you grab a piece of chocolate, then eventually, this habit becomes automatic. You’ll find yourself grabbing chocolate from the cupboard before you realize you’re bored. 

Start a new habit by forcing yourself to make a change (no, it’s not easy). When encountering a craving, try some of these ideas:

  • Walk around the house
  • Go get the mail
  • Call a friend
  • Do 5 squats
  • Meditate
  • Take 3 deep breaths

See what sticks for you. Eventually, this new habit will override the old one, and it will be easier to avoid those trigger foods. 

You’ll be happy to hear that many people report not being interested in sweets after surgery. They also say that sweet food tastes extra sweet after surgery, making avoiding it easier. 

Plus… you don’t want to mess with dumping syndrome. 

5. Slow Down and Focus on Eating

As you focus on your 3-month pre-bariatric surgery diet, you want to focus on not just what you are eating but how you are eating.

Chew your Food 

Start building the habit of really chewing your food. 

After surgery, you’ll need to chew to the consistency of applesauce before swallowing. 

Now is the time to start building that habit, as it can be a difficult one. 

Lack of chewing food post-surgery can lead to a feeling of food getting stuck. This causes chest pain or pressure as well as regurgitating (sort of like throwing up) food. 

Eat Slowly 

This means actually taking the time to sit down and enjoy your meals. 

You’ll also need to consume meals over the course of 20-30 minutes. 

Eating too quickly can make it feel that food is getting stuck and so it either comes right back up or is super uncomfortable while it works its way down. 

In some cases, it can even cause dumping syndrome to eat too quickly as the food passes through your new stomach too rapidly.

Go slow, chew your food well, take SMALL bites, and set the fork down between bites. 

Set a timer for 20 minutes so you can get used to what this feels like. 

6. Continue Your Exercise Routine

You should have already established a good exercise routine. Keep this going. 

As mentioned in my previous blog, those that struggle with weight stalls or weight gain in the first year are often not exercising regularly. 

Find what works for you and mix it up when you get bored or need to push yourself harder. 

7. Be Aware of the Vitamins you’ll Need

Hopefully, you are currently taking a multivitamin and added Vitamin D (if needed), check your individual needs with your dietitian or doctor. 

After surgery, there will be specific vitamins and minerals recommended. 

Your clinic should walk you through these recommendations before surgery so you have time to purchase them and have them on hand for when you need to start. 

At my previous job, we usually recommended a bariatric-specific multivitamin (which contains higher iron, B12, and Vitamin D than typical multivitamins) and a calcium-magnesium combo. 

We usually had people wait until 2 weeks post-surgery to start these; your clinic recommendations may differ. 

Maximize your 3 Months Prior to Surgery

This 3 month pre-bariatric surgery diet ensures you take the time to practice and get it right. It’s much like practicing for a sporting event. 

You try, make mistakes, learn from them, and get better. That way, when it’s “game time” (or bariatric surgery time), you are ready to perform your best. 

Take advantage of this time leading up to surgery to minimize your risk of post-surgical complications and maximize your weight loss. 

Have the mindset that these are lifestyle changes you are making, they are forever, not temporary. 

And if you need more help or assistance, that’s okay. Reach out to a dietitian near home to work with regularly, or perhaps a counselor if you need to make some mental shifts. 

You only get surgery once, so you need to maximize the efficacy and do this at a time that is right for you. 

Put these 7 tips into action, and you will be very well prepared for your bariatric surgery. Best of luck!

If you need to start with the basics of establishing healthy eating patterns to lose weight prior to surgery or even without having to go through bariatric surgery, my Mastery of Habits for Weight Loss Program may be the right fit for you. Check it out here. 

For more tips, join my community in the Facebook Group: Weight Loss Support for Moms with (and without) Insulin Resistance.

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