Managing Hunger after Weight Loss Surgery

July 14, 2012

Managing hunger after weight-loss surgery is one of the most daunting parts of post-bariatric life. In almost every case, except some gastric sleeve post-ops, patients may still feel hungry even if they are full after a meal. This arises because, while the stomach is smaller, the brain may still be used to the patient’s past lifestyle and diet.

This hunger, especially in the first few months after surgery, can make it very difficult to stick to the post bariatric diet and can be a nagging reminder of the lifestyle and diet challenges after weight loss surgery.

The gastric sleeve is slightly different however, because part of the stomach is cut away and removed from the abdomen. The fundus, which produces hunger causing hormone ghrelin, is removed along with the stomach. This causes significantly reduced hunger sensation in many patients. What is ghrelin? How does it work?

OK, So How Can We Manage Hunger?

Managing hunger is not as difficult as it may seem at first glance. The following tips are important ways to effectively manage hunger after weight loss surgery:

  • The more dense the food that is consumed, the less hungry the patient will feel. Foods that are low in nutrition such as high-fat, high sugar foods provide very little long-term satiety, while dense proteins can offer a great deal of satisfaction in small portions. Substitute lean meats (when your post-op diet permits) for processed meats. Even carbs are OK in moderation, but opt for whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat, etc,) rather that their white counterparts.
  • Eating slowly can also help with any hunger issues. We often eat much faster than we should and our bodies do not register as full until it’s too late. If we eat slowly and chew thoroughly, the body will be able to catch up and let us know when to stop eating. Not only will you help
  • Drinking water 45 minutes before and after a meal can also help with hunger, especially head hunger – the “fake” hunger we feel when we’re actually thirsty. One or two 8 ounce glasses of water before and after a meal, not during, can help us avoid head hunger. Could you have head hunger?. Be sure to drink your daily water quota as well – 64 ounces, or 8 glasses per day. You’ll feel better physically and mentally.
  • Finally, eating small meals more often throughout the day can keep our sugar levels more constant and make us feel less hungry. Rather than eating three big meals, try five smaller meals – a tried-and-true way to manage hunger. And remember don’t skip meals thinking it’ll help – it won’t. Believe it or not, even fast food can serve as an occasional hunger fix, if needed.

Hunger is largely controlled by hormones in the body that communicate with the brain. Our hunger levels will eventually begin to fall in line with our new food consumption patterns.

Difficulties involving hunger usually occur shortly after bariatric surgery when lifestyle changes feel the most drastic, however they often subside over the course of several months as our bodies and minds come to terms with the major changes that we’ve made.

Preparations for the post-surgical lifestyle start even before surgery, so be sure to start well in advance by attending support groups and even starting the bariatric diet before your procedure, after speaking to your surgeon, of course.

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Advanced Surgical Associates is one of the first exclusively surgical groups practicing in Union County New Jersey. And that is just the first of many firsts for ASA. For over 40 years, we have pioneered breakthrough surgical patient care in North Jersey in both general and weight loss surgery. ASA also offers gastric bypass, gastric sleeve and gastric banding to those suffering from obesity in New Jersey.
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