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Have you been wondering if the Keto diet after bariatric surgery is right for you?
I most certainly have. We know the low carb Keto diet after bariatric surgery is really trending right now, so if you are interested, we want to help you figure out exactly how to start for yourself.
After having a baby and not being able to take off the weight I regained, my husband and I decided to give the Ketogenic diet (aka “Keto”/low carb/LCHF — Low Carb High Fat) a try. I’m hoping this will be a helpful guide to set you on the right path to losing weight on the Keto diet after bariatric surgery. I’m going to share with you exactly how my husband and I are doing it.
We chose the Keto diet because we have found this is most similar to what bariatric surgeons are recommending long-term for their patients. The majority recommend low-carb diets, focused on protein, healthy fats, and nutrient-rich vegetables. Granted, the Keto diet is a bit different as it does emphasize lots of healthy fats for the purpose of satiation.
And too much fat in your diet may cause diarrhea, intestinal distress, or other dumping symptoms, if you’re sensitive to it.
It feels counter-intuitive to eat so much fat, but the truth is, if you are feeling hungry and deprived, it’s a sign you need more dietary fats in your meals. It’s important to note you probably won’t feel hungry and deprived if you are a newly post-op patient. However, a few years out, your body does regain the ability to have hunger pangs again, so this is a great way to keep yourself from going off the deep end and making those mistakes that pack on regain.
OK, this is my own personal “diet” disclaimer:
I am not a fan of quick weight loss schemes or fads. I’m positive the reason my husband and I were obese is because of the “diet” culture (yes, the kind in quotes, the ones designed with an end date), which is set up to have you lose quickly for the first few weeks, crash and burn, then after months of eating anything and everything, you get back on, repeating the cycle, all of it stemming from a place of shame. Each time messing up your metabolism more and more!
If you are going to do the Keto/low-carb diet, please think of it as a lifestyle change, and not something that is going to give you fast results (although, it probably will). Our healthy-minded vegan friends do not say they are on a diet, no, they live a vegan lifestyle. Don’t rely on the scale, instead, do this for health reasons, and the weight will just come off as a by-product.
We wanted to change to the Keto diet for a lot more than just taking off regained weight post bariatric surgery and post baby; we wanted all of the other numerous benefits of the Keto diet. The neurological health and lifting of mind fog, the restored energy, no more sugar cravings, etc. So go into this knowing this is a forever change, and that you are not going to take the weekends off, otherwise, you negate all of the hard work you put into your week.
If you want to experience the freedom from food addiction, changing to a long-term, sustainable plan, like Keto/low-carb, is a great choice.
The Basics of the Keto / Low-Carb Diet
I feel that I could write pages and pages of what I have learned through my research about the Keto diet, but I want to focus solely on how it relates to people who have had bariatric surgery.
To read a few great in-depth articles about the science of Keto and how it works, I highly recommend these amazing comprehensive articles:
These are two of my favorite write-ups about Keto I’ve read to date. Bookmark them to pass on to anyone who has or hasn’t had bariatric surgery, who want to start keto, but don’t know where to start.
Basically, your focus is going to be on getting lots of good fat, moderate protein, and vitamin-rich vegetables, but aiming for no more than 20g net carbs. Once you have reached your goal weight, the one in which your body feels most comfortable, then I recommend raising your carbs, lightly adding back in healthy carbs such as fruits and sweet potatoes. For maintenance, you will want to stay under 50g net carbs maximum, which should keep you fat adapted and remain in ketosis.
I know the idea of adding a lot of fat to your diet is scary for bariatric patient. First, it contradicts the nutrition advice we have had drilled in our heads for decades now. But nutritional science has shown that fat doesn’t make you fat, sugar does. Obesity wasn’t an issue until we were told by the USDA that low-fat diets were the healthiest. Food manufacturers took the fat out of our food, and added sugar to make it taste better, and what happened? We all kept getting fatter and fatter as a society.
So for those of you who may be physically uncomfortable eating so much fat after bariatric surgery as it may cause dumping syndrome, know that at a typical meal, if you were to pick a piece of dark meat chicken, and cook your vegetables in olive oil or avocado oil, that would be plenty of fat, and a great ratio of protein to fat to carbs. No, you will not be drinking jars of fat or eating butter straight from the fridge!
How Long Until I See Results on the Keto Diet After Bariatric Surgery?:
This is going to really depend on your body composition. Every body is different. My husband started dropping inches almost instantly, and by the time we wrapped week two, he was already down fifteen pounds on the scale! For me, not nearly as quickly, and I’m okay with that.
Note: I’m pleased to tell you that it definitely got better as I stuck with it!!
So what to do if you’re stalling like I did?
Do you remember after you had weight loss surgery and perhaps you experienced a stall shortly thereafter? You probably wondered, “How could I possibly stop losing weight when I’m only eating a few ounces of pureed food per day?”
First, your body is going to be ridding itself of the water weight it accumulated during your surgery. It just went through a ton of trauma, of course there is going to be swelling. Then as that comes off, your body begins to go through the transformation of dissolving fat.
This little illustration sums up nicely how there is so much more going on inside than what the scale can ever tell you.
Plus, it takes some people much longer to actually go into ketosis and/ or be fat adapted, which are two different things. Ketosis is when your body is producing ketones and using up fat stores as energy instead of glycogen. Being fat adapted means that you’re to the point where your body is working so well on using up stored fat as energy that you’re feeling so good, and losing those hunger pangs, to where you forget to eat lunch! (Please don’t forget to eat your meals!) This process may take up to two months or more for some people. This is why keto is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a lifestyle change, not a fad diet.
If this is frustrating to you, as it was to me at first, remember that the scale only gives you a tiny bit of information. Remember the big picture. Don’t narrow-mindedly focus on eating for a smaller number on the scale. Focus on eating for a better LIFE.
Tips for Keto Success:
If you find yourself starting and then stopping after two to three days and just can’t seem to get it down, here are some tips to help make keto much more simple:
Keep it Simple. In the beginning, it is best to just keep a very simple menu. You may even want to repeat the same meals daily until you feel comfortable adding in new foods. There are a million different great keto recipes online, including here on Barivangelist.com, but if having to learn a bunch of new stuff is overwhelming, remember this acronym: JERF. Just Eat Real Food. You can’t go wrong eating real food! For example, bacon and eggs at breakfast, turkey and cheese rollups and a pickle for lunch, and a fatty steak and vegetables in butter for dinner. Now, tell me that isn’t pretty similar to your post-bariatric diet plan already, am I right?? So easy!
Avoid Keto Flu. Cutting out sugar and other carbs can be very shocking to the body and for the first few days you might feel as though you have the flu. You can avoid this by adding in more electrolytes. A sugar-free Gatorade or PowerAde will work fine, but if you are avoiding the fake sugars, you can add pink Himilayan salt to your food for an amazing electrolyte boost! Table salt will not work for electrolytes. In fact, you may be like me and want to ONLY use pink Himilayan salt as it is so delicious, full of trace minerals, and just pretty to look at! Ideally, 2 teaspoons of pink Himalayan salt daily, if possible.
In a lot of low-carb forums, people will tell you to just drink dill pickle juice to get through “keto flu”. I can tell you it works, and it helps if you really, really love pickles.
Out of Control Cravings and Hunger? You may need more dietary fat, aka in the keto world, fat bombs. My husband would go CRAZY without his fat bombs! I personally don’t like them as much because I’m super sensitive to dumping syndrome, especially the addition of any sugar alcohols/sugar substitutes. But if you need to be kept from going into a tailspin, I recommend looking up “keto fat bomb” recipes on Pinterest! My husband’s personal favorite are these Keto Mini Pizzas. I like them, too, because they don’t have any added sugar. But he eats them literally every day, and remember, he is dropping inches like crazy!
Take Measurements and “Before” Pics. As I mentioned earlier, the scale doesn’t mean much, so only step on it once a week at MOST. Have someone hide it if necessary! But go by body measurements, not weight.
Lazy Keto — To Be or Not To Be. Many people who are following the keto diet feel they need to track their macros. Macros are fat, protein, and carbs. You can use MyFitnessPal for free on your phone for this purpose.
If you are interested in calculating how many macros and calories your body needs, this is my favorite macro calculator.
But if counting macros complicates things in the beginning too much making it hard to stay on, then I encourage you to do “lazy keto” and not track for now. One thing you can’t afford to be lazy about, though, is reading labels to check for hidden sugars and carbs. You will still want to only consume 20 grams of net carbs or less per day. The foods we used to think were healthy, wheat, corn, starchy veggies, most fruit, are going to need to be eliminated for now.
Seriously, guys, if tracking your macros makes your eye twitch because it brings back bad memories of that “diet” culture mentality, skip it. If you’re eating real food, three times a day, in pouch-sized and sleeve-sized portions (about 1 cup), you are going to be FINE.
For the record, neither my husband nor I track our macros.
Mental Preparation is Your Best Weapon. Getting your mind right is key to success. Decide now that you are not going to let temporary desires sabotage you from getting what you want in the long term. Give yourself permission to be successful.
One thing that helps us is to put a sticker on a the calendar for every day we stay under our net carb goal. I definitely don’t want to miss a day of putting my sticker up! If it works for my kids, I figured it would work for me, too. We also have assigned a monetary value to that sticker, so at the end of the week or month, if I so choose, I can use that money to purchase something off my Amazon wish list. I put every little thing on that list before purchasing it, because I will usually change my mind after a few months. So the things that have been on there long-term are the ones I will eventually purchase. It’s a great motivator to reward yourself with a tangible item, and not with food!
I hope this answers your questions about how keto works after bariatric surgery!
Here is a gift for you!
If you would like to receive my own keto/low-carb menu plan that I make for my own family, just subscribe to my newsletter and I’ll send you a new one each week!
Follow along with my husband and I as we continue shedding our own post-pregnancy-after-WLS regain!