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What is a Normal Portion Size after Bariatric Surgery?

It’s hard to know what a normal portion size is after WLS. In the beginning, it can be as little as 100-200 millilitres (around 1/3-2/3 cup) per meal. But research shows that most people eat relatively “normal” portions as time goes on.

Dietitian Anna Laurenius at Sahlgrenska Academy in Gothenburg, Sweden, has studied how gastric bypass patients eat. She followed 128 patients both before and after surgery. She found that portions tend to normalise over time but that people eat fewer calories than before. This could be because people generally choose different foods after surgery, including more vegetables, and they also stop at one portion vs taking multiple servings. Other changes in eating patterns include eating more often throughout the day, eating more at the beginning of the day, and eating more slowly.

What are the recommendations?

The advice that many clinics and hospitals provide is to eat 4-6 meals a day in order to maintain a steady blood sugar and get enough protein. It is also advised to avoid grazing. Most recommend that your portion size after bariatric surgery be between 100-200 ml (1/3-2/3 cup) at first, but this varies from person to person. Some people can’t even eat that much in the beginning. It all depends on how tight your pouch or sleeve is, the type of food you’re eating, how recent your last meal was, etc.

We know that this maybe leaves you with a bit of an ambiguous feeling about how much to eat, but that’s because there’s no correct answer. The right portion for someone else may not be right for you. A few things to keep in mind are:

  •        Eat slowly and chew well. These behaviours will help you feel satisfied before you get too full.
  •        People are often able to eat bigger portions of soft or liquidy foods, like yogurt and cottage cheese.
  •        Denser foods, like meat, tend to fill people up quickly.
  •        Crunchy foods, like crackers or chips, aren’t very filling.

What does this look like in real life?

To help illustrate how different portion size after bariatric surgery can be, read on to find out what it’s been like for Sophie and Ursula.

Sophie, Gastric Bypass

“After 9 months, I already started not to feel full after meals, especially in the evening after dinner. So I added 100 g of broccoli  to help fill my stomach, because it adds a lot of volume without many calories. I still do this now. Over the summer, I substituted broccoli for a large salad. If you didn’t know that I had the operation, you would not be able to tell from what I eat since I often eat a normal portion.

Ursula, VSG

“It has been 1.5 years since my surgery. I reached my target weight after 8 months, and I have been at a stable weight for 10 months. My portions are still small, and I always on small plates or bowls. I still have to think about eating slowly, otherwise I easily get a stomachache and/or feel stuffed immediately. If, on the other hand, I eat slowly, I have room for a little more food in my stomach, which can keep me feeling full a little longer .”

What has your experience been with portion size after bariatric surgery?

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