My Lap Band Journey – What I Ate For the First Year

by sandi on February 3, 2011

Lots of people ask what to “eat” right after surgery and how to graduate to solid foods.  The best advice I can offer is to get some ideas by working with your doctor and nutritionist so you can stick to their prescribed plans, but I also thought sharing my first year of foods may be helpful.  I remember missing chewing so badly in the liquid stage and then being afraid to take my first bite of soft food, and then really wondering if I could actually eat a bite of chicken.  Well, it’s 7 years later, I’m here blogging about it so I guess I made it through with no real scarring.

Based on my doctor’s plan I was to be on liquids for 10 days, with 40-60 grams of protein.  Remember, everybody’s plan is different.  How did I do this?  It was easy for the first 3-5 days since I was on pain meds (the 4th and 5th day only at night) and sipping protein drinks, water and herbal tea, with an occasional sugar free Jell-O (black cherry is my favorite) throughout the day.  I did this 2 ounces at a time, and that took effort.  It took about 3 days to get to 40 grams of protein and I wasn’t at 60 grams until about day 8 and that was ok.  At about 6 days though I wanted to “chew” so badly the couch cushions were in danger.  I didn’t know I could have sugar free popsicles or I would have.  That’s when I added V-8 juice, chicken broth and cream of mushroom soup that had all of the mushrooms removed by my dear, sweet husband.  It was tough getting in enough fluid to stay hydrated but somehow I did it, still 2 to 4 ounces at a time, sipping slowly and stopping if I felt “full”.

On day 11 I was able to start soft(mushy) foods and had been planning my single scrambled egg for breakfast for the past 4 days, but when it came to eating it I was terrified.  My soft or mushy food stage was also 10 days long and I found myself eating my ½ cup portion (that’s the most I could hold at the beginning) of soft food for my meals and supplementing between meals with my protein drinks.  I continued on with broths and v-8 juice and water for my fluids and this worked okay.  I knew it was only 10 days and I would try 1-2 foods per day so it felt like I was at the beginning of a buffet line.  I had one scrambled egg for breakfast, cottage cheese or yogurt for lunch and dinner was a baked sweet potato, or some refried beans with shredded cheese heated in the microwave.  I didn’t do the oatmeal, cream of wheat, hummus, bananas or peanut butter that were also allowed at this point.  With the exception of the peanut butter, none of the rest sounded appetizing.  Having peanut butter would have been like giving drugs to an addict so I avoid it to this day.  I did have a few saltine crackers with my egg or cottage cheese and my doctor has since added melba toast, low fat Ritz crackers and plain graham crackers to this mix.  A veritable feast!!!!  I put my portion on a small plate and took tiny bites using my toddler spoon or fork.  I was determined to make this work, and it was.  I ate the same thing for the 10 days because it was easy and I didn’t have to think about it.

Week three arrived and I was ready for solid foods.  I was fine with breakfast and lunch at this point, but wanted something new for dinner.  I started adding fish like tilapia and salmon, and also added chicken and thin sliced deli turkey.  Pretty soon I was adding ground turkey.  I did fine with all of these and my routine started for the next few months.  On Sunday I would bake a frittata made with egg beaters, soy crumbles (sausage tasting) and low fat shredded cheese and spices.  I would cut this into squares that were about 200 calories and 20 grams of protein after it cooled.  (I measured everything that went into the frittata, wrote down calories and protein and then figured out the size of the piece I would need) for breakfasts for 5 days at work.  I would wrap these up individually and microwave them at the office each morning since eating immediately after waking up was no longer going to work for me.  I had my breakfast by 9am, and lunch at about 1pm, with lots of herbal tea and water in between.  I brought a timer into the office (I know I could have set my computer to do the same thing) to keep reminding me to drink my water and when to stop ½ hour before my meal.

….. Breakfast my first year after lap band surgery included egg beaters or egg substitute which is only 30 calories per ¼ cup with 6 grams of protein. I would make a frittata on Sunday and warm up portions all week long.

My lunch at work the first year after lapband surgery included a small can of tuna with about 20 grams of protein.

Now lunch.  Okay, I made it really easy.  For the first year I ate the same thing 5 days a week for lunch.  I drained a 3 ounce can of tuna, added 1 T of fat free mayonnaise and ate it on 5 saltine crackers or other crackers that were about the same calories.  Again, about 200 calories and 20 grams of protein.  I didn’t have to think about it, I wasn’t hungry, and it met my protein needs.  If I never see another can of tuna now, it will be too soon, but I found something that worked for me, it wasn’t broken so I didn’t fix it.  Being so disciplined at work helped me to avoid all sorts of temptations.  Nights and weekends are when I experimented, and expanded my diet.  If I had a “snack” it was ½ cup of cottage cheese or a non-fat sugar free yogurt with at least 8 grams of protein.  Dinner would be fish or chicken or turkey with a bit of beans and cheese or baked yam.  On weekends I would make eggs with cottage cheese for breakfast, sliced turkey deli meat and some crackers and cheese for lunch and chicken or fish or turkey for dinner.  I would take ground turkey and some egg beaters, some Italian seasonings, some tomato sauce and grated parmesan cheese and make a turkey meat loaf.  Between 8 and 12 weeks after surgery I was able to add vegetables, slowly and very well steamed or a baby spinach salad with peeled sliced cucumber and balsamic vinegar or 2T of a very low cal ranch dressing that I found.  I always carried a protein bar, a protein drink and a bottle of water with me wherever I went.  If I was going more than an hour away from home I added one of the prepackaged tuna kits so I had no excuses.  I started adding small amounts of cantaloupe and watermelon to my diet but always balanced it with some form of protein as that works best for me.

I kept my first year very simple.  I still cooked for my husband, and would have my daughter and grandkids over for barbecues, as well as friends and relatives for dinner parties.  If I went out to dinner I tried to make sure there were crab legs on the menu since I could eat 200-300 calories of crab legs over an hour long period while those around me consumed upwards of 3000 calories on some evenings.  If there were no crab legs, grilled shrimp or ahi tuna seared rare were my next 2 choices.  I guess I’m lucky I love fish.  I learned to not overcook my chicken or fish since this made it inedible for me.

The summary of my first year was probably KISS (or keep it simple stupid).  I planned my meals but did not plan anything elaborate as I was working on breaking my love affair with food so that I could learn the true meaning of tasting that first bite and savoring the flavors, rather than picking up the shovel and seeing how quickly I could consume a truckload.  I definitely turned these simple meals into tasty meals as time went on.  Since the potato chips and cookies and fast food restaurants were no longer part of the budget I found I could actually afford to have shrimp, or crab legs, or even a nice little filet mignon every now and again.  I still love food, I just get to actually taste it now and that is a good thing.  When you pick up your fork tonight, take a small bite and chew it thoroughly and savor the flavors.  Put your fork down between bites and notice that you can actually taste the food.  It’s no longer a race to the finish.  I love my lap band.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Heidi Peet February 3, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Thank you for this blog! I will be having gastric bypass in March (not lap band) and I was wondering what eating would look like for me after surgery. I’m not sure if it is exactly the same, but probably similar.

Congratulations on your success! It is inspiring to read about!

Nancy Miller February 7, 2011 at 12:14 am

Thanks for the information. I have been a little more adventuresome and have eaten most food. I have had no problems with food except if I eat too fast. I set the timer. I have been eating some fudge bars and diet popsicles and know I am treading on dangerous ground as I am a binge eater. I have currently bronchitis with frequent coughing and my pouch and stomach have been hurting at night later in the night. I don’t know if it is from acid as I do eat often right before I go to bed, which I know if not good. I have lost 30 lbs since Nov. 30th surgery. Thanks for the information.

nicole April 18, 2011 at 1:30 am

Hello, I had Lapband done a little less than a month ago. I am very concerned because I have been able to eat solid foods without any problem since the first week. I just feel as though I should be more full. Everyone I spoke to about it before and after that had it done said they could barely eat a few spoon fuls of a meal without being full. I just ate a slice of pizza without a problem. I am aware that I must diet strictly as well. I am dieting but am still testing the waters with foods to see what I can tolerate. My only problem seems to be that I am unable to drink with a meal. Other than that I am afraid to see how much I am actually able to eat. I read that on my 6 week visit I should ask them to tighten it if I think its is not tight enough. Has anyone else had this experience?

Thanks and good luck!

Linda April 21, 2011 at 8:36 pm

This has been so helpful for me. I’ve stalled out and have another 100 pounds to go. The first 130 seemed to have melted off. After my husband’s unemployment, the food we had to purchase on our fixed income, did not do well for my weight journey. Things like potatoes, peas and beans made me hungry.

I am way too addicted to my smoothie, but is seems to be the only thing that calms any hungar pains or cravings. My calories average 1,000 to 1,250 per day with 80 percent on my protein.

My daily activity is not much more than the daily chores and stretching. There is a neck injury that is not operable and I keeps me from walking. I know that would solve so many of my issues, but the physical theropist and doctor say its a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation. Someday, I hope to have the means to get to a pool daily. People don’t realize how difficult that is for some folks in this society.

Thank you for putting it out there like you have, I believe it will give me some immediate relief!

Humbly,

lindarorie@ymail.com

Hope August 11, 2012 at 10:41 pm

I too have the same problem as lindarorie. I have always been hungary and able to eat more than a 1/2 cup for a meal. I got more fluid put in my band and I not only couldn’t eat, but i could not drink, only baby, baby sips, so I had 1/2 cc taken out. that worked ok for a while but now I am back to being able to eat more and have put on the 4 pounds that I had just lost when I couldn’t eat, help! thank you.

sandy August 16, 2012 at 3:31 pm

I’m running into the same problem as Hope. The whole “only eat 1/2 a cup” does not compute. What it does is make me hungry for the “real meal”! Sometimes I wonder if this lap band is actually going to help or do people only really lose the weight from following a 1/2 cup eating plan? For me, as soon as the gas pain in my chest stopped, I suddenly got super hungry and started eating all kinds of stuff without any trouble whatsoever. I had my 1st visit and fill nearly 4wks post-op and still feel like I could eat the amounts I did prior to surgery, example 3-4 tacos with rice and beans. Am I abnormal? Are other people having the same issue. On my next visit I’m going to tell them like it is, which is my stomach is an evil monster and needs to be treated aggressively or it will not let them win. So no more pussyfooting around and fill that sucker so we can get on with it! I would be excited to actually “feel full” after eating a small amount, but I’m still waiting for this miracle to occur.

sandi August 16, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Hi there: Just so you all know the ONLY time I ate 1/2 cup of food was the first 2 or possibly 3 weeks after surgery. Then it was definitely more, but it was no more than 1200 calories a day and at least 70 – 80 grams of protein. That’s what made me satisfied. I too thought I could eat more, wanted to eat more, but didn’t because I committed to making changes. After I followed the program for a while I learned that the hunger was not coming so much from my stomach, it was more in my head, and I started finding replacement behaviors for eating. I don’t understand why, after having surgery, you would even consider eating 3-4 tacos- why even 1 taco. I have not eaten a taco in 8 years because it does not appear to be a good choice to me. Does this make some sense? It’s not about tightening your band so much you can’t eat, it’s about you accepting responsibility for your choices while the band will provide some help along the way.

sandy August 16, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Hi Sandi, that was just a pre-surgery example but I keep reading about all these people that feel full on less and I’m wondering why I am not getting those sensations? I am trying to focus more on good choices and exercise so I know in the end I did my part. Maybe things will improve in the future. Thanks for your post.

sandy August 17, 2012 at 8:14 am

Hi there Sandi, I don’t see the last comment of mine in response to you but thought I should re-enter as it may be useful to some of your readers. As I said about the tacos, that was a pre-op example. I am trying to make good food choices and exercise so I know I have done my part, although at times it is difficult. However, I do think that perhaps some people may have psychological eating as you stated you had, but some of us do still have growling tummies. wheather that is a need for fluid or food, I’m not sure. But logically it seems to me that physically feeling full on less is what the lap band is designed to do regardless of how disciplined you may be, and this is the part that is frustrating for some of us when we are not feeling these sensations.

sandi August 17, 2012 at 9:00 am

Great! I just wanted to be clear on the food choices. Now the not feeling physically full and having a growling tummy between meals – let’s look at that. It can take some time before your band is adjusted to the “sweet spot” and you are feeling that satiety, or satisfaction and it lasts between meals. Remember, you are not looking for full anymore, just satisfied and there is a big difference. You are looking for “just enough”, eating that small portion, leaving the table, and noticing that 5 or 10 minutes later you are not physically hungry. Making sure that you are getting in ALL of your water – at least 64 ounces can sometimes help with the tummy growling between meals, as can a cup of decaf flavored herbal tea (hot or iced). Also, taking a walk to get your “head” and your tummy separated can help as well. I am not denying that while you are dealing with getting to your sweet spot that real physical hunger can be an issue, I am just trying to cover all possibilities for you and everyone else who will read this. It’s a great conversation for all who have bands or are contemplating getting lap bands to see.

sandy August 17, 2012 at 9:17 am

Thanks Sandi. I’m realizing this is a huge learning curve and I’m trying to be patient. I’ll get there but I still have to figure out this hunger thing. You have given me hope that its still early in the game and my hunger will adjust with future fills. I think I was hungry at the time I left my first post so I was frustrated at that time. I’m going to be positive here and say, it will improve and I will stop thinking about food so much :) It’s crazy to realize you have re-learn how to eat again, and that is why I chose to have LBS to help me do just that. Thanks again and wish me luck for the future!

sandi August 17, 2012 at 9:19 am

My pleasure. You may want to come and talk to others on the website we set up just to do that. It is at http://www.bandedliving.com.

sandy August 17, 2012 at 9:36 am

Great, I’ll check it out.

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