Calories: How Many Should We Eat Post-Op?

This is a question that I see pop-up a lot, especially when you’re more than a couple of months post-op. Personally, that was a big question for me as I started working out and trying to consciously lose these last forty pounds. A lot of us are given some guidelines post-op by our surgeons but they don’t really tell you how many calories you should be consuming daily.

According to the ASMBS (American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery) guidelines –this is from where most of the surgeons get their info- the daily intake should be:

  • 1,000-1,400 calories depending on the individual and activity level.
  • 60-100 grams of protein depending on the individual and activity level.
  • 27-47 grams of fat based on 20%-35% of a daily 1,200-calorie intake.

It doesn’t really specify what the carbohydrate level is, which is annoying, since carbs are my problem food (really, doesn’t everyone have a problem with carbs?). My doctor never really told me how many grams of carbs I was allowed, or anything about calories. I went to see the nutritionist that works with him and he was kind of an idiot. He said that a) exercise was not a priority, b) I should eat less than 1,000 calories a day, and c) all I should worry about is protein. Sadly, I had not looked up the caloric-intake information at the ASMBS website at that time, so I couldn’t argue with him, but I left that meeting feeling very discouraged. I wish that my surgeon had taken more time to explain things to me, or at least had better staff at his office; I swear, they are so nice to you pre-op but afterwards they don’t really seem to care: which has resulted in my skipping the one year follow-up appointment because of being very annoyed at their poor customer service (they rescheduled 3 times without telling me and gave me an attitude because I didn’t “stay on top of my own appointment”). Ugh. Frustrating. Don’t get me wrong, my doctor was awesome (he’s one of the top bariatric surgeons in the country); it’s just his staff that sucks.

My personal experience with calorie-counting has been all over the place. After surgery, I never counted calories; my surgeon and nutritionist had told me to basically “experiment” with food but keep my servings at 4oz-6oz. They also told me to just eat every three hours. I had no problem with this and since it was my “honeymoon period” I dropped weight no matter what I ate and never gave calories a second thought. When the plateau started happening after a year post-op, I first went to the nutritionist, then decided to start counting calories and it’s what I’ve been doing for the past four months consistently and it has given me results, as I now only have 26 lbs left to lose since I started back in January. My caloric intake varies, depending on if I’m exercising or not, and not really by choice. I gave myself a personal max of 1,400 calories per day and I don’t really get there most days, whether I work out or not. On a good regular workout day I get to about 1,200-1,300 calories before my deficit after working out. This past two weeks I have not been working out because of my hip injury and have barely been eating because the pain meds made my stomach freak out and I feel like my pouch has shrunk, so I’m getting between 800-1,100 calories a day, depending on the type of food. I have been paying attention on hitting my protein goals daily but I feel kind of lost on the whole carbs thing, and I plan on making time in the future to see a nutritionist and put together a detailed meal plan for me. I’m a firm believer in counting calories; you are way more aware of what you’re putting in your mouth when you have to write down how many calories it has. Also, as I’ve mentioned it before, myfitnesspal.com is awesome for counting calories! You can do it on your computer or your phone (their App for the iPhone is awesome!) and you can also log your exercises to see how many calories you burned. It’s very social (like Facebook for calorie-counting) and I think that also makes you more accountable (feel free to add me, my name on there is “katgoespao”) and that’s always good! 😀

How about you? Do you prefer counting calories or just restricting portions? Or both?

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10 thoughts on “Calories: How Many Should We Eat Post-Op?

  1. I think a combination of counting calories and watching what I eat works best for me. To be honest, I’m not a “true” calorie counter, since I reached my goal weight. I just use it for the nutritional aspect of it.

    I wish I knew more about WLS nutrition! I guess I will soon 🙂

    Keep up the good work amiga, and don’t forget to go to your check up and find another nutritionist!

  2. Both! I use thedailyplate.com and their livestrong iPhone app. I especially find it important to restrict portion size because I still enjoy very calorie-rich foods. I just try to eat baby portions. The daily plate also lets you log activity, which is huge for me. I need to get more active again…I need more hours in the day/week.

  3. I heard somewhere to use the formula your weight in kilograms times eight plus 200. I’ve looked it up like 9,000 times to try and find the right answer and there really isn’t one (surgery or not). In the last few days I’ve been freaking out that I’ve been having too many calories in a day or carbs or fat or whatever (and I’m only 2 weeks out). My dr’s office didn’t set a limit on anything because they’re more concerned we’re getting proper fluids and protein. I wish calorie intake and calorie burn was down to an exact science… :o/

    • I know, it’s very annoying. I can see how in the beginning it’s not a huge deal while you’re trying to get your protein and liquid intake but after you’ve got the hang of things, and years post-op the weight can come back; we should know how much to eat so we don’t gain weight back.

  4. Such a fantastic post! I use sparkpeople to track my protein and calories. Right now my NUT tells me not to worry about my calories as long as I am losing and meeting my protein needs. With that being said though, I average between 800-1000 calories on most days. I do up my calorie/protein in-take when I hit a stall though. I imagine as I get closer to goal and need to start maintaining that this will become a bigger issue for me. Again, great post!

    • Thanks! Yeah I didn’t start worrying about calories until I started stalling weight-wise. Enjoy your “honeymoon phase” God knows I miss it LOL!

  5. Hi Kat, I just found you and am impressed with your effort and outlook. You certainly deserve your great results. I’ve got patients who could learn a thing or two from you, that’s for sure. I’ll start sending them your way. I agree it is very hard to find good info on post-bypass diet recommendations, though I personally think it is all down to calories for everybody, all the time. Keep counting yours and pushing ahead!

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