The Liquid Diet – What to Expect

Bariatric surgery is a tool to help morbidly obese individuals lose weight by restricting food intake. There are several different surgical procedures, each with their distinct advantages, four of which we perform here – gastric balloon (which is actually not surgical), gastric bypass, gastric sleeve and gastric band. Despite their differences, they all involve, at least in part, dividing the stomach to reduce the amount of food you can consume.

As your surgery date approaches, most surgeons require that you lose some weight.  Often called a “liver shrink” diet, this is essentially a liquid diet designed to reduce abdominal fat and shrink the size of the liver. It is important that you follow the liquid diet because it will help minimize surgical risk, shorten recovery time and also prepare you for your new way of eating postoperatively.

Losing as much fat as possible, especially abdominal fat, decreases surgical risk and speeds recovery. Depending on the type of surgery you’re about to undergo, your Body Mass Index (BMI) and your specific health issues, your pre-op liquid diet may start anywhere from one to two weeks before surgery. Your doctor may not require that you be on a liquid diet that entire time, but it’s common to be on liquids for the last 10 days to two weeks before your operation.

While our medical team will advise you on what exactly your pre-op diet will consist of, typically it is a low-calorie, sugar–free, high protein liquid diet. Protein, in particular, is very important. It helps preserve lean muscle mass and is key to an uneventful recovery after surgery. Expect to consume between 60-80 grams of protein daily. But don’t worry, you’re not going to only be drinking protein shakes the rest of your life! And while protein shakes will be a part of your daily diet for a long time to come, you’d be surprised to know how many delicious options you’ll have.

Changing your diet before surgery also prepares you, both physically and mentally, for your “new” life following your weight loss procedure. Your willingness and ability to follow through with the recommendations made by your health care team is indicative of future success. Carrying out the prescribed changes in your diet and exercise routine will also help determine if weight loss surgery is right for you. Both you and your doctor will get a glimpse into your future life as a bariatric surgery patient as the diet before surgery will be similar to initial post-op dietary requirements. Further, it will prepare you for later on when carbohydrates, fats and sugars are limited.

While the pre-op diet may be hard, don’t be discouraged. Changing your diet will not be easy; however with your new tool – in the form of surgery – making healthy food choices will become progressively simpler and allow you to enjoy the potential weight loss and disease improvement benefits in store.