You’re been approved for bariatric surgery. Congratulations!
So, now what?
You’ll be going through doctor visits, nutritional counseling, psychiatric evaluations, support groups, and more. I got to carry a notebook chock-full of info about my surgery back and forth from my surgeon’s office and home, looking for all the world like a kid going to extra tutoring after school. You will be buried in information about lifestyle changes, diet changes, and physiological changes.
But, somehow, no one will ever answer the question: what do I really need to have at home to make this experience a success?
Here are 5 items that will absolutely smooth your path as you begin your journey to “The Loser’s Bench”.
1. A Bariatric Surgery App
Get yourself off on the right foot, and start off by loading a nutritional log app on your smart phone. You will be immediately required to start counting grams of protein and carbs at every meal – make it easy on yourself and allow an app to do the heavy lifting for you. The best apps will include the ability to look up nutritional info on the fly, to track meals and snacks, and even to build your own recipes. We like Baritastic because it also includes things like a weight and BMI tracker, daily water tracker, even timers to remind you when to start drinking again after a meal. We also periodically use UnderArmor’s MyFitnessPal for its ability to build recipes piece by piece and then compute nutritional info based on serving size. Get one and use it daily to keep yourself committed both before and after surgery.
2. A Digital Kitchen Scale
Welcome to the brave new world of measuring just about everything you eat. As you prep for surgery, exact weights are going to be important to ensure that you know exactly what you are putting into your body. Post-surgery this becomes even more important: you will only have a small amount of capacity in your new stomach, and it is critical that you get the most nutritional bang for your buck by carefully weighing and measuring every single thing you cook. Don’t guess! And, for Pete’s sake, don’t try to use an old postage scale that you happened to have lying around in your garage. Ahem. Get yourself a new digital scale that allows you to easily zero between measurements.
3. A Water Bottle
One of the things that will get hammered into you from day one after beginning the surgical process is hydration: dehydration sends more bariatric patients back to the ER than any other complication post-surgery. The general rule of thumb is a minimum of 64 ounces of water a day, every day, for the rest of your life.
Let’s do a little math, shall we? 64 ounces times 365 days = 23,360 ounces of water a year, every year, forever. As of this writing, a case of 24 500 ml/16.9 ounce Dasani water can be picked up at Wal-Mart for $4.98.
You’ll be drinking 4 of those bottles every day to hit 64 ounces a day. At 20.75 cents per bottle, that means you are spending 83 cents on water every day, which works out to $302.98 every year. Not to mention the fact that you will also be generating 1,460 plastic bottles a year that you are (hopefully) recycling.
Instead, buy a refillable water bottle and a water purifier of some kind. Or, even go all-out like we did and get a dispenser and use large refillable 3 or 5-gallon water bottles with it. You’ll be paying around 50 cents a gallon for this water, on average. With 128 ounces of water in a gallon, you’ll be going through 182.5 gallons a year. This works out to only $91.25 + the cost of your water bottle for a year’s worth of water.
Your wallet and the environment will thank you.
4. A Blender
If you are just getting started with the bariatric surgery process, you are just beginning to discover the joy of protein shakes. The closer you get to surgery, the more of them you will be drinking. The 2 weeks before and after your procedure, you will be literally living on nothing but protein shakes and the occasional yogurt.
Make life easy on yourself by purchasing protein powder in bulk and making them yourself with a powerful blender. Your brand options will open up dramatically and you can add flavor with sugar-free syrups (like the Torani brand). You can even smooth things out and impart a creamier texture to your shakes by blending ice into your mixture.
Not just any blender will do, though. If you buy a cheap blender and try to mix up a batch of ice-infused protein shakes you will be left with huge chunks of ice in your drink. And, very shortly, with a dead blender to boot. Instead, stretch a little further and get a blender rated at 1,000 Watts or more. This ensures you have plenty of horsepower to work with. Many of the most powerful blenders can turn ice cubes into a substance closely resembling snow. This is the kind of power you want for making your protein shakes.
Though many patients insist they will never touch another protein shake after the surgical process, the fact is that your blender will stay in use. It purees during the soft food stage, it assists with the creation of soups, and it will be there when you return to protein shakes. Occasionally, you will hit a months-long stall, and will decide to “reset” things with 2-3 days of protein shakes.
Best to be prepared.
5. A (Good) Chef’s Knife
“But Jeremy,” you say. “I have a perfectly good knife here in my knife set that Aunt Thelma gave me for a wedding gift.”
Actually, what you have is a piece of knife-shaped metal, improperly designed and difficult to keep sharp, incapable of standing up to the rigors of the post-bariatric surgery kitchen.
Full disclosure: A million years ago I sold knives for a living. I have the scars on my hands to prove it. And, while I do not necessarily think that every kitchen needs a set of $1,000 Cutco knives, I do think that one really good chef’s knife can vastly improve your quality of life in the kitchen.
After surgery, you are going to be cooking a lot. And cooking requires knife work. You will be cubing chicken. Pork and beef will need to be trimmed. You will be dicing vegetables. During late-night snacks you will even be cutting almonds into slivers to sprinkle over the top of greek yogurt. And a single 5-6″ chef’s knife can handle the majority of the knife work you will need in the kitchen.
After you have bought a good chef’s knife (Calphalon, Victorinox, and Wusthof are all excellent brands), try an experiment. Try dicing an apple or a stalk of celery with your old “knife set” chef’s knife. Then try the exact same operation with your new knife.
You’ll thank me then.
By the way, all photos are of items in use in my household currently. No affiliate marketing or other kickbacks apply here – I am not being paid to recommend anything on this page.
Once again, welcome to the bariatric lifestyle! Let me know if you come across any items you can’t live without in the comments below.