The Long View: Nutrition for the Rest of Your Life
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*Please Note: The OAC Blog is not a substitute for medical advice. If you have any questions regarding the information in this blog series, please be sure to speak with a healthcare professional regarding your concerns.
For many of us, the thought of doing anything for the rest of our lives can sound daunting. Many of us have had the experience (likely more than once) of starting something with the best intent of making it a permanent habit and finding that a week, a month, a year later, it is just harder to do than we originally thought.
After bariatric surgery, most people will face some challenge with nutrition – there might be food intolerance, or cravings, or a vitamin deficiency – but chances are high that something will crop up.
I have given a lot of guidance throughout the years to people at every stage post-operatively. The following is a list – in no particular order of importance – of some things to think about when it comes to making your nutrition work in the long run.
- Stay engaged. This doesn’t mean you have to go to support group every week, but staying connected to your surgeon, or dietitian or a supportive community will give you a place to ask questions, address concerns and get an occasional bit of encouragement if you need it.
- Have a good go-to health professional. It might be your surgeon, your dietitian or a good caring primary care doctor. At the very least, you are going to need annual labs – but it’s also good to have someone who will really be there to help you if and when a problem arises.
- It really is forever. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard some version of “I thought I only had to take vitamins for two years after my gastric bypass.” The truth is that the risk of deficiency increases throughout time – so in a sense, you need to take your nutrition more seriously long term.
- I can’t tolerate vitamins, I can’t take vitamins, I’m allergic to vitamins…there is something for everyone. Keep trying. Change it up to break routine, if you really struggle, sit down with your health professional and work on it together.
- Falling off the bandwagon is not a failure. Everyone will do it. You forget to buy vitamins one day and suddenly it has been three months. Every day is a new day – get up and start again. If it’s been a really long time, check in with your doctor and get your labs done.
Probably the biggest challenge I see in the long term with nutrition is adherence. Though we have few studies, the ones we do have tell us that many bariatric surgery patients stop taking vitamins despite the potential risks. In the early months and years after surgery, it might be enough that your doctor said you had to take vitamins – but that will likely fade throughout time as a motivator.
In the end, everyone needs a personal strategy to stick with it. This might be anything from a regular reminder in your phone, to knowing that your mom and grandma had terrible bone loss and you don’t want to follow in their path. Your motives might change throughout time – and that’s fine so long as you find something that helps you stay with your program.
Best of luck on your journey, and remember:
“If taking vitamins doesn’t keep you healthy enough, try more laughter: The most wasted of all days is that on which one has not laughed.”
~ Nicolas-Sebastien Chamfort
About the Author
Dr. Jacques, a frequent author in the OAC’s quarterly publication, Your Weight Matters Magazine, is a Naturopathic Doctor with more than a decade of expertise in medical nutrition. She is the Chief Science Officer for Bariatric Advantage (a Division of Metagenics, Inc) a company dedicated to providing the best of nutritional care to weight-loss surgery patients. Her greatest love is empowering patients to better their own health. Dr. Jacques is a member of the OAC National Board of Directors.