What to Do If You Don’t Feel Hungry After Bariatric Surgery
Not feeling hungry after bariatric surgery is a very real possibility. And I know. I’ve lived it. And almost four months out from surgery, I am still feeling it. It’s a double-edged sword – you got weight loss surgery to help suppress appetite and eat less. But, now you might not like eating food, and that’s a challenge too.
Everyone’s different. And as we know it’s impossible to compare the experiences of two bariatric patients. So, if you are not having trouble eating after surgery, then kudos! High-five! That’s fantastic for you, and hopefully, you’re now only eating limited amounts of food.
What I could do is break down the ENTIRE pre- and post-surgery eating regimen, totaling about two months of regulated eating and drinking. However, that’s not the focus of this article. I will revisit this later, but today I will talk about the immediate expectations post-op, as on the day of surgery and the following two to three days. I’ll cover understanding appetite suppression, the effects surgery has on your new body, the differences between mental and physical hunger, and what things you can try to make eating less of a struggle for yourself.
Day of Surgery and Days Immediately Following
The night before surgery, you have nothing after 10:00 pm. In the morning, you can have some water if you must take prescribed medications – read here about medications you can and cannot take right before surgery. Other than this, you will not drink or eat anything. The rule is NOTHING BY MOUTH this day. If your mouth is dry – and trust me, it will be – medical staff will give you glycerin swabs.
The day after your surgery, your focus will be on staying hydrated. Sipping water will be the theme. I was advised to sip 1 ounce of water every 7-10 minutes, which is about 4-6 ounces every hour, with the hope that you can consume 64 ounces of water over 24 hours. This is so important that the medical staff provided me with a pencil and paper to track my intake, and I was advised by my surgeon and doctors checking in on me that I would not be discharged until I could drink the 64 ounces in a day. Once you’re discharged, you can typically move on to the full liquid diet. The overarching theme will be hydration, hydration, hydration!
Understanding Appetite Suppression
Surgery impacts the body physically and alters its routine, meaning hormonal and biochemical changes.
The fundus of the stomach produces the hunger-causing hormone ghrelin. With the combination of swollen tissue and a lack of ghrelin production, your hunger and cravings are sometimes eliminated. As time passes, your internals heal, and your body adjusts to the new amounts of ghrelin.
Surgery also can reroute the intestine, which impacts nerve receptors, signals to the brain, and chemical and hormone regulation that control blood sugars, blood pressure, and hunger. These hormonal changes also cause the communication between the brain and the intestine to be disrupted. Because of these changes, it can be challenging to find desirable foods and fluids.
Physical Hunger vs. Mental Hunger
These concepts are simple, in theory. But these lines are often blurred for a person having bariatric surgery: the need to eat and they want to eat. Emotional eating was at the core of my unhealthy eating habits and resulted in me needing weight loss surgery. So, I can assure you – this can be a real issue.
So how can you understand the difference between the two?
First, ask yourself, what do I want to eat, and why do I want it right now? The real way to recognize these feelings is to understand what creates mental/emotional hunger. There’s quite a list of triggers, including stress, depression, being upset, boredom, worry, and fatigue. And a whole other list on the other end of the emotional spectrum – joy, fun, excitement, celebration… But whichever side they come from, cravings typically mean your emotions are telling you you’re hungry.
Physical hunger is essentially tied to the last time you ate, a gradual progression of digestion, and the body’s need for fuel. Pause before you decide to put something in your mouth; wait to see if you genuinely ARE hungry. Have a glass of water. Work on learning your body’s cues – the real yet subtle signs – and you can figure out how to control your hunger.
What You Can Do If You Do Not Want to Eat
With your stomach being up to 80% smaller than just a short while ago, it is necessary to schedule meals and fluid intake to maintain hydration and healthy nutrition.
- You’ll want to eat nutrient-dense foods. Avoid fats and sugars when possible.
- Eating slowly should become your new way, as most people eat too fast and don’t realize they are full until they’ve over-consumed.
- Have smaller, more frequent meals. This will trigger the body to think it’s not being deprived and will keep you feeling satisfied throughout the day.
- And, of course, water. Drinking water helps the body feel fuller. So, plan to drink water no sooner than 30 minutes before a meal and not before 30 minutes following the meal.
- Take your post-op vitamins and minerals as directed by your bariatric practice.
You need to focus on cues that your body is developing, and you will learn them over time. Body cues also mean recognizing the difference between mental and physical hunger. You will be able to eat according to these cues. Learning and adapting will be the key to your success.
Remember, all of this should eventually pass. As the metabolic effects of surgery lessen after several months, hunger does return for most people. Until that point, do the absolute best you can, and enjoy your journey. Of course, if you have any concerns about your hunger or ability to eat, speak to your surgical practice for more information and guidance.
Your body isn’t the only thing changing. Your life is, too!
Sources of Information to supplement this article:
- When You’re NOT Hungry After Gastric Sleeve Surgery
- The Truth About Appetite Suppression After Weight Loss Surgery
- Why Am I Not Hungry After Having Bariatric Surgery?
- Decoding Your Hunger: Are You Hungry or Not?
Chad is a recent bariatric patient that now shares his experiences and a renewed passion for life with the Bariatric Surgery Corner, as well as through his personal Instagram account. He is also an account manager for Fortris Corporation, helping to manage marketing and SEO strategies for bariatric surgery practices. He was a journalism major at the University of Florida for two years before transferring to Penn State University to finish his bachelor’s degree in Journalism. Chad spent time traveling and living in different states on the east coast, but he now resides in Western Pennsylvania just outside Pittsburgh.