My experience with gastric bypass surgery has been a thoroughly mixed bag. On the one hand, I did eventually lose over 150 pounds. But that weight loss came at the expense of multiple internal hernias and intussusceptions, complicated strictures that required several endoscopic dilations, years of chronic ulcers at my anastomosis leading to two perforations (both requiring emergency surgeries and very nearly a third go round of the same), an eventual complete RNY surgical revision (completely redoing the initial surgery) with a temporary feeding tube for six months, frequent and debilitating reactive hypoglycemic episodes with blood sugar readings dropping into the 30s and 40s, severe anemia requiring iron infusions and the frightening reality of possibly having a total gastrectomy (removal of my entire stomach) in 2014. Not to mention the daily routine of nausea and often vomiting that would accompany just trying to eat any small meal.

I am truly beyond grateful for the expertise and lifesaving care that my extensive bariatric medical and surgical team provided me. But nine years after my gastric bypass I was a malnourished and terrified medical disaster with no constructive guidance on how to improve my steadily deteriorating state of health. I’d had nothing but problems and worsening complications despite following the dietary and caloric recommendations of my doctors and hospital nutritionists. Nothing was working. I was losing weight – I had actually become underweight – but I was increasingly ill, and it became clear to me that it was time I had to take responsibility for my own health and healing. This meant completely reevaluating everything I was eating, which, ironically, was precisely what the bariatric guidelines dictated. It started with the 1200 calorie, low fat, artificially sweetened bariatric diet. It’s taken me years to discover that diets aren’t one size fits all and the typically recommended bariatric diet, in my opinion, is no exception.

I started searching the internet looking for alternatives to the standard nutritional guidance for bariatric patients that was failing me miserably and was dismayed to find essentially nothing available. So I began researching basic nutrition and learning about the dramatic impact eating the right foods can have on your health. I slowly began to understand the primacy quality ingredients should take over caloric counts which was a radically enlightening revelation to me. I began to incorporate quality macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) into my diet to begin to gradually replace the highly processed, low fat and artificially sweetened foods that are commonly touted as the staples of a good bariatric diet. I learned to begin to listen for and to hear what my body was telling me rather than punishing it through such behaviors as obsessively counting calories, drinking processed protein shakes in place of eating real food and doing calorie restrictions/liquid diet “resets” to try to shrink my sleeve or pouch. And slowly but steadily, I began to do better. Then much better. My blood sugars began to stabilize, my weight began to improve, I had less nausea and more energy. My life changed completely. As I noticed the improvements and I began to feel better, I developed a passion for nutrition education and a burning desire to share what I had discovered to help others who might be struggling through some of the same difficulties I was discovering how to overcome.

So, what you can expect to see at The Bariatric Dish?

Over the four year life of my previous blog, I posted recipes that were gluten-free, dairy-free and for the most part paleo. That won’t change much here. Through experimentation, I noticed that I began to feel so much better once I began carefully limiting gluten and dairy products in my diet, and those limitations have noticeably improved the symptoms of a couple of autoimmune diseases I deal with and digestive intolerances that I have with dairy products in general. So limiting gluten and dairy products is important to me and I strongly recommend trying it, but I do not insist on it. But there’s much more to it than that.

The recipes you will see on The Bariatric Dish will focus on real and whole foods (think minimally processed, nutritionally intact foods) that I have learned the hard way are the vital components that will support you nutritionally through your ongoing journey to lose or maintain weight and continually improve your state of health.  The recipes will be organic as much as possible and mostly gluten free, though you may see a gluten containing recipe appear now and again. Sometimes they will include some high quality dairy or organic grain (rice, quinoa, oats, and legumes in small amounts) or an interesting new sprouted flour that I think is nutritionally worth trying.

I believe that a bariatric diet and lifestyle needs to be somewhat flexible and encouraged to evolve over time to accommodate a new post-operative stage or phase of diet, a new health or weight goal, an illness or whatever may arise due to the finicky nature of weight loss surgery. Bariatric patients are not all alike. We all have unique dietary tolerances (and intolerances) for different foods that may require us to eat differently from each other, and that will likely continue to be the case over time as we progress from the initial phases of bariatric surgery. What works for me may not necessarily work for you. We are all unique and moving through different places in our journey, and I’ve realized that a simplified or generic bariatric diet is unrealistic and is not going to meet the needs of every patient. But there are general do & don’t guidelines that should be helpful to most people.

In my experience, small dietary changes can lead to life changing results. Many such changes can be minor modifications that will prove beneficial as you add or eliminate particular foods and nutrients to or from your diet. When visiting this blog, I encourage you to experiment with my recipes to discover what modifications might benefit you. I feel it’s my responsibility and privilege to share with you my twelve years of experience about what has and has not worked for me over time and to bring you the most up to date bariatric nutrition information so you can apply some of it and make progress toward living your best life! I’m confident in the ability of my readers to responsibly explore these decisions.

We will talk sweets here! Sweets are a topic that can be a very slippery slope for some of us. Without question sweets and refined carbohydrates can cause dumping syndrome, reactive hypoglycemia and heighten cravings for yet more sweets. I incorporate them in my diet with caution, but they do have a place in my life. Do they fit in yours? I don’t know. You’ll have to decide. Most of my recipes that use sugars will primarily include them in the form of honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup, maple sugar and other fruit based sweeteners, and you may sometimes find a recipe calling for a small amount of organic cane sugar. But you will NEVER see artificial sweeteners in my recipes. They have NO room in my life and I have learned, again the hard way, that they are detrimental to our health and well being.

What else won’t you find at The Bariatric Dish?

My recipe shares and creations are not about searching for miraculous weight loss magic. By now we should all well know that all of the miracle food (“just eat {fill in the blank} and lose 13 pounds in one week!”) promises out there are scams. Nutrition and physiology simply do not work that way.

In my home, I choose organic products as much as possible. I use the highest quality poultry, seafood, grass-fed meats and dairy products (mostly lactose free versions) that I can find and that make sense in my budget, and I look for grains that are organic, non-gmo and sprouted to make digestion easier.

I will share my opinions about the health and nutritional benefits you receive when you consume these items, but I also want to be clear that in no way are all the exact items I use (organic, grass-fed, etc.) required to make any of my recipes. The choice is totally up to you! I will tell you what I use and why I use it and you’ll decide what fits your lifestyle. I am not here to insist that you do what I do. Hopefully some of what I have learned that has led me to use organics will be helpful to you as well.

Finally, I do not pretend to know everything. I make mistakes, I get moody, feel insecure about my looks and I occasionally make questionable “treat myself” decisions. I still have bad eating days and occasionally weeks. Everyone I know does. I am stumbling through this journey imperfectly and I’ll bet you are too. And I’ve slowly come to realize that it’s all ok! The goal is to realistically, gradually and consistently do just a little bit better than before as we learn to improve our diets, health and wellness over the long term. This is a lifelong project we have undertaken. So lets take this walk together and support each other along the way. We’ll discover and enjoy tasty and healthy foods and practical nutritional information.

You are always welcome here! Feel free to email me through the contact page if you have questions, comments or ideas. Please stop in often and check out what’s going on. Until next time, I wish you better health, nutrition and wellness on your bariatric journey!