How to eat food after Lap-band surgery

Baby in highchair spilling a bowel of cereal - cartoon

Ok — we have learned a bit about what doesn’t work — we have learned a bit about what does work — now it is time to learn something new — that how you eat your food will effect your weight loss almost as much as the choices of food that you make.

Knowing what to eat is one thing — learning how to eat is another. I know, ever since you threw that first bowel of Cheerios at mom you have known how to eat. But with the Lap-band you will re-learn to eat.

In spite of knowing the foods that don’t work well, there are still times when the food gets stuck — even foods you consume normally.

Often this comes from eating too fast, taking too big a bite, or not taking it easy. Or — if you eat, plan on eating slow, small, and easy.

Big bites of food results in Lap-band slips

The easiest of the three to understand is by taking too big a bite. The size of food you put in your mouth can be larger than the opening of the Lap-band, and if that is the case what you swallow can get stuck in the stoma. There are two ways people try to deal with this: one is to chew, chew, and chew some more. This use to be called Fletcherization. The problem is that the tastiest of food can be chewed into a tasteless pulp, losing enjoyment of food. The second problem is that over-chewed food can become a paste that will slip through a Lap-band and that doesn’t allow the band to do its job — keeping food in the upper pouch for a period of time. Also, it is difficult to teach someone to chew more times than they do normally. Everyone has a different number of times that they chew food — for me, about five times, for my dog about three, for my old neighbor in Alaska — well, he chewed everything about 28 times. So, unning woman eating fast food – cartoontelling someone to chew more doesn’t work, it is something that is usually engrained in us from the time we are fairly young.

A better way is to cut your food to a smaller piece so that it is unlikely to every become stuck. Cut the food to the size that it will go through the Lap-band no matter how much you chew it. For a visual aid, we use the fingernail of the pinky finger. If the food you put in your mouth is smaller than your pinky fingernail then it is unlikely food will become stuck.

This is easy with a knife and fork — and a lot harder when you bite something, like a hot dog. That is, it is easy to cut something small and not have a problem, but if you take a bite of a hot dog out of a bun, you might get in trouble. Hot dogs, like sausages, are very densely packed pieces of meat (don’t ever look at one under a microscope). And that dense meat can become stuck in your Lap-band. Nothing worse than a barking dog on top of a Lap-band. Knowing the things that you can get in trouble with a head of time, make it a lot easier to avoid, or to take your time and take smaller bites.

Small utensils result in small bites

Using small utensils, such as a salad fork, or the fork used for fish allows you to take smaller bites without much effort. It is hard to put a large piece of meat on a small fork. Another way is to use chop sticks — you eat doctor looking at hotdog through a microscope - cartoonsmaller portions, and takes some time to get through the meal — I wonder if that is why people who use chop sticks tend not to be overweight? It is difficult to eat too large a bit of food, and it serves as a reminder that the small amount of food you eat will take some time. I still have not figured out the soup part with the chopsticks, but I keep trying.

Using small plates reminds the LAP-BAND patient that portion size is limited, and a tool for success. You have a plate full and you do not feel deprived, and it allows you to see your portions easily.

Eating to fast results in two problems — first, you can put too much food into the pouch, above the Lap-band. This does not allow your brain time to register that you are full. Prior to the pouch recognizing it is full, it can become packed with food. Chronic over eating leads to vomiting, or productive burps, and can ultimately cause the Lap-band to slip. The second problem with eating too fast is not allowing your natural saliva to mix with food. Many patients would eat in excess, by eating too fast, and then forcing the food down with liquids. With the Lap-band, not allowing saliva to lubricate food can become a problem. So, slow down your eating. Be mindful of what you put into your mouth.

Finally — food should go down easy. Food is not to be “choked” down, nor is it to be rushed. Food is to be enjoyed. One of the hardest things to retrain your mind is that you will be able to eat smaller portions, and you will survive off those smaller portions. By eating those smaller portions slowly you will find that you will enjoy them just as much. If the food you are eating doesn’t go down easy — it will become stuck.

Often people eat fast in two circumstances: when they are in a hurry and when they feel as if they are “starving.” Being in a hurry is a normal part of life — eating on the run, wanting something quick. Eating too quickly can lead to overeating and thus overfilling the Lap-band. So, plan on taking your time with your meal. No eating on the run, no eating in the car, take your time and enjoy the meal.

Lap-band patients should not skip meals

The purpose of eating three meals a day is to avoid the circumstance where you feel “starved,” and you must quickly throw some food down your throat. Although if your Lap-band is tight in the morning skipping breakfast can often be done.

man eating live lobster - cartoon

By skipping meals you risk snacking later. When you feel “starved” most tend to eat too fast, too much, and the wrong things — and with the Lap-band this is not a good thing. One “diet” method that was popular was six small meals a day — all this diet did was lead to patients who needed a Lap-band. Three meals day, small meals — Lap-band quantities — are all that anyone needs to sustain themselves. Six small meals is simply a recipe for obesity.

It is good to remind yourself that the textures of certain foods are tolerated better with the band. Some foods that are considered healthy do not always go down well. Examples include turkey breast — which, you might think would be a good food — but it doesn’t go down easily. Lobster, on the other hand goes down easily. White meat goes down harder than dark meat goes down easy. Fish flakes and goes down very easily, where overcooked red meat becomes like sawdust. A well marbled steak is something in your diet days you might have avoided, but now, since you will be eating smaller amounts, it is easier than a Fillet, that has more fibrous meat.

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