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Written by Trish Fine, RD, LD
on May 17, 2018

We all love food. Anyone who claims they don't is lying. It can be difficult to even think about giving up all those delicious meals and treats you enjoy when preparing for weight loss surgery. In this blog post, we will discuss exactly what you need to do to prepare your diet for weight loss surgery, both physically and mentally. So let's dig in! 

I briefly mentioned the pre-operative liquid diet in my previous post, Preparing for Weight Loss Surgery. As discussed, we require all patients, no matter the type of surgery, to participate in the 2-week liquid diet. Despite what you may think, this is not to torture you! In fact, we require patients to only consume liquids prior to surgery to limit the risk of the procedure. 

The Safety Benefits of A Pre-Op Liquid Diet

Prior to surgery, many patients will have excess fat sitting around and/or in their liver. In order to effectively reach the stomach to perform the surgical procedure, the surgeon has to move the liver. And the larger the liver is, combined with the fat in and around it, the harder it is for the surgeon to maneuver around it. This can result in excess time that the patient will be under anesthesia, significantly increasing their risk of complications. 

On the 2-week liquid diet, patients lose enough weight to shrink the liver and therefore limit the amount of time the surgeon will have to spend moving around the liver. 

The Pre-Op Liquid Diet Meal Plan

The pre-operative liquid diet will consist of approved protein shakes, sugar free beverages, sugar free gelatin and sugar free popsicles as well as  broth.

The-Danger-of-Artificial-Sweeteners-and-How-to-Replace-ThemOur practice recommends that patients drink 5 protein shakes a day and consume at least 64 ounces of sugar free liquids. Patients are not to consume carbonated beverages; sodas, sparkling waters, milk or alcohol, etc. ALL prohibited! All beverages should contain no more than 10 calories per serving. We also recommend that patients limit their caffeine consumption to two 8-ounce servings a day—all you coffee lovers can still enjoy your cup of joe (with sugar free sweetener not sugar).

Below is a sample plan for a day on the liquid diet.

6: 00 AM One 8-ounce cup of coffee with cream and sweetener
7:00 AM One protein shake
8:00 AM One cup unsweet tea with sweetener
9:00 AM One cup water
10:00 AM One protein shake
11:00 AM One cup water
12:00 PM One protein shake
1:00 PM One cup Crystal Light
2:00 PM One cup sugar free jello
3:00 PM One protein shake
4:00 PM One cup Powerade Zero
5:00 PM One cup broth
6:00 PM One protein shake
7:00 PM One cup water
8:00 PM Two sugar free popsicles
9:00 PM One cup water
10:00 PM One cup water

*This plan does not need to be followed exactly. You can adjust the times based on your own schedule. 
*This plan is based off of the liquid diet our practice requires patients to do and is a case-by-case diet plan. Therefore we recommend you talk with your surgeon about what you should be consuming leading up to surgery.

What you Can Expect

When you restrict the total calories and carbohydrates you consume in a day to an extremely low amount, some patients may experience symptoms.

Some of the symptoms you can expect to experience include:

  • Extreme Hunger Pains
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Nausea, Constipation, Diarrhea
  • Mood Swings


The symptoms listed above are completely normal, and they should subside within 3 to 4 days, once your body gets used to consuming so few calories and carbohydrates. Drinking the 64 oz of  sugar free beverages and broth can help with the severity of these symptoms.

How to Stay Committed

The pre-operative liquid diet is hard—there is no doubt about it! Therefore, we highly recommend that our patients are sure to mentally and physically prepare themselves for the challenge ahead.

Physically

Leading up to the days that you will be participating in the liquid diet, we recommend that you go to the grocery store to stock up on all the items you will need throughout the 2 weeks. Waiting to buy the protein shakes, gelatin, and broths until the last minute can lead to failure in adhering to the plan. You want to make sure you set yourself up for success from day one.

We also recommend that our patients find a support group; it can be friends, family or a group of current/past patients at your bariatric clinic. By enlisting support, you are not only holding yourself accountable but others are holding you accountable. We have seen it first hand; patients who decide to do it all on their own (pre and post op meal plans) are not as successful with their weight loss as those are who find support. 

Mentallymental prep

Like we mentioned, the next 2 weeks on the liquid diet can be daunting. It is critical that you mentally prepare yourself for the challenge. Tell yourself, this is temporary and it is a part of a bigger plan! Although the liquid diet is in place to lose weight rapidly prior to surgery, don’t get caught up on the number on the scale—if you see that you aren’t losing like you want to you may be more inclined to start cheating because “what difference does it make anyway?”. Well that is not the case! You want to be sure that you are fully committed to the liquid diet or else our physicians may have to cancel or reschedule your surgery.

The pre-op liquid diet can be intimidating, especially if you have never been on an extremely restrictive diet plan before. However, this is a critical step leading up to the weight loss surgery and ALL patients have to participate in it—so you are not alone!

If you would like to learn more about what to expect before surgery, you can give us a call at (706) 922-0440 or schedule an initial consultation. 

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