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Going Vegan After Weight Loss Surgery
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Going Vegan After Weight Loss Surgery

Vegan eating after surgical weight loss isn’t impossible but it’s not easy either.

Even today, decades after doctors first perfected the Roux-En-Y method for gastric bypass, resources and support are limited for those interested in plant-based eating.

It’s been more than eight years since I decided gastric bypass surgery was the solution to my lifelong battle with morbid obesity. I was in my late 20s, and despite being vegetarian, I tipped the scales at 350 pounds. I wasn’t told I had to eat meat by my nutritionists, but it was definitely promoted as an easier path to successful post-op living. We were strongly discouraged from even considering being vegan. Bariatric nutritionists believed there was no way for our altered digestive tracts to synthesize enough protein from plant sources meet our basic nutritional requirements.

After seven years of living life as a perfect post-op complete with a diet rich in protein and low in carbohydrates, I decided to eliminate animal protein from my daily routine last summer. In the span of a week, our home went from dead-animal central to something very different. For the first time in years, grains were in my pantry and I even attempted bread and muffin recipes.

I believed I wouldn't last a week before hypoglycemic episodes forced me to go back to eating meat, dairy and eggs. Instead, I felt better than I had in years. I went from having regular unexplained bouts of hypoglycemia to none at all and many digestive issues I had come to consider “normal” went away.

Living this way requires effort and planning; my meals no longer follow the familiar formula of animal protein plus two veggie sides. Most meals are built on a foundation of beans and lentils with a heavy concentration of low-glycemic vegetables. Rice and pasta are rare; they gum up my pouch and usually cause my blood sugar to drop dangerously low.

Still, the benefits have outweighed the costs and plant-based eating becomes more natural with each passing day. I’m not perfect – my vegan eating as of yet is exclusive to my home – but I’m making progress each and every day.




*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.

More about newbie, gastricbypass, WLS
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  1. alexandra bezerra
    Totally do-able!..I also am WLS veteran...7 yrs for me this August!...voted!..
    1. Tonya Kubo
      Tonya Kubo
      Have you been vegan the entire time? What do you think is the secret to your success?
      1. alexandra bezerra
        I was vegetarian most of my life ..starting in my teens...had some un related health issues which caused me to sky rocket my weight..had WLS and decided to go Vegan all the way...I never thought of my life style as hard..just different..I think that is why I have been so successful..I have gotten my health issues under control and do very well..I am always prepared because I have non Vegans in my life..I always carry my own dressing, my own vegan soy creamer, I go out a lot to eat so I need to be prepared..those little travel bottles are a must!..and I am never afraid or intimidated in a restaurant..I ask for what I want...thats it!..lots of trail and error for sure! this point in my life..I have come to realize that my health and my beliefs super cede all...I have been able to find my "even keel".... also...there is so much info and resources out there..thanks so much for your post!..
        1. Tonya Kubo
          Tonya Kubo
          Congratulations on your success, and thank you for sharing!
          1. alexandra bezerra
            TY! is will all our input to sites like this one that we can share and inspire!
    2. Tonya Kubo
      Tonya Kubo
  2. Melissa Nott
    Melissa Nott
    Interesting article with an interesting perspective! Thank you for sharing.
    1. Tonya Kubo
      Tonya Kubo
      Thank you!
  3. slrm2m
    I would love to see some sample meal plans for vegan wls friendly meals. Can you share some with me or direct me to some online resources that show such meal plans? Thanks
    1. Tonya Kubo
      Tonya Kubo
      I subscribe to Meal Mentor ( meal plans, which are oil free and plant based. I have to make some modifications but it isn't hard to make them work. For instance, I have a hard time with rice so I usually substitute quinoa.
  4. OneMeka
    I know this article is quite old but I stumbled upon this doing a simple Google search and it was exactly what I needed! I had bariatric surgery 2 yrs ago and I'm starting to see the weight creep back up and I'm concerned about it. I decided to go back to being vegetarian but decided that I didn't want any animal products or by products in my body at all! Thanks so much for this article!
    1. Tonya Kubo
      Tonya Kubo
      You are welcome! Good luck!
  5. hannah3997
    Loved this article! I had wls in may. I have been vegan now for 2 months and i love it! Its easy! there are so many different options out there in terms of proteins! Some personal favorites are the Vega sport Mocha flavored protein, and Garden of Life chocolate protein!
  6. lorilynn610
    Just ran across this post doing a Google search of the possibility of getting the gastric sleeve done while being vegetarian or vegan. I actually still eat fish and eggs but no other animal products. I see that people have done it 7 years post op but I'm wondering if it's possible to do from the beginning of getting the surgery. Have not eaten meat, pork or chicken since 2014 and would love to keep it that way.
    1. MarkA
      I had gastric bypass surgery in 2009. I lost 120 lbs. and kept it off to this day. I am 66 years old and diabetic. In 2013 I went on a vegan diet at the advice of my physician. I retired and moved far away, without medical advice for what I was doing. I don't think you should try this if you are not under a doctor's constant care and supervision. You need regular blood work. This is my story and no one in the vegan world is going to like it, but this is what happened. After two years on a vegan diet, I developed enema in my legs all the way up to my scrotum and had to be hospitalized for 3 days with intravenous feedings of albumin. Albumin is not available as a pill, but is produced in the diet by eating protein. Albumin keeps your hemoglobin from leaking water. Without enough albumin, edema in the lower extremities will occur. During those two years I did not get enough protein, I hate beans. I hardly ate any protein at all. I bought the old story about protein in vegetables. Yeah. While it is true there is more protein in 100 calories of broccoli than in 100 calories of beef, you would have to eat a massive amount of broccoli to get that 100 calories. Gastric bypass patients don’t have a normal stomach, they have a pouch, and you just cannot stuff all that broccoli into it. Meat is dense. I think anyone can be vegan, unless they’ve had a gastric bypass. It is a restrictive and malabsorptive system and I was literally starving myself on the vegan diet. To each his own I guess, if you like beans, go for it. But I don’t understand all these young female activists who take selfies of themselves laying in the grass hugging a pig. Now it’s suddenly not a nutritional lifestyle, it’s a political statement. I think they are more concerned with animal rights and conservation efforts than nutrition, which are certainly noble causes. But that's not the issue here. I wish you better luck than I had, but I don't think I'll ever sufficiently recover. I am now on a Paleo diet and have to wear compression socks to optimize the oxygen flow in my legs. I exercise regularly. My blood work after 1 year is almost back to normal; so if you do this, get yourself checked out regularly. If you are young and resilient, I think you will be OK. You can be vegan or you can have this surgery, but I would caution against both. This isn't for everyone. Read page 26 of Neal Barnard's book if you don't believe me. Unfortunately for me, I read the book after the damage was done. Good luck to anyone who tries this.
      1. Misty Dawn Krater
        Misty Dawn Krater
        Mark, can you talk more with me about your experience. I want to be vegan again but am not sure I can now that I've had surgery. I'm doing research on it right now. Please find me on Facebook so we can talk privately. Thank you!
  7. Misty Dawn Krater
    Misty Dawn Krater
    Hello there. I just posted my first blog here. I want to become vegan but am 7 months post gastric sleeve surgery. Do you have any tips, advice, or guidance? Thank you so much!


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