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.