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What can I eat with a gastric band?

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When we speak with people enquiring about weight loss surgery we regularly hear that having the surgery means there are strict regulations in what you are able to eat. The good news is, there isn’t! Your gastric band diet will be very similar to a normal, balanced and healthy diet. The only thing you need to keep an eye on is your portion sizes and the speed at which you eat.

Different procedures will impact your diet in slightly different ways – as the band is one of the least intrusive bariatric procedures, and as long as you keep an eye on what you eat and how you’re eating it, you’ll be maximising your chances of success. A gastric band is a tool that tricks the brain into thinking the whole of the stomach is full because the stomach above the band is squeezing food through the device. In other words, you feel fuller, faster.

The gastric band has been helping people manage their weight for over 20 years now, and given the time it’s had to establish itself as one of the most effective weight loss procedures, methods of getting the best out of your band are well established, too.

The 3 golden rules that must be adhered to when it comes to eating with a band are as follows:

Eat slowly

Use a sand timer (which is provided by us) to help pace your eating

Follow diet recommendations

Pay careful attention to the texture of the foods that you eat

Avoid high-calorie soft foods/liquids

Reduce your consumption of alcohol and foods such as ice cream, chocolate and soft cheeses (foods which ‘slip’ down)

Physical vs emotional hunger

The band is very effective at controlling the physical feelings of hunger. However, in the beginning, perhaps the most difficult skill to learn is how to tell the difference between physical and emotional hunger.

Emotional hunger is the sense of wanting or needing to eat regardless of whether we are actually hungry or not. This can be due to boredom, or simply just being sociable. We’re often asked the question, “will it seem rude to eat less than everyone else?” at first, you may find this more tricky to overcome, but once you establish the boundaries between physical and emotional hunger, you’re well on your way to gastric band success.

Healthy eating

It’s always important that you keep a balanced and healthy gastric band diet – as you will be eating less, every mouthful counts. So make sure you’re getting enough variation in your down-sized meals. With a gastric band, you may eat most foods that don’t cause you discomfort. However, because you can only eat small amounts, it is important to include foods which are rich in protein but low in fat and sugar. We encourage you to eat vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean meat and fish, just chew them for a little longer and eat slightly smaller portions.

So, contrary to what you may hear, there are not really any foods that you should avoid, this is actually one of the benefits of the gastric band. In order to maximise your weight loss, however, it is important to avoid or reduce the calories you consume through soft foods or liquids. When you are eating soft foods the ‘squeezing’ of food through the stomach doesn’t occur and you will not get the early feeling of fullness that you want. So, a band gives you complete flexibility but you need to be careful about the textures of what you eat. Read our gastric band FAQ’s to find out everything you need to know.

Healthy eating isn’t just about choosing the right foods, it’s also about changing how you actually consume those foods. This is possibly the single biggest controllable factor in achieving band success.

So, how should you eat with a gastric band?

It’s really about finding a way to slow down your eating enough that you stop eating when you are no longer hungry, rather than when you are full. What’s the difference, you may ask? Well, there is a point before we are full when we are satisfied and no longer hungry. The thing is that we generally eat large mouthfuls and eat them so quickly that we pass the ‘no longer hungry’ phase and go straight to ‘full’.

A great way to recognise the ‘no longer hungry’ stage is to use an egg timer when eating your meals. Studies have shown that this increases weight loss results. Here’s how it works:

  1. First, take a morsel of food (morsel, not mouthful – a morsel is generally regarded as being the size of a 50p piece)
  2. Chew carefully for 15-20 seconds
  3. Swallow
  4. Wait 30 seconds (turn the 30-second egg timer over)
  5. Take the next morsel
  6. Chew
  7. Continue to repeat the process until you are no longer hungry

If you have a gastric band and can adopt these eating habits, you are giving yourself the best possible chance of hitting your target weight.

Other than being more careful in what you put on your plate, and regulating how you consume your foods, there are really no other ‘rules’ to be successful – apart from getting sufficient exercise, of course. Below, our bariatric nurse Maxine discusses finding the right textures and techniques when it comes to your gastric band diet.

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