5 ways for better appetite control after bariatric surgery
Are you looking for reasons why your appetite changed after bariatric surgery?
You’re not alone.
You see, appetite changes are very normal after bariatric surgery. If you’ve been following along, last week we broke down the differences of hunger, appetite and cravings.
- Hunger is your need for food.
- Appetite is your interest in food.
- Cravings are your desire for a specific food.
Although very similar and connected, there are differences. But appetite is not only your interest in food, but the amount of food it requires for you to feel satisfied.
As a matter of fact, your appetite can be quite complex. Having many influences…
- The gut-brain communication signaling fullness.
- Life experiences.
- Exposure & relationship to food.
- Gene variations that influence your eating patterns.
- Hormone fluctuations.
- Blood sugar imbalances.
- Poor sleep.
So in reality, your appetite is very individual. In fact, no two people will experience satiation and fullness the same.
Now, if we’re being honest, this is where I think bariatric patients feel confused. Their interest in food and the amount of food required to feel full is very different from month one to month twelve. Many have this unrealistic idea that your desire for food and how quickly you’ll register fullness should remain the same month to month. Where in fact, the first month will provide the most satiation on a very small amount of food. Then as the months progress, your appetite will increase to more normal cues.
So having a better understanding of what drives it can help improve appetite control after bariatric surgery.
Gene variations that influence your eating patterns
There is evidence to suggest that genetic factors may play a role in appetite regulation after bariatric surgery.
One study found that individuals who have certain single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the genes related to appetite and weight regulation may be more likely to experience an increase in appetite after bariatric surgery. These SNPs may influence the way that the body responds to changes in diet and physical activity, and may contribute to an individual’s overall risk of obesity.
You see, some people are very sensitive to the sensation of fullness. However, others take longer to register when they are full.
While many people believe that serving sizes and other eating behaviors should be equal for all, variations in your genes determine your appetite level and satiety. Consequently, affecting your eating patterns like snacking, binge eating, servings, frequency of meals in a very real biological way. But regardless of your genetics, it is possible to experience better appetite control after bariatric surgery.
So let’s dig into the five ways to control your appetite after bariatric surgery.
First, Quality Matters
This is where quality food choices matter. The more ultra-processed foods you consume the more “quantity” of food you’ll ingest. It takes more ultra-processed foods to provide fullness than quality protein, vegetables, fruit and whole grains.
As a matter of fact, one study found participants consumed 500 more calories per day on the ultra-processed diet compared to the unprocessed diet. So not only can it increase your appetite for more food. The quality of your food can lead to consuming an increased quantity of food. Kind of a double whammy.
So if you want to maximize fullness, make sure you’re consuming foods that digest slowly…
- Healthy proteins
- Foods high in resistant starch(cooked & chilled potatoes and rice)
- Beans & lentils
Second, Balance Brain Chemicals
There are neuro-chemicals that influence appetite. These include dopamine, serotonin, ghrelin, leptin and glucagon like peptide-1(GLP-1) to name a few. To add to the complexity, all of these are influenced genetically and microbially.
As a matter of fact, the dopamine receptor D2(DRD2) genetic SNP plays a role in your brain’s reward pathway. Those with certain genotypes have weaker dopamine signaling. Meaning you will likely seek out more dopamine boosts. For some this can result in binge eating.
Some helpful ways to optimize these brain chemicals are to…
- Daily exercise
- Adequate sleep
Third, Mindful Eating
If you’re experiencing a change in your appetite after bariatric surgery, this is where your mental presence is required. Practicing mindful and intuitive eating can be helpful in portion control. Additionally offering better satiety signals and better appetite control.
The best way to accomplish this is to…
- Less distractions at meal times
- Take slow deep breaths before a meal to turn on your Parasympathetic “Rest & Digest”
- Smell, taste and roll the food in your mouth to enhance your eating experience
- Take 30 minute meals
Fourth, Blood Sugar Balance
Blood sugar balance is step one for anyone struggling with appetite control after bariatric surgery. Whenever your blood sugar is going high and low multiple times daily, appetite control is difficult. As a matter of fact, it will additionally lead to increased hunger. The biological process where your body “needs” food to maintain balance.
Now, blood sugar balance may look different for each of you. But overall, most can notice improvements with…
- Vegetable & protein first with carbohydrates last
- Make sure to add healthy fats at most meals
- Get adequate fiber and resistant starch
- Walk after a meal for 10 minutes
- Add one tablespoon apple cider vinegar to high-carb meals
Fifth, Support Cortisol Awakening Response
Your cortisol awakening response(CAR) is the change in cortisol concentration that occurs in the first hour after waking from sleep. There has been evidence in the connection between your cortisol level and appetite.
In this study, they found that in women the cortisol awakening response was negatively associated with hunger, binge eating, body esteem, trait anxiety, disinhibition and rigid control.
To improve appetite control after bariatric surgery, optimizing your cortisol awakening response can help. In fact, getting sunlight within the first hour of waking can help increase your cortisol quickly. So how do you do this?
- Get about 5 minutes of sunlight on a bright sunny day within the first hour of waking
- On a cloudy day you will need about 10 minutes of sunlight exposure first thing after waking.
- On a densely overcast or rainy day you’ll need about 20-30 minutes of sunlight exposure.
However, this cannot be accomplished through sunglasses, windows or windshield. Optimally, you must get outside to receive the benefits. Additional benefits are it can improve sleep and make you feel more awake during the day.
So if you’re looking for better appetite control after bariatric surgery regardless of your genetics. Prioritizing quality food, balancing brain chemicals and blood sugar, being more mindful at mealtime and supporting your cortisol awakening response can change how much food you require to feel full.