This question comes up a lot on the various forums. You often see people seeking absolution or beating themselves up because they had a cheeseburger. People appear to view this from two extreme angles. On the one hand you have some saying “is it absolutely NOT okay to cheat on the pre-op” while others will give examples of how they cheated and nothing bad happened. So it is okay or is it not?
Pre-ops vary a lot from no pre-op diet to a full liquids diet, to some food allowed, to a clear liquids only diet. Fair to say, anyone who has to do even a week of liquids does have a hard time. We’re given two reasons why we have to do the pre-op. Most commonly, it’s because it’s meant to shrink our livers so that they don’t interfere with the surgery on our stomachs. But even here, professionals do not agree. Some doctors believe it helps, others will tell you it takes longer than a couple of weeks to treat a fatty liver. We’ve all also heard stories about patients who did not follow their pre-op and woke up to find the doctor had not completed the surgery.
The second reason we’re given is to help us detox and learn new habits. If you stop for a moment and think of what you will be giving up during the pre-op, many of which you will not be picking up post-op for quite a well, here are just a few things:
1. No caffeine. Aaargh!
2. Carbs below 50 gms a day
3. Less than 1000 calories a day
4. Much more protein than we usually intake
5. Liquids only plus veg soup (in my case). Not easy.
6. No straws
7. No fat to speak of
8. No sugar
9. No fruit
10. No carbonated beverages
No wonder people struggle. But here’s the thing.
The pre-op is totally doable.
It’s tough, but doable. You sort of have to take it one day at a time. Here’s why I didn’t cheat.
First, I was facing a major change in my way of living, and I wanted to get ready for it. Second, I was facing major surgery. I am not a medical doctor, I have no idea whether it shrinks my liver or not, but if I trusted a doctor to take out 85% of my stomach, then I was going to trust his advice on the pre-op. Third, I needed to feel in control. My biggest problem with food was that I felt out of control with it. Not because I ate too much, but because no matter what I ate, I seemed to put on weight.
The liquid diet put ME back in control. I wasn’t being driven by food, I set a routine, and I drank my shake and ate my soup according to the clock .
The first four days were hellish. I needed a nap all the time, I was exhausted and I worried that I would never make it through and still be able to make a living.
On the fifth day, a switch flipped and all my old energy came rushing back. My experience is not unusual. Everyone tells you the first few days are no fun. Start your diet on a Friday and allow yourself to sleep through most of the weekend, and you will do better.
I went into the surgery feeling very confident that I could follow the rules set forth by my doctor, and I am glad I didn’t cheat myself out of that win. I felt in control, calm, and like I had a handle on what was about to come.
What if you did cheat though?
Again, people’s opinions vary. Some will tell you this means that you will fail post op, while others will tell you to get back on the horse and give it your best shot. No matter how you approach this, I do think you should let your surgeon know. Sometimes they can come up with slightly modified guidelines so your pre-op is easier, at other times they can give you tips on what to do.
We’ve all heard horror stories of people who ate before surgery and ended up with complications, leaks, etc. You don’t want to risk it. Let your surgeon know, and do what they tell you to. It’s all good. 🙂