One of the hardest parts of bariatric surgery is the liver shrinking diet. Followed for one to three weeks before bariatric surgery, the liver shrinking or reducing diet shrinks the liver, so the surgeon can operate properly. You shouldn’t follow this diet at any other time or if you’re not having bariatric surgery. This diet was my least favorite part about surgery, as the detox from sugars and carbs made me super cranky and tired. No worries though – each day gets a little easier! The liver shrinking diet before bariatric surgery reduces the size of your liver to make surgery easier.
Each Liver Shrinking Diet Is Different
One of the things that amaze me most about bariatric surgery is the inconsistency between programs. Each bariatric surgery team does things a little differently and requires different things. Because of this disparity, I want to start by saying that each liver shrinking diet is different. You should always, always follow the advice of your doctor and his or her plan first and foremost. The tips I provide in this article will help you no matter which liver shrinking diet your doctor prescribes for you.
For example, at Phoebe Health, their liver shrinking diet consists of two protein shakes, two low-carb snacks and a light dinner with 64 ounces of water a day. Patients at Phoebe Health go on this diet for two weeks before surgery. My pre-op diet was four protein shakes a day with up to two cups of non-starchy vegetables and 64 ounces of water a day. It only lasted for 10 days. These are just two examples of liver shrinking diets, and many other medical teams may have different variations. Always follow your doctors plan.
Another word of wisdom I’d like to impart about the liver shrinking diet is the timing of it. The liver shrinking diet typically lasts from one to three weeks. However, some programs have a shorter diet and others have a longer diet. Again, you’re going to want to follow the instructions laid out by your medical team. This will ensure that you are following the directions the doctor has found works best for his or her patients, and you get the best possible care.
Additionally, I’d also like to mention that this diet should only be followed before bariatric surgery. It is not suitable for after surgery or if you’re not having bariatric surgery. The reduced caloric intake is not sustainable for long-term use and can cause your body to enter starvation mode. Only follow the liver shrinking diet if you are prescribed it by your doctor before bariatric surgery.
Lowers Blood Sugar
One more warning I’d like to add before heading into the nitty-gritty of the liver shrinking diet is if you are diabetic, you need to also consult your family doctor or endocrinologist before starting this diet. The reduction of carbohydrates and sugars can cause your blood sugar to drop dangerously low. You need to be diligent about checking your blood sugar during this time. Your surgeon should give you instructions on what to do if your blood sugar drops too low.
I’ve seen several programs recommend the rule of 15. The rule of 15 is when your blood sugar is low, you consume 15 grams of carbohydrates, then wait 15 minutes to test your blood sugar again. If it’s still too low, consume another 15 grams of carbohydrates and wait another 15 minutes before testing again. You’ll keep repeating this process until your blood sugar stabilizes. However, as I’ve mentioned, always follow the advice of your doctor in regards to this situation.
Why is the Liver Shrinking Diet Necessary?
The liver shrinking diet is necessary before bariatric surgery for several reasons. The main reason is that when you are obese on the outside, you’re obese on the inside. Your organs, and specifically your liver, are also holding onto fat. This additional fat makes the liver bigger than it already is. The liver rests kind of on top of the stomach, making it difficult for the surgeon to operate laparoscopically with a big organ in the way. The liver shrinking diet does just that – it shrinks the liver so that the surgeon can get to the place he needs to operate.
You’ll probably lose about five to 10 pounds on this diet. I lost 15 pounds in those 10 days I was on my liver shrinking diet. I think this diet is also a necessary step in the bariatric process because it helps get you in the right frame of mind for after surgery. It’s a strict diet, and your post-op diet is also very strict, starting with clear liquids. By having this sort of bariatric boot camp before surgery, you get used to a restrictive diet and helps get you mentally prepared for life after surgery.
RELATED CONTENT: Want to learn the 10 changes you need to make in your life to be successful with bariatric surgery? Get our free download here!
My Best Tips for the Liver Reducing Diet
Alright, so let’s get into the details of these tips for the liver reducing diet. First, to prepare, you’ll want a good set of measuring spoons and cups, a digital kitchen scale and a high-quality blender. It doesn’t hurt to have portion-control containers as well. You’ll also be using these tools after surgery, so it’s a good investment now. Once you have those tools and follow my tips below, it will make your liver reducing diet much easier!
1. Follow Your Doctor’s Plan to a T
I know I’ve mentioned this tip several times already, but it’s so important, it’s worth repeating. Follow your doctor’s liver reducing diet plan to the letter! It’s super important that you follow all of the instructions given to you and avoid all of the foods they tell you not to eat. Being diligent about following these directions means your liver will reduce in a way that the surgeon has found works best. Don’t follow another liver reducing diet you found online. Follow your doctor’s plan.
2. No Cheating
Going along with my first tip, your second tip is to not cheat on this diet. I know that you will be tempted. Believe me, the cravings get intense, and you feel like garbage. Do not sway from your plan. Do not give in to your temptations. Remember that after surgery you won’t be able to eat a lot of these foods for a long time. If you feel like you are going to want to cheat on your liver reducing diet, eat those comfort foods before you start it. My last meal before my liver reducing diet was a cheeseburger sub and mozzarella sticks. It was my last big craving I wanted to get out of the way, and it was delicious. However, because I did have that last big craving before starting my liver shrinking diet, I was less tempted to sway from the prescribed foods. So your second tip is not to cheat.
3. Quit Caffeine and Soda Before This Diet
The liver shrinking diet detoxes you from many processed foods, sugar and carbohydrates. The withdrawal from these foods is real. You’ll probably get headaches and be cranky. It’s in your best interest to stop drinking caffeine and carbonation before you start this diet. For tips on how to quit drinking soda, read my post here. It’s going to be much easier to detox from just the sugar and the carbs than it will be to detox from the sugar, carbs, caffeine and carbonation at the same time. Plus, you won’t be able to have these things for while after surgery, so it gets you prepared. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water too to stay hydrated during this phase.
4. Plan Your Days
The best way to avoid cheating on the liver reducing diet is to plan your meals for the day. Following your medical group’s direction, you should evenly space your protein shakes and/or food throughout the day. Set up a calendar to decide when you’re eating and what you’re eating at that time. It’s much easier to plan your days than it is to just fly by the seat of your pants. So to survive this strict diet, plan your days so you know what you’re eating and when you’re eating it.
5. Take a Multivitamin Daily
The liver shrinking diet really reduces the number of calories you’re eating each day, and you may be missing some necessary vitamins. By this point, you should already be taking a multivitamin daily, as you’ll need to be consistent with taking vitamins after surgery. However, you especially need a vitamin now, as your food intake will be significantly lower. Make sure with your doctor that it’s okay to take a multivitamin during your liver shrinking diet. If it is, make sure to take one daily to support your body.
6. Have Your Support System
Listen, I’m not going to lie. The liver shrinking diet sucks. You’re detoxing from sugar and carbohydrates, and the withdrawal symptoms are real. The second day of my liver shrinking diet was the only time I missed my abusive ex-husband since separating from him. It wasn’t so much that I even missed him. I just felt like such utter crap that I wanted someone to hold me and tell me it would be alright. I cried a lot the first three days of my liver reducing diet. It was in these moments that my support system really held me together. I told my co-worker how I was feeling with tears streaming down my face, and she didn’t hesitate one second. She embraced me in a hug, let me cry on her shoulder and told me it would be OK.
Therefore, your sixth tip is to make sure you have your support system locked and loaded. You are going to go through so many emotions during the liver shrinking diet. Everything from extreme happiness and excitement to depression and worry will pass through you. Have your support system there for when you need them. Trust me – you’ll need them! It does get better and easier after the first few days, but you can experience some emotional discomfort.
7. Avoid NSAIDs
Your seventh tip for your liver shrinking diet is to avoid NSAIDs. NSAIDS are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like Advil or ibuprofen. The reason you should avoid NSAIDs is that they increase your risk of stomach ulcers. You won’t be able to take NSAIDs after surgery anyway for the same reason. You don’t want to risk developing a stomach ulcer before your bariatric surgery because that will halt the bariatric surgery. So, steer clear of NSAIDs during your liver shrinking diet and after bariatric surgery. Take Tylenol or acetaminophen instead.
8. Write in a Journal
As I mentioned, you are going to be going through a lot emotionally with your liver reducing diet and bariatric surgery. One way to cope with all the changes and feelings you’re having is by writing in a journal. I’m a regular journal writer, and not always in the typical sense one thinks. Journaling doesn’t have rules. It could be just writing down something good that happened to you or writing a to-do list. Journals can be essential to weight loss, especially if you food journal. It’s a great way to process your feelings and document your weight loss progress. It’s also an insightful way to see if there’s a connection between what you’re consuming and how you’re feeling. Being really mindful of how food affects you can be empowering. Therefore, to survive your liver shrinking diet, write in a journal to help process your feelings.
9. Limit Exercise
Your ninth and final tip for the liver shrinking diet is to limit your exercise. During this time frame is the only time you’ll ever hear me say you should limit your exercise. Here’s why: you just aren’t consuming enough calories. When you exercise, you are burning calories. The liver shrinking diet restricts the number of calories you’re eating already. If you exercise too much during this time, you’ll end up with a calorie deficit, which isn’t good for your body. Your body needs calories to function. It’s going to wear you out if you keep up with your regular exercise routine. Short walks may be helpful but definitely limit strength training and intense cardio.
Surviving the Liver Shrinking Diet
While the liver shrinking diet can be tough mentally and physically, it’s worth it to have your bariatric surgery. You’ll follow your doctor’s plan exactly and not cheat from the prescribed menu. You’ll need to shrink your liver so that it doesn’t cover the area where then the doctor needs to perform your bariatric surgery. It’s important to not cheat on this diet, as surgery may be canceled if your liver isn’t small enough. Make sure you stay hydrated and have your support team ready for whatever you need. The liver shrinking diet before bariatric surgery reduces the size of your liver to make surgery easier.
If this article gave you some great ideas to incorporate into your life, just imagine what other amazing strategies I have for you! Share this post on social media by clicking one of the sharing buttons, and don’t forget to join my email list! You’ll be the first to get updates, access to my new products and lots of tips, inspiration and motivation to help in your bariatric surgery journey. Just for joining, I’ll send you a free eBook with the 10 Habits to Change Before Bariatric Surgery, as well as some other pretty awesome goodies to keep you motivated. Join today!
The liver shrinking diet is prescribed to bariatric patients before their surgeries. It reduces the size of the liver so that the surgeon has room to operate on the stomach and surrounding areas.