Life After Weight Loss Surgery Q & A - Alcohol after weight loss surgery?

Questions and answers, a new blog post series, one post-op's thoughts on life after weight loss surgery. Question #2...

Question: Can you drink alcohol after weight loss surgery?

Answer: Most doctors will tell you to avoid alcohol and I agree. I had my first post-op alcohol in October 2006 so... err math... I was 4 months out. It hit quick and hard, like major buzz hard after only one drink but the feeling lasted about as quickly as it hit, so I had another. You can see how that would be a recipe for disaster if it became a habit.

In the first few years post-op I had a few party girl nights, recapturing my youth, trying out the new body I guess, alcohol was involved in all those evenings (3 or so in 6 years) and each time I...

A.) Made some questionable decisions. I rarely regret stuff (life is an experience) but I do regret a few decisions I made while I was drinking.

For example: I might have commandeered an entire wheel of Gouda cheese from a hotel kitchen with a male partner in crime (sort of a D-list celebrity) who I shared said cheese with then engaged in a semi-public make-out session.

Not one of my finer moments. Now no real harm was done but questionable decisions made while drinking could also be deadly ones.

B.) Felt like crap during and especially after. Alcohol is basically sugar so it's self-induced dumping which for me = sweats, shakes, chest beating fast, woozy. Yeah, that's attractive. Not.

C.) Consumed way too many calories that day. Here's the average calorie counts for common drinks:

80-150 calories per glass wine
140-200 calories per beer
150-200 calories each shot
300-800 calories per mixed drink

and that is not including the hunk of aforementioned Gouda ;) or any other not so wise, under the influence, eating choices you might make. I plan my meals. When you drink booze, plans can get tossed aside. That is just not an option in my world.

Alcohol consumption to excess is a problem for some in our community. There is debate whether surgery type (rerouting of the guts) makes us more susceptible physically or whether it is a transfer of an addiction to alcohol from food. I tend to believe it's probably a bit of both.

I think the question most people have to ask themselves is why they are drinking...

taste or enjoyment
how you define fun
self esteem/body image
peer expectations
escape/alter state
social anxiety
lower inhibitions
transfer addiction
self sabotage

I'm sure there are more... anyway... understanding your why is important because a few of these are issues that need to be dealt with versus trying to drown 'em.

Some articles for further reading:

Alcoholism after gastric bypass: Is it in your mind or gut?
Prevalence of Alcohol Use Disorders Before and After Bariatric Surgery
Weight-Loss Surgery Increases Risk of Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol abuse increases after weight loss surgery
Weight Loss Surgery's Weird Alcoholism Risk
Alcohol Metabolism Changes Considerably After Gastric Bypass Surgery
ASMBS Position Statement on Alcohol Use Before & After Bariatric Surgery
Alcohol Absorption Modification After a Laparoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy Due to Obesity
Alcohol and the Gastric Bypass Patient
Popular Surgery Linked to Alcohol Problems

I lived and learned. So now a sip of champagne at a wedding or New Year's or a sip or two of wine is about all I do. I make a great Chicken Marsala but most of the alcohol burns off and a delicious Flan that does use a little Kahlua (you could omit.) The last time I drank anything was last year in New Orleans (1 watered down cocktail) while walking down the appropriately named Bourbon Street. No Gouda was consumed this time but I felt crummy and ended up calling it an early night. Worth it? Nope.

It's hard at celebrations people drink (beer at BBQ's, wine at dinners, toasts of champagne) it's a part of our culture. I have found holding a glass of water with lemon is something I tend to do, people assume its something more and it avoids questions. But try and remember... a celebration is more about who you are with than the food or drink that is consumed, if it's more about the food and drink maybe you need better company.

If you are struggling with alcohol: Resources

Did you miss Question #1. Here it is.


Samantha said...

I agree! I how ever will have a drink on the weekends or drink at parties but one thing I'd like to point out is never ever drink and drive. Especially for us Post opt people. Alcohol of any kind hits fast and hard and can be dangerous. My program does not condone drinking of any kind because of the empty calories! Great Question and answer!!! :)

Anonymous said...

Again another great Q&A thanks for sharing Shelly, I look forward to the next installment.

tz said...

good to know...I've never been a big drinker but sometimes a nice glass of wine hits the spot...will have to think about that...

Lissa said...

i really like the articles you posted; they were very informative. i have to say alcohol is a choice that each of us make. i haven't had any alcohol post-op for two reasons 1) it was on my "No No" list from the doc and I attempt to follow his rules to a T and 2) i suffer from depression and anxiety still after surgery and that doesn't mix with meds! i haven't had a drink in years. heck, i went to a favorite pub hang out with my best friend 2 weeks ago (the first bar i've been in well over 5 years) and i felt out of place!!! for some it is a no carb rule, for me no alcohol. it isn't worth the dump, the pain, or the promise i made to myself to get healthy.

Unknown said...

I myself suffer ( after gastric bypass) from alcoholism. It was never an issue before surgery. Now... It has consumed me. Please don't take that first drink... Please. The buzz is not worth the gamble of whether or not you can resist the next drink.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for answering that question. I really like this new addition to your blot. I had my surgery in March so this is all new to me. Thank you for sharing your experiences. :) It helps to know what other people have gone through.

Kimberly said...

Great Q&A, goes to show that a weight loss surgery isn't like some people think, just a hack to get from A to B faster.

I've had a lap-band myself. And it wasn't easy after. Those fats didn't just vanished. Adjusting to the change was obviously very irritating at first.

But with time I managed to get past it with the help of my loving family and friends, who really helped me each step of the way.

Sally Johnson said...

Thanks for this information. My sister has been looking into weight loss surgery in mexico. This a great tip for her to know.

Misti K said...

I think a very important thing to mention is that you may react to alcohol BASED ON YOUR SURGERY. I didn't have gastric bypass, I had vertical sleeve. It is not one size fits all. Alcohol does not hit me 'heavy and quick'. It's not much different than before surgery actually.

Really, it's a decision to make individually, with input from your doctor, based on YOUR surgery.

Waning Woman said...

I am able to drink and enjoy myself. I don't get any dumping or physical effects. While drinking CAN definitely affect my number on the scale that's about all it does for me.
BUT every single person has to weigh out what is important to them in this new post surgical life. If things can't be done is balance, then sometimes abstinence is the only answer. Continual self monitoring and awareness is the only way to make this thing work.

Paula A. said...

Cocktails are what got me in the fat mess to begin with. A few yummy cocktails several times a week, led to munchies. Repeat that cycle for years! Empty calories and mindless planning.
I have had very few indulgences since. One cocktail feels like three too me now. After a drink, I crave non-nutritious snacks.

Anonymous said...

I find I really enjoy a nice club soda with a squeeze of lime. It looks like I'm being just as social as everyone else, but I don't have to mess up my blood sugar, get instantly drunk and then instantly sober (although this time, with a headache), and I can be just as happy without the calories. Great post, Shelly!

Kristin B said...

Shelley, great Q&A post. Thx to everyone for sharing, too. I found I've been accepting more party invitiations and the urge to indulge is hard to resist. I haven't had an dumping (I had the Sleeve), but I noticed it didn't take much to get me drunk. I thought long and hard abou tthe whole thing and how I will deal with alcohol/parties in the future. Shelley, your blog is an inspiration!

Anonymous said...

80 per cent of the time alcohol makes me sick, like I want to throw up but can't..sick. It's just not worth it. Then I pass out for about 15 minutes. I'm 4 years out..

Kanika Gupta said...

Thanks for providing the tips. This will help for people are planning for weight loss surgery.