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 are 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

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
How Alcohol Affects Your Body

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.