As a bariatric surgery patient, you may notice that the foods and even the supplements that you enjoyed before your procedure don’t taste as good as they once did. If so, you’re not imagining things. A study presented during Obesity Week in 2014 conducted by Stanford University in California confirms that bariatric surgery does indeed change the taste buds.
Led by author and medical doctor John Morton, the study found a positive link between bariatric surgery and a decreased sensitivity to taste. It’s similar to the way you might think about food when you have the flu. The very thought of eating doesn’t sound pleasant at all.
Bariatric surgery affects hormones that cause people to lose their appetite. This can sound like a good thing since a lack of appetite means less eating and more weight loss. The foods that you once craved and couldn’t get enough of even when you knew they were unhealthy simply don’t taste as good as they did before surgery.
According to Dr. Morton’s theory, the taste buds of obese people are less sensitive than those with a body mass index (BMI) in normal range even before surgery. This could even contribute to the state of obesity. People with less sensitive taste buds experience pleasure from feeling satiated, which means they eat less because their pleasure comes from the taste of the food instead of the amount consumed. The opposite is true for people who struggle with their weight.
Reactivating Your Taste Buds
Part of the counseling process after bariatric surgery involves teaching patients to focus on one bit of food at a time while eating slower and savoring the flavor. It will take some time to adjust to the hormonal changes associated with bariatric surgery, but rest assured that your body will adjust eventually. Practicing these techniques learned in counseling will help you feel pleasure from the taste of food rather than the sensation of fullness.
Your mind and body work together to let you know that you’re full. The best way to train them both is to eat slowly. This is especially important after weight loss surgery because of the decreased sensitivity of your taste buds.
It may feel frustrating to go through this training process, but it’s necessary if you want to change your relationship with food and keep the weight off for a lifetime. This is one time when patience really is a virtue.