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Stoma and losing weight – what are the key things you need to know?

January brings the start of a New Year and new resolutions for 2021. The mornings become lighter and the evenings longer. Your days become your own again after all the Christmas shopping. It’s officially time to say goodbye to all the binge eating, as much fun as it was, it’s now time to look forward to healthy eating again. A few days of normality and planning for the weeks ahead will help us all feel focused and energised again!

Promises of weight loss, new crash diets, detoxing and getting fit with boot camps sound great in theory but how many of us actually stick to them? We find ourselves half way through January, wondering how long we can continue with the new tough regimes we’ve set ourselves! It’s good to have a plan when it comes to weight loss when you have a stoma and especially when you’ve just had surgery, but it needs to be realistic with your health and lifestyle for it to work. Take your time with any diet….the slower the weight loss….the more likely it is to stay off!!

If you’ve just had surgery you may find you are the opposite and have actually lost weight plus your appetite. This will return with time, eating smaller meals more frequently will help. As you become more active, you will find your appetite should return.  It is not wise to embark on a weight loss diet during the post-operative recovery stage, as your body needs extra calories for healing.

Exercising with a stoma:

It’s really important to get the balance between diet and exercise right. There are plenty of exercises which can be done in the comfort of your own home, you don’t have to dash out and enrol in a gym. Living through the time of Covid-19 has made Zoom exercises classes extremely popular, so if you feel it would be more motivational to exercise in a group, trying enrolling in one of these online classes. There are also plenty of you tube links to exercise in the privacy of your own lounge and you can select the type of exercise to suit your level of fitness.

If you prefer the outdoors, go for a stroll outside to enjoy both nature and scenery. Walking is a great exercise, the main bonus being it is free and you can increase your own pace when you are ready. You can also choose to walk in isolation or within your own bubble.

With any form of exercise, try to set the same day and time each week and you are more likely to stick with it. If you have just had surgery, make sure you check with your surgeon before you start exercising. Start slowly and listen to your body.

Dieting with a stoma:

Good nutritional intake is important for all of us and is very much a part of recovering from surgery. Rather than cutting out whole food groups, you should follow the motto of “everything in moderation” including occasional treats! Eating less saturated fats, processed foods, red meat, sugary foods and increasing your fruit and vegetables is standard advice for all.

The NHS website has some great weight loss resources and they are FREE!

Make sure the foods you are eating are compatible with your stoma. Suddenly introducing large amounts of vegetables and fruit can cause your output to become more liquid which may not be ideal. Think about adding in those fruits such as ripe bananas which can help thicken your output. The high fibre content of some diets may help you feel full for longer but it may also make your stoma more active than usual.

Eating your 5 a day safely:

Some days you may feel you are unable to eat all of your 5 a day, depending on how your bowels are and what the output of your stoma is like. So here are some tips to follow:

  • Eating raw vegetables and fruit with skins can be hard to digest with a stoma, so make sure you steam or boil them.
  • If you have an ileostomy, make sure you peel the fruit before eating.
  • Make home-made smoothies including bananas which help thicken stoma output.

Fluid intake:

It’s important to drink plenty of fluids whether dieting or not. By drinking plenty it will keep you hydrated and also help you to feel full. It’s often easy to confuse hunger for thirst, so try reaching for a glass of water first. Don’t be alarmed if your urine is a paler colour and a lot clearer as a result, this is a good sign you are hydrated.


  • Try not to skip meals.  Skipping meals such as breakfast will lead to you missing out on essential nutrients and vitamins. You may find you are snacking later because you feel hungrier.
  • Try serving meals on a smaller plate. It will help with portion control.
  • Try not to ban any foods from your new diet. It will only make you crave them more and occasional treats are allowed on most diets.
  • Try cutting down on alcohol too. A standard glass of wine can contain as many calories as a piece of chocolate! You’ve heard the saying “empty calories”.
  • Plan your meals and snacks for the week. You are far more likely to stick to it if you have planned and prepared for the meals.
  • Remember it takes approx. 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain it’s full….so eat slowly and try to stop eating before you feel full!

Stoma care:

If you have had some weight loss, you may find your stoma reduces in size also. If you are unable to measure your own stoma, contact your Stoma Care Nurse and they can help you measure your stoma and make sure your appliance is fitting correctly. Often leaks and sore skin can occur as a result of ill-fitting appliances.

If you have had unexplained weight loss, which you had not been intending, it would be wise to contact your GP to discuss this further.

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