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Ask Dr. Gourmet

How can I best support my son's recovery from surgery?

I have been successfully following the Dr. Gourmet plan (I use mostly the Mediterranean Diet) for over 10 months. It has changed my life! I now face being caretaker for my 24 yr. old son, who is having major back surgery. He has been in chronic pain for four years, following an injury, and his lack of mobility has not been good for his weight. He is 6'6" and 275 lbs, and will benefit greatly from losing weight during his recovery and physical therapy program. I will be providing all his meals, and he wants to do this, but I'm not sure what the best plan for him would be. He is a very big guy, muscular, and can eat a lot! But he will be relatively inactive for at least a month, so I know he won't need as many calories as when he is active. I also want to help his body heal from a nutritional standpoint, as he tends to eat the typical busy American diet. He will also be weaning off pain meds, and I want his nutrition to support his healing.

What plan would you recommend, and how many calories should I aim for for him?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

StethoscopeThis is certainly a challenge for your son. At 6'6" his ideal body weight would certainly be a lot lower. The issue is that one can't go completely by Body Mass Index (BMI) for those who are very muscular given that muscle is much denser than fat. Being sedentary your son will likely not require as many calories. With normal physical activity his daily caloric requirement would be somewhere in the 2,400 calorie range.

During recovery he will not be as active and will likely need less than this -- about 2,100 calories or so depending on his physical therapy. To lose weight he will need to eat about 250 calories per day fewer than his requirement and that would put him in the 1,800 calorie per day range. He could expect to lose in the neighborhood of 1/2 to 1 pound per week based on this.

With these sorts of surgical recoveries I will often consult the dietitian while patients are in the hospital. They do a great job at helping more closely assess your son's needs. For instance, a little bit higher protein during healing may be one suggestion. Using Mediterranean style diet like the Dr. Gourmet recipes does provide great quality proteins such as lean meat, fish and legumes.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
Dr. Gourmet