Article By: Rachel Ignomirello, MS, RDN, CSOWM, LDN
Rachel Ignomirello is a Bariatric Dietitian and Board-Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management.
Co-Author: Anslee Tigani, Dietetic Intern
It’s no doubt that bariatric surgery has many benefits. It promotes weight loss and improves overall health for many individuals. However, it takes effort and discipline to see long-lasting results! Life doesn’t stop after bariatric surgery, and there are certain “sticky situations” that may threaten progress. Here are five common situations, along with ways you can prepare for them.
1) Going on vacation. Whether it be the beach, a cruise, or your ideal vacation spot, having that long-awaited getaway is exciting for most of us. However, vacationing after having bariatric surgery can be an intimidating and overwhelming situation. Eating out, less control over food choices, routine interruptions, etc. So, what can you do to completely enjoy your time away?
Tip - Plan meals, snacks, and vitamins ahead of time
Before taking your vacation, create a plan that you will follow for each meal just like you would at home. Remember your bariatric plate portions and plan to prioritize protein for each meal. If you know you are going somewhere where you may not have a meal for a while or that has a menu that doesn’t suit your needs, pack a high protein snack such as a protein supplement that will satisfy you until your next meal. Plan your vitamin schedule ahead of time as well and bring a weekly pill box to keep you on track.
Tip - Stay hydrated
Staying hydrated is important for proper bodily functions and preventing dehydration. It is crucial to keep this in mind, especially while vacationing in hot summer months! Bringing a water bottle along while sightseeing or while relaxing on the beach can serve as a great reminder to keep sipping! But keep in mind to separate drinking fluids from mealtime and limit or avoid alcoholic drinks.
2) Going to a family member or friend's house. Going to a family member or friend's house after having bariatric surgery may cause some anxiety or fears. What if they don’t eat what I eat? What if I lack self-control? What if they make comments about my weight or my food? Below are some tips that may ease your mind!
Tip - Bring meals or snacks you can have
If you are planning to stay a few days at a family or friend's house, bring snacks and pre-prepared meals to keep yourself on track. Your family and friends should be a support system to you, so explain to them that bringing things from home that you know you can eat is what helps you stay on track for your weight loss journey! A little education goes a long way. If they still give you grief, just tell them, “My dietitian, Rachel, just does not want me eating this.” I will happily take the blame for you.
Tip - Enjoy your time smartly
If your family or friends are having a meal that you know you can safely partake in, then do it! It’s always nice to enjoy the same meal as the ones you love. However, keep in mind to prioritize the protein by making it half your plate and making carbohydrates the smallest portion of your plate. If it helps you, bring a plate from home that is a perfect plate for bariatric serving sizes!
3) Starting a new job. Starting a new job can be a nerve-racking feat. It can be even more nerve-racking after having bariatric surgery. Do I tell my coworkers about my surgery? Will I have access to a kitchen or refrigerator? I want to make friends, but what do I do if everyone eats out?
Tip - Make coworkers aware
Right off the bat, you may not feel comfortable sharing your bariatric surgery experience with your coworkers... That is totally ok! However, after establishing yourself and making new friends at your job, it might be helpful to share with a close coworker so they can hold you accountable even at work. Having support everywhere you go is important in your journey!
Tip - Prepare for meals out with coworkers
There can be a lot of negatives to eating out after having bariatric surgery. The menu may not have what you eat, portion sizes might be too large, or there may be tempting options. However, it is ok to enjoy your time with coworkers and eat out occasionally! A way you can prepare for this is to look at the menu ahead of time. Find something on the menu that you know you can have and make the plan to order it when you get to the restaurant. If it helps, don’t even look at the menu so you refrain from temptation. To keep yourself from over-indulging, you can ask the restaurant to box half of the meal before it even reaches your table.
Tip - Check for access to a kitchen + refrigerator
If you have access to a kitchen and refrigerator at work, then that is great! That makes it easier to store your food and heat it up if needed. If you don’t have access to either of these, that’s ok too. There just may be some ways to get around it. Bring snacks to work that do not have to be kept cool such as protein bars, nuts, or turkey jerky. If your lunch needs to be kept cool, think about investing in a lunch box and ice packs or a cooler. This can keep your food cold for hours or more!
4) Going on social outings. Enjoying outings like seeing the newest movie in the theater or attending your favorite sports team is so fun and exciting! However, while it’s exciting, the popcorn, hot dogs, candy, and fountain drinks can tempt our self-control. So, what are some ways to avoid over-indulging in these tempting items?
Tip - Eat before you attend an outside event
Before you attend an event or make an outing, keep in mind that there will be some temptation to indulge in items that may set us off track. One way to avoid that is to eat before attending the event. This means eating a full meal so you will not find yourself too hungry during the event. You may also want to consider packing a snack, if able, that you know you can enjoy. Sometimes, eating at these events is inevitable, so in that case, try to find high protein foods like a hotdog or hamburger and ditch the bun!
Tip - Portion your snack options
Most of the time, we feel like a movie isn't complete without some popcorn and a nice drink. It may be hard to completely avoid those things, especially at the theater. Some patients just learn to walk straight to their seats and avoid the concessions. I’ve also had others put vapor rub under the noses to avoid smelling the popcorn. If you make the choice to have some popcorn, bring a small bowl to portion out your popcorn serving. Be mindful of your consumption while watching the movie and make sure you’re not eating that serving of popcorn too fast—savor the taste! For a drink, try bringing zero calorie flavoring packets to add to some ice water. This will serve as a great alternative to sugary fountain drinks while still providing great flavor!
5) Going out to a bar. It's important to continue to live your life and enjoy a night on the town with friends. However, there are things to keep in mind after having surgery like drinking alcohol. Many bariatric program instruct patients to wait 1 year to consume alcohol after surgery. Another thing to keep in mind is that your GI anatomy is much different. One alcoholic drink may feel like more than three alcoholic drinks! It is also very important to not drink alcohol on an empty stomach because the absorption rates are much stronger and higher in your system.
Tip - Make lighter choices
Alcohol contains a lot of “empty calories” without providing any nutrients to the body. The calories found in alcohol come from high sugar content, which can put you in a sticky situation. If you are considering drinking an alcoholic beverage after the first year, try lighter choices such as dry wines and spirits with calorie-free mixers like unsweet tea or flavored water. Sip them slowly and be sure to savor the company more.
BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.