Enjoying the Holidays - 5 Tips for Bariatric Patients

Article By: Whittany Gibson, RDN

Whittany is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in bariatric nutrition counseling, providing education and support prior to and following weight loss surgery.

Undergoing bariatric surgery is hard enough. Preparing for surgery, getting through the post-op diet phases and ensuring you meet your nutrition needs is a full-time job in itself. You work hard to form solid habits and lifestyle changes, and you’re feeling good about it. Then come the holidays. I know what you’re thinking. Holidays usually equate to falling off track and having to pick up the pieces again when the new year comes. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Would it not be better to approach the holidays in a more positive light and know you’ll come out of it okay without totally sabotaging your progress? Take it a little easier on yourself this year and follow these survival tips.

1) Remember the basics. Don’t overthink things. Just because the holidays are here does not change the fact you still have daily goals to meet like protein, hydration, and getting in a little activity. Aim for 60-100g protein per day, at least 64 oz clear fluids to stay hydrated, and stay as active as possible. But to reach these goals, you need to plan. Which takes us to the next survival tip.

2) Plan as much as possible. Planning ensures you can stay on track with meeting your minimum goals. Plan as you would normally; what you will eat and drink in the span of a day to meet your protein and fluid goals. Also plan your exercise. Even if it’s just ten minutes, that is better than nothing at all. Trust me, you will thank yourself later.

3) Don’t show up hungry. What happens when you get hungry? Do you choose the healthiest choice? Do you eat slowly and focus on your food? Nope. You choose what you crave and usually end up eating too much of it and often too fast. This can be avoided with just a little strategy. My tip is to have something at least a little filling prior to showing up. Try to drink half of a protein shake or eat a protein rich snack to help curb your appetite. Then maybe when dinner is served you can make a more controlled decision. Avoid mindless snacking while in a social situation. Remember mindful eating tactics. Just because appetizers are in front of you is not an open invitation to eat them.

4) Strategically plate your food. Give the spread a once over before making any rash decisions. Choose your protein first just as you would any other day. After this you will assess each choice on a scale of 1-10. If you don’t want that side item or dessert at a near level 10, pass it up. And the items that are high on your list of wants, take a small spoonful of each choice. A little more than a taste will be satisfying enough. Remember to eat slowly, enjoy the flavor, and appreciate the food. Then move on.

5) Leave the leftovers. Is it necessary to continue eating the same high calorie, high carb, high fat foods for the next week? No, it is not. Enjoy the moment, forget the emotions tied to foods and the holiday itself. We grew up associating the holiday around food which is fine, but it is actually the act of gathering with loved ones for a meal that is the tradition. Not the food itself. Get back to business the next day and hop right back on the healthy train.

Keep in mind you will likely make a poor decision. That means you’re human. What is important is that you have practices in place that help you get right back to your daily habits. Enjoy the moment, enjoy the company, go into celebrating the holidays guilt-free and forgive yourself ahead of time. That is how you will survive the holidays.

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