Article By: Rachel Ignomirello, MS, RDN, CSOWM, LDN
Rachel Ignomirello is a Bariatric Dietitian and Board-Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management.
When I think of summertime, my mind goes directly to vacations. Vacations can be a time of indulging and eating out more often. For others, summer may mean entertaining the kids, going to cookouts, or enjoying frozen desserts and alcohol. Either way, many patients get a little off track during these warm months. It’s now September, which means schools are back in session, and people are wanting their typical routines back. I have many patients who are now seeking normalcy back in their diet. In choosing bariatric surgery, we must remember that it’s a lifestyle change.
Patients always have two options:
a) Stay in denial and walk further away from health goals
b) Accept that summer happened and start walking a healthier path again
If you want to choose option 2, then here are some tips to get back on track after summer.
1) Reframe your brain. Falling off track over summer or on vacation can be a common situation because no one is perfect. However, we must avoid the mindset of guilt and feeling like a “failure.” Failing is not falling down; it’s not getting back up. The mentality of “breaking diet” or “going crazy” on vacation can be troublesome, too. This may lead to over-restriction at home. It is normal not to eat 100% the same on vacation, but goals can still be reached. Each new day offers an opportunity to choose healthier foods, drinks, and behaviors. Reframe toward a mindful way of eating each day.
2) Eat more dinners at home. Staying busy in the summer or being out of town gets some of us back in the habit of eating out. We may feel like eating out is a convenience because of busy schedules or kitchen access, but there are ways around it. Even if you think you’re making healthier choices, portions and calories can add up quickly. Now, try to keep your home and kitchen stocked with healthy foods. Meals can come together quickly if you keep healthy staples around. One of my favorites is heating up frozen grilled chicken then putting it in a low-carb tortilla with some salad greens and light dressings. Eating out less means you will need to plan ahead, which is a great key to staying on track. Pack lunches, keep simple breakfasts on hand, and stick to the grocery list. If you are too busy to make it to the grocery store, try pick-up or home delivery options.
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3) Put the alcohol away. It’s too easy to over-consume alcohol during the summer. It may feel like it’s refreshing to drink a beer or cocktail in the heat, but it can be very dehydrating in reality. The not-so-thirst-quenching drinks can be full of calories and sugar, too. For example, a restaurant margarita can have upwards of 300 calories and 30g of sugar! Alcohol should be avoided the first year after bariatric surgery and limited long-term. Trade the alcohol for flavored water or sugar-free teas instead. Keep a water bottle with you and hydrate as much as possible to fight the remaining warm months.
4) Go to bed earlier. A combination of school breaks and pleasant nighttime temperatures often lead to staying up too late. If sleeping in is not adjusted, then sleep quantity and quality starts to be impacted. A lack of sleep can lead to increased appetite/cravings and decreased energy. The later you stay up, the hungrier you get, too. All of this has a big impact on weight management. Get back on track by laying down earlier each night. Develop a relaxing evening routine, minimize blue light exposure, create a comfortable bedroom environment, and do your best to maintain this new sleep time.
5) Increase your activity level. Exercise is a fundamental part of our daily activity, but it may have been put to the wayside during the busy summer. It does not matter why exercise stopped; what matters is the decision to recommit. Something is better than nothing, so start small as your body adjusts to the activity again. If you struggle to find self-motivation, you may benefit from joining a workout class, finding a fitness challenge, or linking with a workout buddy. Not only will more exercise help improve the last tip (sleep), but it can also burn some of those summertime calories off.
BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.