Surviving the festive season after bariatric surgery
Christmas is a great time to get together with family, friends and colleagues and celebrate the year that has been. Often these celebrations are centered around food and alcohol. Over-indulging is easy, whether it be due to multiple parties in one day, buffets, cocktail food, or simply unlimited alcohol. But there’s lots of things you can do to help keep yourself on track.
Effects of overeating
Overeating, whether they be healthy, nutritious foods, or less healthy, high-fat or high-sugar foods, all lead to the same problem: putting pressure on your stomach pouch.
As well as this you may experience nausea, vomiting, cramping, dizziness, overall feelings of discomfort or even dumping syndrome.
Alcohol (and soft drink) consumption
It’s especially easy to drink your calories over Christmas. Cocktails, mocktails, wine, carbonated drinks and fruit juices are all high in calories. It’s important to stay hydrated though, so don’t forget to drink! Just stick to safer options like diet cordial, vegetable juice, flat soda water or infused still water. If you want to have an alcoholic drink, something like gin and soda will be a wiser choice than a fruity cocktail or wine.
Remember that alcohol can affect you quicker after you’ve had weight loss surgery, and its effects are often unpredictable. You should avoid it for 12 weeks after surgery. Fizzy drinks (including soft drinks and mineral/soda water) are also not allowed in the first 12 weeks after surgery, as they can cause discomfort, burping and stretch your new pouch.
Alcohol can also lower your guard and mean you eat foods/quantities you otherwise wouldn’t.
(Not so) glorious grazing
Nibbles before meals, long-lingering dessert plates, or simply endless amounts of cocktail foods, can all encourage grazing – which isn’t ideal with a stomach pouch.
Skip the nibbles and desserts or save room for a tiny treat on Christmas day only (not at every party in the lead up). If you attend cocktail parties, where endless platters are bought out to tempt you, eat a good, protein rich meal or snack beforehand, and eat only 1 or 2 of the better options while there (or none at all).
At sit-down meals, plan your plate to ensure you pick the best options and don’t overeat. Using a smaller side plate, pick lean meats/proteins first to ensure you fill up on these. Add your (non-starchy) salad and vegetables next, probably skipping those that are covered in a cheesy sauce or are deep fried. Finally, you can add a small amount (a tablespoon or so) of your favourite starch dish – whether it be potato bake, potato salad, or your grandmother’s signature home-made bread.
Remember to follow the regular advice your dietitian gave you when you first started eating solid foods again –chewing well, putting cutlery down between mouthfuls and eating your meal over a 20- to 30-minute period, without any liquid 30 minutes either side of the meal.
If you’re at a house party and are offered leftovers, opt for high protein options like turkey and grilled meats, or some plain vegetables and salads. It can’t hurt to have a few easy meals prepped for the following days!
Food (and drink) gifts
People often like to give food and drink gifts over Christmas – shortbreads, boxes of chocolates, puddings, hampers or even bottles of wine. Even if you requested not to receive such gifts this year, be prepared for some to be floating around. Hand them off as soon as you can, so you won’t be tempted by that box of buttery shortbread in the middle of January. You could choose to re-gift, open it to share at your workplace, or even donate it to the local homeless shelter.
Dealing with comments
People may comment on your weight loss or small portion sizes, whether they know about your surgery or even if it’s not relevant for them to. Be prepared with some helpful answers (even if they’re not true) such as:
- That’s all I can eat, but it was delicious!
- Yes, I’m restricting my calorie intake and today is no exception.
- I had a big meal earlier.
- I’ve had a bug and don’t feel like eating much.
- I’ve had dental work and you’re not allowed to chew.
Or something with a little more sting, such as ‘Oh, *you* feel *I* need to eat more?’, should shut them up pretty quickly!
‘Safe’ Christmas party foods
If you can, bring along a few of your own options to a party, so you know you’ll have something ‘safe’ to eat. Of course, even with these foods, it’s important to me mindful that you don’t overeat!
A few options that might be suitable include:
- Cut up vegetables, such as carrots, celery and cucumber, with a hummus or salsa dip.
- Devilled eggs.
- Mixed olives and feta cubes.
- Salmon mousse or crab souffle.
- Garlic and chilli prawns.
- Marinated grilled chicken.
- Mini meatballs or patties.
- Fresh fruit salad.
- Protein balls.
- A modified batch of cookies (such as these breakfast cookies).
- A modified dessert (such as this chocolate mousse).
The first few weeks post-surgery
If your surgery was only a few weeks ago, and you’re still in the liquid or soft puree phase, then you need to strictly stick to your dietitian’s orders. That is, very small portions of liquid or soft puree foods.
Thankfully we celebrate Christmas over summer, which lends itself to a morning beach walk, backyard cricket or just running around the park with the kids/grandkids/nieces and nephews.
Schedule in time to make sure you stick to your exercise goals, and then have these additional activities as that – additional. If it’s too hot during the day, schedule your activities for early in the morning or later in the evening, or visit the gym (or the exercise physiologist) for a cooler option.
Whether it’s your first post-surgery Christmas or it’s been many years, and feel you need a little extra help, our dietitians are always here to help provide useful tips and advice. Call them on (08) 8224 0450 to make an appointment today.
Contributed by Lauren Knight