A few nights ago, I went out to a restaurant with a good friend of mine. We were celebrating because she'd gotten a great medical checkup and because she was getting ready to move into a newer and nicer apartment. As we chattered excitedly about all the opportunities opening up to her, I drank a beer and didn't pay much attention to the food I was stuffing into my mouth.
I should have known better. Two hours later, my stomach was in full rebellion and I was, as they say, worshipping the porcelain goddess.
Sometimes I think the further out I get from surgery, the harder it is to remember that I can't eat like other people any more. It's just too easy to slip back into old, dysfunctional habits that have been my friends for a lifetime.
After this newest incidence, I created some important tips to help me regulate my eating. I have one copy hanging on my refrigerator, one on my front door, and one in my purse. They help me, so I wanted to pass them on as a resource that might be helpful to others who've had weight loss surgery.
- Take small bites - when your stomach has been surgically reduced, a couple of big bites can completely fill you up.
- Eat slowly - take the time to chew your food and to really enjoy the taste.
- Pay attention to your body - when you start feeling full, it's time to stop eating. If you're an emotional eater, like me, stopping at this point feels like saying a final farewell to a dear friend. It's not. In a few hours, your body will be ready to handle food again. But for now, it's full.
- In restaurants, order small portions - the less food you order, the less food you're likely to eat. If you explain that you've had stomach surgery, some restaurants will even let you order from the kiddie menu.
- Use a smaller plate - if you're eating at home, use a small plate that holds less food.
- Pause between bites - don't shovel food into your mouth as if you are starving, even if it feels like you are. Take time to chew and swallow each bite, listen to or take part in the conversation going on around you, and check in with your body to see if it really needs more fuel.
- Learn what fullness feels like - take time to get to know your body. Figure out what it feels to be not quite full enough, to be comfortably full, and to be stuffed. Your goal is to stop eating when you are comfortably full.
- Don't drink while you are eating - it's best not to drink any liquids with meals, but especially not alcohol which can impair your judgment and numb your body's response.
- Stop immediately when you feel full - even if you have only one bite left, don't eat it. The "clean plate club" that so many of us grew up with is a myth!
- Stand firm - don't let anyone talk you into taking "just one or bite" or ordering dessert when you won't enjoy it.
Finally, just in case you manage to violate Rules 1 - 10, always carry a Zofran with you when you go out to eat. It can help banish nausea...just remember, don't fall into a pattern of deliberately overeating and then taking the Zofran so you don't get sick. That little trick can lead to stretching out your stomach and making it easier to regain weight.
Getting used to your new diet after weight loss surgery isn't always easy. It's been just over a year for me, and I still struggle with it. But if you keep these ten simple rules in mind, you should be all right.
And just think of all the fun you'll have buying new clothes for spring and summer!