5 Tips for Navigating Summer Temptations After Bariatric Surgery
Summer activities can be chock-full of tasty foods. Whether you go to the beach, boardwalk, a barbecue, or away on vacation, chances are you’re going to come across options that you wouldn’t on a daily basis.
Jumbo-sized french fries, greasy pizza, decadent ice cream, creamy potato salad, and ice-cold alcoholic beverages – some of these summer temptations may be stronger than ever, as we get “back to normal,” says Marc A. Neff, MD, FACS, Medical Director of the Jefferson Health Bariatric Surgery Program in New Jersey.
“Some people have been ‘cooped up’ for so long and may turn to food as a release or feel as though they’ve ‘earned’ a treat. Others are now fearful that they’re not going to get to enjoy such things again,” said Dr. Neff. “This pandemic has left no one unscathed, but we need to stay on top of our health; there are ways to choose the right things to eat, stay healthy, and still have fun.”
So, how do you decide what and what not to have?
1. Confront the temptation.
It’s important to ask yourself why something is tempting in the first place, explains Cheri Leahy, RDN, CSOWM, lead bariatric dietitian. Is it the flavor? Is it because everyone else is eating it? Is it the memory of enjoying that food as kid? Do you still like the taste of the food? Do you enjoy eating it?
“If you answered ‘yes,’ to the last two questions, go ahead and eat it,” said Leahy. “You should listen to your cravings, rather than deprive yourself. Deprivation can lead to a slippery slope of overeating when you finally get a taste. So, have what you want, but don’t eat a bunch of unhealthy food just for the sake of eating or because you used to enjoy it.”
2. Reframe what it means to “treat yourself.”
Perceiving foods as “treats” or “forbidden” can be a dangerous game, as it can foster a counterproductive food-as-reward mentality, suggests Andrea Bookoff, MS, RD. Instead, aim to have the foods you like, maybe not on a daily, but a weekly basis.
Treating yourself can be a positive thing, but it should be done without food, adds Leahy. How can you give back to your body and soul? Might it feel just as rewarding, if not more, to go for a massage, pedicure, or take time off to do something you haven’t done in a while?
3. Let something other than food take “center stage.”
As a society, we’re used to food being the center of almost everything we do, says Cristy Polizzi, Bariatric Wellness Program Coordinator. Sometimes we lose sight of everything else there is to enjoy.
When you go to the beach or boardwalk over the summer, don’t go there to eat all day long, says Leahy. Go to take in the sights; listen to the waves; read a book; take a nap; play games with the kids; or do some shopping.
4. Plan ahead (realistically).
If you can set a loose plan, that’s great! It’s up to individual preference, but you can also stray from your routine meal plan for a few days, says Bookoff. “It might help to set a couple non-negotiables, such as meeting your water intake goal, or making sure you’re getting protein and veggies in every day (even if it’s not as much as usual). You have to be realistic.”
If you’re going out for the day and you know you’re going to want something special, that’s a little heavier, don’t “save room” (or calories) to make up for it; instead, just make sure you eat something nourishing before you leave, adds Polizzi.
Planning for BBQs, specifically, is easier than you might think, continues Bookoff. Most BBQs have a wide variety of foods, and you can easily create a portion-friendly plate with your proteins and veggies (and still have small tastes of other foods). Plus, you can always bring a dish, so you know you have a “safe” option to turn to.
Just be cautious of the booze, reminds Polizzi. “After surgery, your body metabolizes alcohol a lot quicker. You can’t drink as much as you used to. It will impact you. Always take it slow and be smart.”
5. Enjoy yourself!
Is it safer to stay home? Of course not, says Bookoff. “Your social life plays a huge role in your overall well-being, and it would be incredibly difficult to succeed if you hide from new experiences and suffer emotionally because of it.”
“You can try new things. You should be lenient. Just remember to be mindful and listen to your body; if you push yourself past your point of “fullness,” you’re going to regret it,” noted Leahy.
“Don’t think that you can’t enjoy yourself because you’re eating differently than others. You can still have a genuinely good time,” adds Cristy. “You just have to be true to yourself and own what you’re doing on this journey.”