A Bariatric Dietitian’s Holiday Tips for Eating and Maintaining Weight

December 24, 2019

The holidays can be one of the hardest times of the year to get through for someone who has had bariatric surgery. Temptations to overeat are nearly everywhere you look – the repercussions of which can ruin your fun.

To avoid making yourself sick (or experiencing any significant weight gain), try the following tips, shared by Cheri Leahy, RDN, CSOWM, bariatric dietitian at Jefferson Health New Jersey:

  • Don’t skip meals. Medical professionals highly discourage this age-old “trick,” which will not allow you to overindulge later in the day. Your appetite may increase, but you can’t “make up” for it, because your stomach is now small. Not to mention, it’s incredibly important to CARE for your body! We can’t deprive it of what it needs, and then expect it to perform properly. A small stomach needs to be nourished with nutrient-dense foods every three to four hours.


  • Don’t be afraid of the buffet table. Whether it’s overflowing with hors d'oeuvres, entrees, or desserts, don’t fret! You don’t have to be left out from eating all the delicious food, but you do have to keep your portion sizes in check. Try following the “one spoonful” rule. Rather than using large serving utensils, use a regular tablespoon to grab tastes of everything you want. (Note: It’s best to stick to foods you’ve already tried and know won’t upset your stomach, which is more sensitive after surgery.)
  • Watch what you drink. Carbonation is discouraged, because bubbles tend to bounce off the sides more in a smaller stomach, resulting in discomfort. Also, after surgery, your alcohol tolerance is much lower than it used to be, which can be dangerous if you aren’t careful. A reasonable glass of wine is okay in moderation. (Just make sure you have a designated driver!)
  • Don’t “give up” your bariatric plan. While you may consume slightly more than usual, it’s essential to make sure your food choices are still healthy and you’re still maintaining an exercise routine. Even if you can only find time for a 10 minute walk each day, it will keep you grounded throughout the journey. Exercise is a must – muscle mass is key to maintaining your weight loss.  
  • Don’t treat yourself with food. This is an old misconception that won’t end in anything good. Food doesn’t physically “reward” us, and as an emotional reward, it brings us back to where we were when we lost our control. Instead, treat yourself with a product or experience like new shoes, a manicure, going to see a movie, or golfing.
  • Be realistic. Even when you stick to your bariatric plan, your weight might fluctuate a bit, and that’s okay. A New England Journal of Medicine study showed that, on average, people gain 1-2 pounds each holiday season. This can easily be shed once the hustle and bustle calms down, and you go back to a more normal routine. Just make sure you celebrate the “holiDAY,” not “holiWEEK” or “holiMONTH.”

To learn more about Bariatric Services offered at Jefferson Health New Jersey, click HERE

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