Ah the holiday season. For many such a wonderful time to enjoy cozy nights with friends and family. A time of the year to reflect on the past 12 months and how to move forward in the year to come.
But there’s also a less glamorous side to the holiday celebrations. A side that’s not brightened by Christmas lights and the jolly spirit of it all.
We’re talking about the struggle to stay consistent in the midst of this season where food is abundant and routines are off.
In this blogpost we give you a new perspective on how to keep showing up for yourself throughout the different stages of your bariatric journey, without missing out on the joy that this season brings.
But first: When flexibility during the holidays is NOT helpful
“It’s only one day, don’t worry!”
“It’s okay to eat more during Christmas dinner”
“You’re not drinking alcohol? C’mon, you gotta try my mimosas!”
But it can be a slippery slope for many.
Is it true that an “all or nothing mentality” isn’t helpful most of the time? Yes.
But there are exceptions to the rule. And here are 3 examples for when it’s okay (and even mandatory) to be rigid, when you’re offered a full plate of solids and a glass of wine:
- You just had surgery and you’re still following your surgeon’s post op diet. You gotta follow the guidelines given by your surgeon’s team. There’s no wiggle-room (not yet).
- You’re heavily healing your relationship with food and don’t feel comfortable yet to be more flexible in your plan.
- You simply don’t want to. Just because the opportunity is there, doesn’t mean that you have to eat or drink things you don’t want to consume in the first place.
Now, let’s give you 5 tips on how to stay consistent even if your routine is not.
1. Find out what triggers you
What may be a trigger for one person, isn’t triggering for someone else. But what do we mean when we say “trigger”?
Here are 3 examples of typical holiday triggers to be mindful of:
- Food advertisements promoting mostly slider foods which also could be your trigger foods. The food industry is raving during the holiday celebrations and the ads with appealing foods are everywhere. Seeing this, might trigger cravings on a more subconscious level. Food ads aren’t “bad”, but they can be distracting when you’re trying to make bariatric-friendly food choices that align with your nutrition goals.
- Celebrations, dinners and parties in social settings. From dealing with “food pushers” to your weight loss being the topic of conversation during a get together, there can be many ways how being with other people can be mentally challenging. Setting boundaries, both with what you choose to eat and how you choose to respond to unsolicited questions/comments, is key to navigate these so-called “social triggers”.
- Alcohol. With more festivities, it can be expected that more alcohol is present. This isn’t the norm in every household, but in many it is. While alcohol isn’t generally off limits entirely after bariatric surgery (sidenote: follow your surgeons guidelines, alcohol IS advised against in the first phases after your surgery), it could be a potential trigger after bariatric surgery.
Once you identified your triggers, you feel less overwhelmed. Once you identify what makes you uncomfortable, you can now outline a plan to stay focused amidst the jolly Christmas songs and the festive cocktails.
2. Bring back the “rational” when feeling overwhelmed
The holidays represent the minority of what’s “normal” in your day-to-day routine. The holidays are an exception, but because there might be lots of triggers – it sure can feel incredibly overwhelming emotionally.
It’s time to step back into the rational and think of it like this:
A few holiday dinners will not derail your progress after bariatric surgery. They’re not the true representation of what you usually do.
While dealing with your feelings is absolutely necessary to get to the core of the things that bother you (and the things that make you happy!!), there’s no need to feel “stuck” for too long. Writing down your usual routines or making a plan for after the holidays can help you visualize what steps you’re gonna take, once all the madness is over. It brings back focus.
And it gives you something to hold on to amidst the chaos!
3. Make a list of your top 3 foods you don’t wanna miss out on
The fear of missing out on food after bariatric surgery is real. And that fear is not misplaced. Sometimes, you can’t eat certain dishes because you’re still on your post-op diet and the food may actually be harmful for your healing process. Other times, the foods you used to love might make you nauseous or trigger another digestive problem. But also, parts of the emotional component of “eating” is suddenly removed after bariatric surgery because of your restriction.
But there are plenty of ways to still enjoy food on an emotional level, without judging yourself for it. By making a list of foods you truly enjoy (and are in line with your post-op diet), you remove some of the restrictive rules posed by diet culture.
Carbs aren’t the enemy. There’s no such thing as a “bad” food (unless it’s expired of course…). Restricting entire food groups because of diet culture, can lead to distorted eating. And that’s something we don’t want!
If a specific food or dish doesn’t make it to your top 3, it’s easier to say no and leave that precious pouch space for something that you do truly enjoy.
4. Stick to your regular routines around the festivities
The number 1 mistake we see making during this time of year is this:
Skipping meals and “saving calories” to indulge in dinner later.
Listen, you don’t have to deprive yourself from proper nourishment even if there’s an abundance of food later on. Remember the list with the top 3 favorite foods from earlier? Keep that list in mind next time you’re at your family dinner. Do you really want auntie Mildred’s dry pumpkin pie? Or would you rather dig in that mouthwatering beef casserole you’ve been looking forward to all year?
And here are a handful of examples to stick to your routine:
- start your day with a high-protein breakfast
- get some fresh air by going for a small walk
- make a grocery list to visualize your next moves
- drink plenty of water
- and don’t forget to take your vitamins!
To sum it up: enjoy the holidays but be mindful of what you need (and eat)
Just because you had bariatric surgery doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy food. There are always exceptions of course, like when you follow your post-op diet or dealing with digestive issues that do get in the way of eating “normal”. But ultimately it’s not the goal to be “dieting” after bariatric surgery. Rather, to have a healthy relationship with food mentally and stay well nourished in the process.
If you’re like “whoa this is EXACTLY what I needed to read today”, then The Bariatric Blueprint might be just what you need too.
There’s no archetype after bariatric surgery. And there’s no one-size-fits-all approach neither. But there are guidelines and step-by-step processes to fall back so that you can be successful in this journey.
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