What comes to mind when you think of Christmas?
You won’t be alone if you say something along the lines of too much pavlova/too much Christmas cake/too much [insert favourite food here!], as it is an occasion that society has led us strongly to associate with food. Have your feelings about Christmas changed since you have had bariatric surgery however?
After surgery some people feel a sense of loss at Christmas or first-timers may feel scared about the food choices that lie ahead but it doesn’t need to be that way. The following tips are designed to help you use your surgery to your advantage and have your ham and eat it too. Every year a lot of people finish the silly season feeling guilt-ridden and a few kilograms heavier, but this year that won’t be you!
Guard against grazing
Your surgery has provided you with an incredible tool to restrict the amount of food eaten in a sitting. It doesn’t however necessarily prevent grazing, of which Christmas events can often encourage. Dishes being served in the middle of the table, dessert plates lingering for hours and of course the nibbles on offer before the main meal can encourage a grazing behaviour and excessive total calories. Just 5 water crackers with french onion dip eaten before your meal is more calories than 80 grams of skinless turkey breast, and you know which one of the two your dietitian prefers you to eat!
Christmas Day or Christmas month?
A lot of us resign ourselves to the fact that all of December (and sometimes even January) is a diet write-off! Yes the Christmas parties are starting earlier and earlier each year and the Christmas chocolates line the supermarket aisles from September it seems, but you do have to exert some control over this. I’m no Christmas food Grinch but I promise that if you don’t go overboard in the lead up , then you will enjoy your Christmas day treats far more (and so will the scales!).
Plan your Plate
If you are happy to take your own plate this may be a wise option, however, if you want a more discreet approach perhaps offer to bring plastic plates this year so that you can bring two different sizes (the smallest one tailored to you!). Fill half your small plate with protein in the form of seafood/ham/turkey, most of the other half with salad or free vegetables, and leave a tablespoon of your favourite starchy side dish such as potato salad to the very last corner of your plate. Also remember to eat your food in this order too. If you are not yet at normal textures this may make your day a little more challenging, so again preparation is key: you will need to be prepared to mash or appropriately modify the consistency of your meal.
Beware of the booze
Not only does alcohol contain empty calories but after bariatric surgery the way your body handles alcohol may differ, which is noted in one of our previous blogs. If you do choose to have a small drink, traps to look out for include the urge to drink st the same time as eating your Christmas meal or choosing fizzy alcoholic varieties.
Re-gift the rubbish!
I can hear you say “but I’ve asked for no chocolate this year” and unfortunately I’m going to say that you still need to be prepared to receive tempting food or have leftovers and therefore have a plan for what to do with it. Yes a small treat here and there is not the end of the world and keeping lean protein leftovers may be valuable for meals in the days that follow, but if you’ve got boxes of shortbreads and chocolates lingering for the next month, that may spell trouble. Dump them before they cause you to dump!
In Australia we are blessed with Christmas falling in our summertime and so doing some exercise on Christmas day in the form of testing out the kids or grandkids’ new sports equipment, going for a morning beach walk with the dog and/ or swims in the pool are not totally out of the question. Instead of just watching the Boxing Day test match this year, how about getting out and having a bat with the family in the backyard?
It’s not just about the food!
She said what?? Whatever your religion or beliefs may be, we can all surely agree that Christmas is not just about food and over-indulgence. Keeping busy on the day, interacting and enjoying time with loved ones or developing new non food related traditions will take the focus away from the table. If you feel you need a bit of extra help, consider a” buddy system” where you may choose to sit next to and spend a lot of your day or Christmas work event with, with someone who you know is not completely preoccupied with food and who will support and distract you over the event.
Finally, good luck and enjoy this wonderful time of year for everything else it may offer you aside from food!
Accredited Practising Dietitian, Mercy Bariatrics