Combatting the Munchies
In some form, all bariatric surgeries restrict the amount of food you can eat in one sitting. Of course, some procedures, like the Gastric Bypass, also restrict some food absorption, but for the purpose of this article, we will be focusing on the food restriction that is accomplished via Lap Band, Sleeve Gastrectomy and Gastric Bypass. It works this way: The stomach (or pouch) is made much smaller, which fills up faster and thus leaves you feeling satisfied with less food. This leads to greater weight loss because you are not feeling ravenous like you did before surgery. But there is one catch: it only works if you do not graze.
What is grazing?
We commonly refer to grazing as eating a little bit of food throughout the day. One piece of candy here, a bite of cheese there – nothing that would make you think of noting it to your food journal. But it adds up. Suddenly you find yourself in a position where you realize that you were able to eat a large bag of potato chips and emptied the dish of M&Ms at your desk. How is this possible? Isn’t bariatric surgery supposed to prevent this from happening? Well, if you eat one M&M every five minutes, it is not hard to see how the bowl emptied at the end of the day. Even with a tiny pouch, one MM is not going to fill you up. By grazing, you are forfeiting the benefits of bariatric surgery; you are not allowing yourself to feel satisfied.
How to stop the munchies
Find out what your triggers are. Is it boredom? Stress? Inattention or impulse control? There are many reasons why we eat. This exercise is not about guilt, it is just about creating awareness. Once you know what your triggers are, it makes it a bit easier to control it.
Avoid your trigger foods. If potato chips are your downfall (who can just have one!), then do not buy them. Your family does not need them either. We justify buying junk for the sake of others. Make this an opportunity to switch the junk with healthy alternatives for the entire family.
Place the candy bowl out of sight. Studies have shown that you are more likely to eat candy from a bowl if it is at arm’s length. By placing it further away, or even better, removing it altogether, you stay in control.
Do not skip meals. You probably heard this all your life and this is still true after bariatric surgery. If you are hungry, you are more likely to graze. Instead, sit down to a protein dense meal that will leave you satisfied.
Keep your hands or body busy. If your munchies start once you sit down to watch the TV, consider activities like knitting, needlework or crochet. Also, walking on a treadmill or using and exercise bike have worked wonders for many patients.
Use a food journal to write down everything that you eat. Again, this exercise is not about creating guilt, but to allow a window into a particular behavior. The information can be helpful when consulting with your bariatric surgeon or bariatric dietitian. The bariatric team can then help you with specific strategies that will work for you.
Don’t be afraid to talk to a behavioral health specialist. Some behaviors are symptoms of other struggles that you may be having difficulty with. We have a wonderful team of professionals who truly understand the struggles associated with obesity and bariatric surgery. Kim Fisher, Bariatric Care Specialist, is there to help you find the right person to talk to.
You are not alone. Every month, bariatric patients meet at the free OnTrack Workshop to discuss issues like these, learn new recipes, and make new friends while exercising. Give it a try and sign up! We look forward to seeing you there.
Questions? Ask Kim!
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