The Truth About Life After WLS & Pre-Op Food FuneralsJune 13, 2018
Although this may sound like a weird rite of passage, it isn't. It happens to just about everyone who is about to have weight loss surgery. There is a lot of hype and fear around giving up certain foods when individuals embark on the journey of bariatric surgery. This can be a very overwhelming time. I see on message boards, and even from my clients, pre-op patients will discuss “what will I have as my last meal”?
Also, it’s important to note that the “last meal” is typically before the pre-op diet and not right before surgery. This is a question many people have because food has been such a big part of their lives for so long, or they may see food as pleasure, a reward, or a need to cope with life struggles.
So it’s only normal that people want to engage in a food funeral or have their most favorite food one last time before having bariatric surgery. As it is understood, food funerals are a way to say goodbye to your most beloved foods. There is a fear for those who have weight loss surgery that they will NEVER get to eat those foods again. It is common to mourn the change in their relationship with food.
Prior to surgery, there is the feeling of loss and sadness, thus using the term food funerals. When individuals shift their mindset around food, they can soon realize that most often, they can eat things that are delicious and nutritious.
Avoiding Pre-Op Food Funerals
Since this is just as much of an emotional journey as it is a physical one, there needs to be some mindset shifts around eating and food preparation to help people bridge the gap from where they are to their new lifestyle. It can be helpful for pre-ops to change their thinking in terms of their future lifestyle as they move forward with their process to get bariatric surgery. This can ease them into the new lifestyle even before having surgery.
There are many foods that can be “bari-fied” or made “bari-friendly” (bariatric-friendly) so that individuals can have these foods even after surgery. The overall goal is to reduce the carbohydrates and eat foods high in protein and nutritionally dense foods.
5 Tips to Enjoy Food More and Avoid Pre-Op Food Funerals
Tip #1 - Focus on Health When Planning Meals
Look at the ingredient that are in recipes or meal plans and start to dismiss recipes/foods high in carbohydrates or sugars. While it’s important you speak with a dietician or nutritionist, the psychological piece to pick up with this is essential. The first day without bread might be painful, but by the time you get to day 90, or day 160, you’ll be so glad you came as far as you did. Start to shift your focus in your mind to what will help you reach your long-term goals and over time it will happen.
Tip #2 - Look for Ways to Create Low-Carb Alternatives
Start looking on Pinterest and search in Google for ‘bari-friendly’ or ‘low-carb’ options for your favorite foods. There are alternatives that help you enjoy the same flavors, with lower calories, less carbs, and increased nutrition such as ‘cloud bread’ as an example which uses whipped egg whites as a base and contains no flour. This is a great alternative for someone gluten-free as well.
Tip #3 - Start Making Bariatric Friendly Foods Prior to Surgery
It’s important to start this shift even prior to surgery so that individuals can begin to get in the habit of eating low-carb foods, and making foods that they will be eating after surgery. It’s also important to know the difference in high-value versus low-value foods.
When you have weight loss surgery, there is not a lot of space in your new stomach. This is why there is a focus on protein first, and vegetables second. This helps to fill you up with the higher value foods first; the ones with greater nutritional value and will sustain your body.
Low-value foods are typically higher in carbohydrates and don’t offer good nutritional value. It’s important to remember that bariatric surgery puts you at a state of nutritional deficit and working to get the most ‘bang for your buck’ in terms of nutrition means that you’ll refocus your meal plans and your mindset to gain more high-value foods. This will keep you healthy and help you to build muscle while burning fat.
Tip #4 - Keep it Simple
Most people are not going to stick to something if it is very complicated. Start gathering a list of quick, easy, and most importantly HEALTHY recipes to add to your collection. This will help you as you build your weekly meal plans and will keep you on track for the long-term.
Tip #5 - Recognize that this is Not a DIET, it’s a LIFESTYLE Change
For many of my clients, there is still a misperception around the post-operative life because many have still clung to the old ‘diet’ way of thinking. Changing your habits will take some time, and with the steps outlined here, you’ll be well on your way to releasing your old ‘diet’ mentality.
With a lifestyle change there are no ‘cheat’ days. When you shift your thinking away from dieting you begin to realize that ‘normal healthy eating’ is balanced eating that includes a variety of foods. This doesn’t mean that you’ll never ever eat cake or ice cream again, and instead means that you’ll prioritize healthy foods first and most often.
This also means you’ll refocus your brain on what is ‘pouch-friendly’ or ‘sleeve-friendly’ and recognize when to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no’ to low-value foods. Remember that it’s not what you do ONCE that matters, it’s what you do daily, weekly, and regularly in your life that determines your outcome.
While food funerals have been a ‘thing’ for many, it’s important to recognize that weight loss surgery patients can have an amazing fulfilling post-op life eating foods that are both nutritious and delicious. It takes some adjustment, however, when you shift your mindset around food, it can help you begin this journey even before you enter the operating room.
ABOUT THE AUTHORKristin Lloyd, MS, LPC/LMHC, PhD-Candidate is a licensed psychotherapist and certified transformational mindset mentor guiding individuals to embrace healthy habits, relationships and fuller lives after WLS. As a WLS patient herself, Kristin understands the challenges of WLS patients. She is the founder of Bariatric Mindset and author of the "Bariatric Mindset Success: Live Your Best Life and Keep The Weight Off After Weight Loss Surgery" book.
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