Be Aware of Creepy Calories

May 22, 2015

Creepy Calories!

It is important to be aware of creepy calories because they are the enemy of your weight loss surgery, perilous to your pouch, and the true nemesis of all your efforts to lose and maintain weight loss after bariatric surgery.

What is this frightening foe that I call the creepy calorie? It is the calorie (and calories) that are difficult to count, easy to miscalculate, and all too easy to eat as a weight loss surgery patient. They “creep” into your diet and add up quicker than you can imagine.

Creepy calories can be anything that you eat at times of “un-mindfulness”, stress, boredom, celebration, and the multitude of other reasons beyond just hunger that many of us eat.

Creepy calories can also be things you eat on a daily basis that you might not have thought of as getting in your way before. Those foods that go down so easily that they don’t even register any full feeling, so you can get a lot of those creepy calories in a short amount of time and no lasting satisfaction to show for it- leaving you wondering why weight management is so difficult. Darn creepers!

Examples of the Creepiest Calories

Here are a few specific examples of the creepiest calories I have encountered in my career caring for weight loss surgery patients:

  • Cheese
  • Peanut butter
  • Coffee "add-ins"
  • Yogurt and granola
  • Cereals/Cereal bars/Granola bars
  • Pretzels
  • Chips
  • Baked goods
  • Sweets
  • Puddings

These foods are not “bad” so to speak, nor do they have to be completely avoided by all people, it is just that their calories can sneak up ways that other foods do not. Many of these creepy calorie foods tend to not satiate as long as some denser, more solid foods do and can, therefore, lead to larger meals, frequent hunger and snacking, and even unstable blood sugars-further necessitating more eating encounters.

If you are a weight loss surgery patient and are struggling with your weight loss or weight loss maintenance, think of some of these foods and how much you can eat of them and how frequently. Then, think of the foods that you can only eat so much of before you feel full and can’t have any more foods that seem to last you a long time and satisfy in ways that other foods do not. This kind of soul searching is a great way to combat the creepy calories.

Take some time to start counting up your creepy calories and compare that to the calories taken in from those foods that have a sooner stopping point for you- such as solid, denser foods. Or, compare them to foods that just do not add up quickly in calories no matter how much you eat of them, such as vegetables. You might just discover, as many of my patients have, that the hundreds of calories taken in by some of these easier foods are creating bumps in the road of your weight loss journey, where if you focus on those denser foods, the creepy calorie can be kept at bay.

This attempt to crush the creepy calorie is typically best tackled by starting a food diary such as ObesityHelp's Health Tracker! I know, I know many people love a good food diary, many people hate it, but even if you did it for just a few days to open your eyes up to these creepy calories it can be helpful.

Allow the food diary to help you discover those calories that are sneaking in because you are bored or stressed, or to track the foods that you are just unaware of the sheer amount of calories that they contain. (There are how many calories in my spoonful of peanut butter?) After all, “If you don’t measure it, you don't know it and if you don't know it, you can't fix it” AKA “You can’t manage what you don’t measure” AKA “Kick that creepy calorie’s butt”!

Another way to not let the creepy calorie get the best of you is to set up a healthy eating environment at work, school, and/or home. Plenty of research has shown that we are more likely to eat things that are in front of us, even if we are not hungry.

I like to tell patients “out of the house, out of the mouth” as a way to create an environment around them that is nourishing and will help advance them toward health goals. Also, not eating in front of a screen or out of a bag or box can go a long way toward battling that creepy calorie.

Some of the scariest creepy calories I know of are the “lethal liquids”. These liquids can be most menacing of all because what else can you intake faster than juices, sodas, coffee, sugar-sweetened beverages, high-calorie kinds of milk, protein shakes, and even alcohol? 

Lethal liquids most often give you hundreds of calories within minutes without even making you feel like you’ve eaten anything.  Add these up on your food log for a good scare and then go grab a bottle of water and run or walk away from these creepy calories.

Knowledge is power.  As long as you are aware of the creepy calories, you can make choices that support your healthy lifestyle.

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Evelyn Mariani, MS, RD, CDN is a Registered Dietitian with more than 10 years experience caring for weight loss surgery patients and those affected by overweight/obesity. Evelyn holds a master's degree from NYU and a bachelor's from Marymount College of Fordham University. She completed her dietetic internship at the Bronx VA Medical Center and is certified in childhood and adolescent weight management by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For the past eight years, Evelyn has worked for the Central/Upstate NY bariatric practice of William A. Graber, MD, PC.

Photo credit:  Melindarae cc