food is fuel

Food Is For Fuel Only! Right?

March 13, 2013

The days, weeks and months following weight-loss surgery can be filled with the joy of finally losing the weight. But be careful of the stories you tell yourself. Some can be affirming, others can be destructive. Do you know which is which? Bariatric Foodie author Nikki Massie examines stories we tell ourselves straight out of surgery in search of some answers.


So we went over the stories we tell ourselves in the process of making the decision to have surgery in my last post. Well, now you’ve had it. And there are plenty of stories to be told!

There are many I can go over, but there are two that I find particularly interesting and that skate the line between being affirming and being destructive.

“Food is fuel only!”

I hear this a lot. A LOT. And I rail against it! Why?

Well on the surface this seems like a really healthy realization, doesn't it? Food should NOT be your best friend, your mama, your daddy, your significant other. It’s food and should not replace other sources of pleasure and satisfaction in your life.

But here’s the deal: this is a mentality that lives and dies with the ability to eat and appetite. When you have no appetite, this is an INCREDIBLY easy statement to make. But for many of us, hunger comes back (dirty secret!) and then it gets harder to say that with a straight face.

So that’s why it isn’t always true but here’s how that statement can be downright destructive.

Firstly, food is NOT just for fuel. If it was, we wouldn't spend so much time trying to find food we like to eat. The human brain is even hard wired to connect food with pleasure, linking foods you like to the nutrients they contain so it can create a craving if you are lacking that nutrient. Food is also linked to culture and tradition and fellowship and there is NOTHING wrong with all that, if you know how to put things in perspective.

But the part that worries me more is that crop of post-ops I know exists that never totally lost hunger to begin with. Those that have always been capable of eating a little bit more than other post-ops. Those who don’t get dumping syndrome or food intolerances to deter them. By virtue of these facts, it’s harder for them to buy into the “food is just fuel” argument and having everyone else say that makes them feel like a big, fat failure.

Consider telling yourself the story that healthy food is good. That you make wise choices as a part of caring for your body and that those choices enable you to be healthy, active and vibrant. But food does, and always will, taste good!

“X pounds…gone forever!”

Search the message boards. This is a common subject heading.

And I love the celebratory spirit behind it. You’re losing weight. You feel great. You never want to go back to being an inactive, overweight, self-doubting person again. “Take THAT fat cells!”

But two years later, this subject line might make you cringe.

Statistics are starting to tell us more about the regain rate after weight loss surgery. Not everyone will regain, but a fair amount of us will. And while the above statement can feel great posting, it can also set up a pass/fail mentality that can be dangerous down the line.

I don’t want to sound all doomy/gloomy but here’s my truth. My lowest weight after surgery was 172 (from 330). I now sit between 189-195. So my 158 lbs. were NOT gone forever. Some of them came back. Truth be told, at my highest post-surgery weight I was about 207. So a good many of them came back.

I was able to work them down partly because I never told myself the “gone forever” story. I am very well aware that the pounds can and do come back based on my behavior. When I was ready to change my behavior, I did. And the pounds started coming back off (much more slowly than the first time!). And perhaps one day I’ll change again and regain again and change again and re-lose again (that’s not the goal, but it could happen).

My point is that this is a lifelong journey. Success is not measured by a finish line. It is measured by perseverance. By getting back up after you fall down. By learning and re-learning how to crawl, walk and run.

So by all means…celebrate your success! And commit to your success every single day with a story that recognizes that every day that you work toward your goal is a day that you are winning.

In my next blog post, I’ll go over what I call “bariatric adolescence” (that weird period between being a newbie and being a “veteran” of weight loss surgery). What stories lie ahead? I guess you’ll have to check back to find out!



Nikki Massie is the author of Bariatric Foodie, a website and online community that encourages weight loss surgery patients to “play with their food.” She is the author of three books: The Bariatric Foodie Guide to Perfect Protein Shakes, The Bariatric Foodie Holiday Survival Guide and The Bariatric Foodie Breakfast Book. Nikki lives Maryland with her boyfriend, 2 daughters, adorable Basset Hound & slightly high-maintenance black cat.

Read more articles by Nikki!