BF Survival Guide to getting through summer barbeques

BF Barbecue, circa 2013. I look kinda like a zombie in this picture, but I really was having fun!
So it’s almost barbecue season. And some of you may be stressed out. For a number of reasons. Maybe you:
  • Aren’t yet sure what foods you can tolerate and don’t want to get sick in front of others.
  • Haven’t shared your surgery with a lot of people and worry you’ll stand out.
  • Don’t want to go off track with the wrong food choices.

This is one of my favorite healthy grill season desserts: A sweet & savory grilled pear! 
I feel your pain! And I’ve got you covered.

Now for your convenience this advice is segmented a bit. But it’s all from experience and all very valid.

For newbies (or others with small pouch capacity) who don’t want to announce to the world that they had WLS

Whenever I post about this, the public reaction I get is “I’m proud of my surgery! I don’t hide it!”

Then I get 10 emails from folks who prefer to keep their surgeries private thanking me for posting stuff like this. The lesson here? We are all different. So if this section isn’t for you, recognize that it could be for someone else!

That said, if you can’t eat much and you’re not trying to talk about your surgery, there’s good news. There are some dynamics about barbecues that work in your favor. So here’s what I suggest:

  • Step One: Contribute at least one WLS-friendly dish to the barbecue. I’d suggest Angelic Eggs, because it’s not too far out there and non-ops will probably eat and like it as well. 
  • Step Two: put a few of those on your plate, along with a little bit of any other offering you feel like you can have (if you intend to actually eat some of it) or put things like salad and the like if you don’t intend to eat anything. Here’s the crucial part: don’t put a bunch of food on your plate. Scatter it around so it looks like just a few bites are left.
  • Step Three: Take approximately one bite of YOUR side dish…then mingle. Be the life of the party. If you are actually hungry, take a bite every now and again but mostly smile at people, talk to them, for emphasis maybe hold said food in your hand for a bit while talking and then walk away.

Why does this work? People’s eyes believe what is normal to them. In this instance what they SEE is you with a plate of food that looks like you’ve already eaten a good deal of it and by picking up the food every now and again you look like you’re still eating it. After a while you can toss your plate, load up an ice cold drink and focus on that for the rest of the bbq…no questions asked.

For everyone else…and especially those who CAN eat a lot of the wrong things.

Mind your portion sizes. For those that don’t know if they dump…now is not the time for experimenting. Now many would say eat before the barbecue and don’t eat at it. But…how much does that suck??? The essence of a barbecue is to come together, have fun and, yes, eat. So you’re going to want to eat. There will be strong social cues for you to eat. That doesn’t mean you have to eat, but in my estimation you do yourself a bigger favor learning how to eat in the real world than learning how to be avoidant in the real world. My caveat would be that if you are really struggling and need to practice avoidance, that’s ok too. Do what you ultimately think is best.

So if you decide to wade through the scary territory of “eating with others,” here are a few tips.

Now everyone isn’t like me–I carry measuring cups with handles in my purse and measure out my foods with them (in 1/8 and 1/4 c. increments) instead of measuring spoons. If you don’t wanna be ghetto-fab like me, just remember the following visual portion cues:

  • 3 oz. of meat looks like a deck of cards
  • One serving of cheese looks like two 9-volt batteries
  • For a non-op a serving of fruit would look like a tennis ball…for you I’d go for a golf ball sized portion
  • A half cup serving is about as big as a light bulb…since many of you can’t or shouldn’t eat that much early out, you know if it is that size…you have too much!

If you get something stuck…

It’s good to have papaya enzyme in your purse for such occassions as it really does help. They sell it at most drug stores and health food stores. Barring that, excuse yourself and go to the bathroom to see if it will come up. Stay away from the food area as the smells will start to overwhelm you. If you are with a spouse it might be good to tell them so they can “cover” for you. If worse comes to worse, blame the heat, tell the host/hostess you need to sit down for a little while and do so until the food comes up.

But the best strategy is prevention. Eat tiny bites. Chew well.

Do feel empowered to bring variations so that you can have a bit of what you like. For instance, I am known, far and wide, for bringing my own Hebrew National 98% fat free hot dogs to a cook out only to skewer approximately one and ask the resident “grillmaster” to do it up for me.

Remember, barbecues are supposed to be FUN! This is my Foodie-friend Julia (some of you know here as the “List Minion” from the Bariatric Foodie Pledge) at the 2013 BF Barbecue I hold in MD during the summer! 
Meanwhile, DON’T forget that a barbecue is about more than just eating. If there is music, dance! If there are new babies to hold, hold them. Take photos. Gawk over people you haven’t seen in ages. Catch up with them. The food is only PART of the festivities.

And lastly…at a barbecue don’t focus on what you can’t have. That stuff is probably no good for you anyway.

With a little planning and some strategy BBQ’s can be FUN! Happy Summer, Foodies!


  1. Thank you for sharing ALL of your wisdom and experience with us all. I want to let you know how grateful I am that you take the time to share and do so FREE. I am on a limited budget. It helps me out a lot!!!

  2. Really excellent and honest tips. Always look forward to reading what you have to say and love that you keep on sharing with the rest of us. thanks and Happy 4th!

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