I’m single. (Super hawt post-op men…holla!) Dating can be a challenge to any woman, but particularly to the post-op woman. I mean, on the one hand, our surgeries very much make us look like space aliens in the way we eat and relate to food. On the other hand, we don’t want to run down our medical histories to people we barely know.
So what do you do?
Well if you are a faithful BF reader, you should know the answer to this. You form a strategy!
First and foremost, let’s talk date dynamics. Whether you’re a guy or a gal, there are some common dynamics going on:
- The person with whom you are going on a date is really attracted to and interested in you
- That person wants you to have a good time
- That person doesn’t know you very well
These seem obvious, but when you put it all into perspective, here’s some implications for us that may not seem obvious:
- Because that person is attracted to you and interested in you, they don’t necessarily notice how much you do or don’t eat unless you draw specific attention to it.
- Because that person wants you to have a good time, they are probably open to date options that don’t involve food.
- Because that person doesn’t know you well, doing the “big reveal” too early can kill your chances at something meaningful. Ever heard of the term, TMI?
Of course, it’s up to you when to tell anyone about your surgery. But trust us, first date dynamics make it risky to do so before you know the person very well.
Edit: As one of our savvy readers pointed out, some of you have NO problems sharing about your surgery on a first date. If that’s the case…awesome! It’s a personal choice and if you do choose to share that can be a great ice breaker…and you don’ t have to be 007 on your first few dates! This guide is geared more for the folks who don’t feel comfortable doing that…an equally valid choice, but often a difficult one to pull off. 🙂
So…let’s talk strategy then.
Strategy #1 – the “Un-food” date
From experience, I can say that you have to be strategic about when you use this one. Because, for women especially, there is only a certain number of times you can get away with this. The guy is going to want to go out to eat eventually. Guys, if you keep dodging dinner, you run the risk of the woman thinking you are cheap.
Still…the un-food date can be a great thing. The key is to make it creative. Don’t simply do the “let’s go for a walk in the park.” No way! Suggest renting some segways and exploring your city. Or going to an amusement or theme park. Or a day cruise. Or something that is so awesomely awesome that your date is not even thinking about the fact that you haven’t yet shared a meal!
It doesn’t have to be expensive, either. Get creative. There are a million and two things you can do. I once did roller skating as a first date. That was soooo fun. Neither of us had much rhythm and we fell on our butts a million times but we laughed so hard. Another time we went bowling.
What you want to stay away from is the movies as a first date. #1 – how are you supposed to get to know each other on a movie date? #2 – movies usually come with popcorn AND the expectation of dinner afterward (or before). Double whammy!
Strategy #2 – “Chew the Right Thing”
Ok, so you’ve arrived at the point where you must go to a restaurant (or sit down at a food table) with this person. This is where the real strategy begins.
For your first sit down together, insist on picking the restaurant. Don’t be a diva about it (and, yes, men can be divas at times too). Say something like, “hey, I know of a great place I’d love for you to try…” That seems thoughtful instead of bossy. (Can you all tell I’m a writer? Semantics are my thing!)
Now, which restaurant to pick. Here are a few obvious no’s:
- Cheesecake Factory – the best dish I found there is called the “Weight Management Chicken.” For real, CF, for real????
- Olive Garden – when you’re there, you’re family…if your family is into mega-caloric meals that are so big that you can’t even begin to fake it like you’ve eaten something substantial
If you’re into chain restaurants, here are a few that have worked well for me:
- Red Lobster – just stay away from those damned evil cheesy Cheddar Bay biscuits! Otherwise, it’s easy to order steamed shrimp and nibble on them. I am three years out, so I usually order tilapia with some steamed veggies.
- P.F. Chang’s – They have reasonable portion sizes and great appetizers. It is a growing trend for people to order appetizers as dinner, so you can get away with having filling for their lettuce wraps for dinner and it won’t raise too many red flags.
For chain restaurants, it’s easier to go in with a plan. Most publish their menus online with nutritional information. Even if they don’t post stats, you can use your online food journal to determine what’s the best choice. Look online and decide what you want to eat before walking into the restaurant.
You might also check out a small, local restaurant. Sure, you can’t anticipate the nutritional stats, BUT, small restaurant owners can be very accommodating to special requests.
Strategy #3 – “Smoke and Mirrors”
Once you’ve picked the perfect place with food you can order, you have to be a bit savvy about how you present yourself.
DON’T go in acting like your date automatically notices your eating behavior. People tend to notice what we draw attention to. If you draw attention to the fact that you eat like a bird, and make that a note of importance, yes you’ll get questions about it.
On the other hand, if you go in like everything is ok…nothing to see here…most likely your date is more into you than what is or isn’t on your plate. If not, tact prevents him or her from actually saying anything and once you get to the point where you can tell them, it all starts to make sense. But that’s their worry, not yours.
Still…perception can play a BIG role in dating. As I said before, guys who order frugally can seem cheap. Women who do so can seem self-conscious and if you order something that’s too large and you can only eat part of it, you can seem ungrateful.
The best strategy I’ve found is to either:
- Order something you know you can eat a good bit of – for new-newbies…this is…nothing. Or maybe not. I know once I was cleared for salad those always served me well. I can eat a lot of salad without feeling overfull. I usually ordered a chop salad of some sort so you can’t tell how much of the protein I’ve eaten. It’s very likely your date won’t notice such things, but just in case…
- Order the most nutritional slider foods the place has to offer – this, in my experience, tends to be vegetable soup of some kind. Ideally, you’d want to make up for the loss of protein in other parts of your day.
- Ask your server to box half your food right off the bat – this is a pretty common thing to do. Your date won’t think much of it.
- If the place has a small plate menu, order the most nutritional thing on it
Here are some definite “don’ts”
- Don’t order from the kid’s menu – nothing says romance like a nice chicken nugget dinner!
- Don’t order from the senior menu – especially if you are a middle aged woman. He’ll wonder if you’re lying about your age. It seems silly but I’ve actually heard this feedback from men several times.
- Don’t make a big deal about the water thing – let the server bring you the damn water! And then don’t drink it. I drink right up until I eat so usually I get myself a hot herbal tea (or unsweetened iced tea) and sip it until my meal comes.
- Don’t do the “I can’t’s” – You know what those are. Newbies are famous for them. “I can’t eat that.” “I can’t eat that either.” You’ll seem picky. No, you can’t eat that. But your date doesn’t need to know all that at this point!
Then once you’ve got your food, eat slowly and take small bites. Remember, this is a date. TALK! Ask questions. Folks like being asked interesting questions about themselves. It helps you get to know them better and it makes them feel like you are really interested in who they are as a person.
Be sure to throw a few references about the food in (“this is really good, do you want a bite?” “hey, that looks fantastic. You enjoying it?”). Not obsessively, but so long as we’re faking normalcy, it’s a nice added touch.
So there’s one last hurdle I’d like to discuss…
Yeah…dessert. Newbies…if you don’t know if you dump…now ain’t the time to find out. Stay the HELL away from the dessert menu! Even if they have sugar-free desserts, don’t do it! Chances are you won’t have room, but just in case…don’t do it!
Here’s a good strategy I use. Usually the server asks after you seem done with your food if you’d like dessert. Stop eating and linger over your plate about 20 minutes or so. Engage in deep conversation. Then have your plates taken away. Then, if your date wants dessert, you say, “no thanks, but I’d love a cup of decaf coffee.”
Coffee sorta reads like dessert. By the time dessert comes, you’ve waitied your requisite 30 minutes between eating and drinking and now have yet another thing that it takes time to consume. They eat their dessert, you sip your coffee. A little more talking…hey this is going REALLY well isn’t it?
So that’s the basic rundown on how to survive a first (or second…or third) date after weight loss surgery. We won’t advise you on what to do after your date (especially when s/he walks you to the door…that’s your business) but using some or all of these tips will help ensure there is a next date!
I am 2+ years post-op and have been in a relationship for 15 months. Prior to meeting my boyfriend and, after surgery, I dated quite a bit. In my experience, men DID notice how little I ate — they were just reluctant to say anything out of fear of offending me (or wondering what kind of eating disorder I had!).
I usually ended up saying something during the first dinner date, because it was so obvious how little I was able to eat at that time. 99% of the time the response was positive, in that the guy knew someone who had bariatric surgery.
When things got more serious with my boyfriend, I gave him the low-down, in terms of educating him about the surgery, why I had it, what it means, etc. He's still asking questions more than a year later.
I was never one to hide that I had weight loss surgery, so it was natural for me to be up-front about it with other people. While I don't think this is a topic that should be mentioned before you meet, a few sentences about having had WLS is perfectly appropriate once you're around food with that person. It's a risk to bring it up, but I didn't want to be with a guy who couldn't handle that I used to be fat. Talking about my WLS was a good weeding-out tool.
What a great point! I don't typically bring it up on the first date. That's a 100% personal decision that each of us has to make. Now, if the men I've dated can be trusted, they have all said they had no clue when I finally did tell them. I am seeing someone now and I've not yet told them. Not because I am ashamed but because, to me, you have to get to a certain level for me to share that much of myself with you. (i.e. he hasn't yet "earned" the right to that info)
But you are right. It CAN be an ice breaker. Thanks for sharing your experience.