Before we get into the tips I’ve amassed for you, let’s deal with one small thing.
I know you all. Somewhere out there is a person – might be a pre-op, might be a new post-op – who is thinking, “But, but, but…you can’t overeat after surgery, right???”
Breathe. You breathing? Ok. Let’s talk.
While surgery makes it harder to overeat, it’s still possible, especially when you get further out from surgery. I personally am nearly 8 years post-op and I can say for certain that there are behaviors that can lead to eating way more than you should be able to. Here are a few ways that can happen. I’m telling you this to help you avoid these situations, so please use the information for good and not evil!
- Grazing. Instead of eating several small meals each day, sometimes post-ops eat little bits and bites of food. The problem with this is that when you add up the bits and bites, they can add up to way too many calories – and not necessarily the right kind!
- Starches. I’m not in the all carbs are evil camp. (Proof) But I do know that starches can be tricky. They sometimes sit easier than protein and therefore we can eat a lot more of them. Crackers, chips, popcorn. These foods are all ones we can overdo and overdoing it can lead to too many calories.
- Slider Food. This is a term within our community used to represent foods like yogurt, cottage cheese and other really soft foods that basically just “slide” right through your system, which can cause you to get hungry again before you should. I’m not saying not to eat these foods, but if you find that you are using these foods as your main source of protein, and you find yourself eating too much, you might want to switch to a firmer protein (chicken, beef, fish).
- Eating/drinking together. For most post-ops this is a no-no. Eating and drinking together can cause food to wash out of the stomach quickly, making you hungry again way too soon. This is an important habit to break, so if you are pre-op, I’d advise that you stop drinking with your meals NOW! The general advice given is to not drink until 30 minutes after eating.
So now that I’ve scared the bejeezus out of some of you, let’s talk strategy. Because this, like any other problem post-op, is totally solveable! But we do need a plan. So here are my five tips to avoid overeating. Most of these are geared toward eating in social situations, but some of them also work at home. Some of them you’ve heard before. Some are unconventional. For me, all of these have worked!
Eat a mint
A sugar-free mint of course. This works especially well when you are in eating situations like a party with a buffet table. After you’ve eaten your portion, pop a strong mint (Altoids are my choice!) The flavor of the mint will deter you from eating more. If you do choose to eat more, your food will taste weird. Which will then deter you from eating more!
Wear a shaper or form-fitting outfit
This is tricky for men, but don’t wear baggy clothes in situations where you want to avoid overeating. When you eat, you ever notice you can feel a noticeable little bulge in your gut? That happens to everyone, not just post-ops, and usually that’s when we start to notice that we’re eating too much. Wearing a fitted outfit (or a shaper) brings on that feeling as soon as you’ve hit that “too much” mark.
“BYOU” (Bring your own utensils)
You know what drives me batty about eating in social situations? It’s hard to track how much you ate! You can guestimate, but my inner tracker wants to know exactly how much I ate. There’s a simple solution. I bring my own utensils! Namely, I bring cup measures that correspond to how much I should be eating of certain things. There are a few etiquette rules that go with this one.
- Use the utensil provided by the party host to fill your personal utensil. Just sticking your utensil into a bowl of food is the etiquette equivalent of backwash. It makes people feel unsure about the sanitation of the food, so use the spoon provided to fill your cup measure. It’s the nice thing to do!
- Bring as many measures as dishes you plan to sample (so if you eat a tablespoon of food and want to sample four dishes, bring four tablespoon measures). No double-dipping!
- Tell the host/hostess you are doing this. I still do this to this day and folks understand, but they appreciated the heads up.
Toss unwanted food as soon as you are finished
Ever heard that expression “stop, drop and roll”? It’s not just for fires! Stop eating when you are full. Drop your plate into the garbage bin. And roll out! (Of the eating area, if you can.)
Be a chatterbox
I remember some time ago I was having lunch with a friend who interrupted me in the middle of a sentence and said, “Nikki! You’ve been holding that forkful of food for 15 minutes. Take the bite!” It’s funny because I didn’t realize that I do that. When I get to talking, I don’t do a lot of eating. Sure, I take bites here and there, but overall the more I engage with people, the less I eat. I think by talking I am slowing down the eating process. That helps me recognize when I’m no longer hungry. Also, when I am talking and engaging, I am satisfying my need in a social situation (extrovert that I am!) so I am not using food to satisfy that need.
If all else fails, ask for help! If you don’t have a support system at home, you have one in the Foodie Nation. Just shine the “Foodie Light” on Facebook or Twitter. We’ll be there to talk you off the ledge!