Thanksgiving is a holiday that’s become synonymous with overindulging on decadent food with family and friends. Given how well-established this tradition is in many households, bariatric patients aren’t likely to change their family’s viewpoint on the matter. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a family Thanksgiving after weight loss surgery. With the proper planning, you can eat and mingle over the holidays without feeling left out or breaking your diet.
Some of the biggest hurdles surrounding Thanksgiving for bariatric patients relate to the nature of their new diet. Your anatomy changes after weight loss surgery, meaning your stomach may not tolerate the same foods as it could before. You’ll also need significantly less food to feel full. Sugary, fatty, and carb-heavy foods can be difficult to digest or lead to dumping syndrome, which is the last thing you want on Thanksgiving Day. However, depriving yourself of delicious food isn’t the solution either.
You can use the following strategies to help you stick to your bariatric diet and enjoy a Thanksgiving meal:
- Offer to host Thanksgiving. This may sound like a tall order, particularly if you’ve never prepared a Thanksgiving meal before. However, it allows you to control the menu to a certain degree. You can find a plethora of bariatric-friendly Thanksgiving recipes online that use smart substitutions. You can include traditional Thanksgiving favorites that align with your new diet by using low-sodium, low-fat, or sugar-free ingredients. Resist the urge to forewarn your guests about the healthy nature of your dishes. This helps break the incorrect correlation many people hold between healthy and boring.
- Give away your leftovers. If you decide to host Thanksgiving Day, you will still have to deal with the leftover food. Your new stomach can only handle so much food at once, and your sides and entrees will likely spoil before you can eat them regardless. If you have takeout containers ready to go, you can load up guests with leftovers to take home with them. If you’re not hosting, bring any dishes you prepare in disposable aluminum pans rather than reusable baking dishes. This will prevent you from feeling obligated to bring the leftovers home with you.
- Give yourself three minutes. If your surgery was recent or you’re still learning which foods upset your new anatomy, this rule can save you from a stomachache. For new foods, take a single bite and chew it well. Use mindful eating tactics to notice the texture, flavors, and so on. Then wait three minutes. This may seem like a pain, but your new stomach will let you know within minutes if it can’t tolerate a specific food. If all goes well, proceed with caution, and stop if you start to notice any upset.
- Allow yourself three bites. The most important nutrient following bariatric surgery will always be protein. However, Thanksgiving meals often boast a cornucopia of starches. Denying yourself every savory side dish or sweet treat will leave you grumpy and unpleasant to be around. You can’t enjoy visiting with family and friends if all you can think about is that piece of pie you can’t eat. Assuming you’ve learned your new anatomy and what foods you can tolerate by the holidays, allow yourself three small bites after getting your protein first. If you’re not sure or don’t want to risk the temptation to overeat, you can bring a bariatric-friendly dessert as an alternative.
- Find good conversation. While food features heavily on Thanksgiving Day, congregating with loved ones is another critical element. Set down your fork when you’re done and catch up with a relative you haven’t seen in a while. You can also see if anyone wants to go on a post-dinner walk to be active on a typically sedentary day. If you’d rather avoid the temptation of dessert altogether, you can time the walk for when your host begins to break out the pie.
Having strategies in place like the above can help you navigate Thanksgiving Day after bariatric surgery. If you’re considering weight loss surgery or have questions about bariatric procedures, we can help. Contact us to learn if weight loss surgery is right for you.