A Bariatric Patient’s Survival Guide to Enjoying the Holidays

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The holiday season is just around the corner. With it comes family, friends, and a seemingly unending supply of food. For bariatric patients adjusting to a new lifestyle centered around long-term weight loss, the holidays can be challenging to navigate.

Thankfully, post-surgery patients can still enjoy the holiday season with family and friends by making a few smart decisions when it comes to the foods they consume.


Let’s look at a few tips to help you survive and enjoy the holidays.


1) Be Mindful of Your Alcohol Intake


Consuming alcohol as a bariatric patient can be tricky business. Blood alcohol levels are known to peak higher and faster in gastric bypass patients than the average person due to the procedure’s ability to alter metabolism.


Research shows that even a single alcoholic beverage can cause a bariatric patient to reach the point of legal intoxication. Furthermore, weight loss patients often eat less food when consuming alcohol, contributing to increased absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.


Moral of the story? If you must drink during the holidays, keep it to a bare minimum due to your increased susceptibility to intoxication.


2) Use Healthy Substitutes


With so many people gathering during the holidays, it can be difficult to accommodate individual needs. Overcoming peer pressure around this time can be especially difficult, especially when you are refusing your grandmother’s famous pumpkin pie that she made “just for you.”


That said, just because the table is bursting with foods you should avoid like the plague, that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare a few weight friendly dishes of your own. For instance, you can substitute dishes with heavy cream with skim milk. You could also replace sugars with creative stand-ins, such as unsweetened apple sauce. The goal is to reduce excessive calorie intake, but still, sit down and eat with everyone else!


3) Be Mindful of Portion Sizes


No one is telling you that you can’t enjoy your mother’s apple pie or your grandmother’s cookies, but you must be mindful of your portion sizes at all times. The holidays are not an excuse to overindulge.


It may seem this way because food is often plentiful (especially during Thanksgiving and Christmas), but stuffing yourself can cause complications that could lead to adverse side effects such as dumping syndrome.

4) Seek Out an Accountability Partner


It doesn’t matter if you’re at an office party or spending time with family and friends at home, try to find someone who can hold you accountable from the temptations of overeating during the holidays.


Instead of toughing it out alone, you’ll be more likely to succeed if you have an accountability partner – perhaps a sibling, a coworker, or a friend – to help you maintain your discipline during holiday meals.


Sometimes a simple hand on your shoulder may be all you need to replace a tray of cookies with a delicious salad.


5) Save the Best Foods for Last


Weight loss surgery induces weight loss by restricting a patient’s ability to eat by reducing the size of the stomach. By focusing on healthier options first (fruits, vegetables, etc.), you’ll have less room for the unhealthier options that may be present at the table.


Even if you still have a bit of room for foods high in calories (cakes and white bread, for instance), you’ll undoubtedly eat less of it by the time you get to it. Plus, you won’t feel like you’re missing out on much because you’ll likely be too full to care!


6) Know When to Consume Liquid, and When Not To


Gastric bypass patients must be especially wary when consuming liquids. It’s important to sip between meals, not during. The general rule of thumb is that you should avoid drinking 30 minutes before a meal, and wait 30 minutes afterward.


Because the anatomy of your stomach has been physically altered during the procedure, you are more likely to become dehydrated. Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day. This may all sound tedious, but it’s a mandatory part of adjusting to life after bariatric surgery that becomes easier with time.

7) Try Not to Punish Yourself Too Much if You Slip Up


It’s the holidays. The likelihood that you may overindulge is higher than usual. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel you’ve backtracked a bit. Part of the journey of long-term weight loss is slipping up every now and again.


It’s how you get back on track that truly counts. Besides, it doesn’t hurt to have the occasional treat every once in a while, and the holidays are as good a time as any to indulge in moderation.


Nutritional Deficiencies After Bariatric Surgery

There are a variety of bariatric surgeries, but the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and Sleeve Gastrectomy procedures involve malabsorption and restriction that may put patients at risk of experiencing nutritional deficiencies.


These deficiencies often include D3, B12, B1 (thiamin), calcium, and protein. As such, many bariatric patients will be required to take nutritional supplements for the rest of their lives.


Vitamin supplement recommendations include:


  • Calcium Citrate 2,000mg daily in divided doses
  • Multivitamin with iron (twice every day)
  • B12 – 1,000mcg injection once a month, or 2,000mcg sublingual once a day
  • 2,000 IU (International Unit) of Vitamin D3


In relation to the holidays, be aware of your vitamin intake to avoid taking too much (or too little) of a specific vitamin.


For instance, liver, cheese, and eggs are excellent sources of vitamin B12. Adding these foods to your plate (in moderation) during the holidays should be prioritized over foods that offer little to no nutritional value.


Enjoying the Holiday Season as a Bariatric Patient


As a bariatric patient, the holidays can seem daunting, but making the right decisions can allow you to fully enjoy yourself along with your family and friends. Remember, moderation is key!


Do you have questions about the foods you should be eating as a post-surgery patient? Reach out to the nutritional experts at Olde Del Mar Surgical for guidance today. We’ll be more than happy to give you the advice you need to help you better navigate the holidays!

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