Jacqui Lewis - BHSc Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine
Your WLS Guide to Happy Holidays Eating
And so this is Christmas, and you're either taking your very first step onto the Weight Loss Surgery journey, or you might be having your first Christmas with your new tummy. Maybe you're a WLS patient, who is all over how to do a bariatric Christmas, but looking to brush up on some of the tricks to enjoying the festive season, while staving off the dreaded regain.
To make it easy, we've outlined a few pertinent hints for navigating the silly season wherever you are on your WLS journey.
During the early stages of recovery from your gastric sleeve or bypass surgery, your team will lay out the food stages and how to progress through them. Whilst they are generally standard, they will differ depending on your team and your situation. Whatever they suggest as the best things for you to do - my advice is following it to the letter.
The earliest stage of recovery requires liquid "food" only. This is to help to provide your system with the rest it needs to heal and re-adjust your digestive system.
On the outside, five incision points may not look like much to you - but you can rest assured A LOT is going on in there!
Please don't be tempted to use the "but I'm not in pain, I feel fine" and reach for the Christmas ham ahead of your schedule! A low calorie, higher protein diet is essential for weight loss and muscle retention during this stage.
Liquids can be in the form of smoothies, broths, meal replacements, protein shakes, and plenty of water.
Alcohol is off the table until at least 6 - 12 months after your surgery.
It isn't all doom and gloom, though. It is exciting to think you have just taken the first significant step towards making better food choices and living your best life, so whilst you might feel that so much is on offer. You are limited in your options; it's essential to keep your "eye on the prize", so to speak.
Here's how to make the Christmas liquid stage a little more fun
1. Jazz things up by putting your liquid meals or drinks into fancy glasses or decorating with tinsel or something festive.
2. Try a non-alcoholic egg nog - with cinnamon on top.
3. Drink your smoothie from a decadent glass, sip through a decorated straw, make it fun.
4. Get involved in the people.
Enjoy the time off to relax and pamper yourself a bit, read that book, get a Christmas manicure or pedicure to make you feel good in ways that are not related to food.
One of the keys to your success is practising putting yourself first -
and Christmas is the best time to practice.
A few weeks after surgery, you will find yourself in the next phase of your post-surgery diet, where it's time to include more substantial foods. To do this safely, puree food is the order of the day! But the sky is almost the limit, really.
You could have your own Christmas roast meal, a balance of lean protein, roast veg and some gravy - it will just look a little different than in years gone by!
Purees can be made from most everyday foods and served to the correct portion size for your new tummy.
If you are trying some foods for the first time, it's good to take it pretty easy. Your Weight Loss Surgery is a tool. It's what you do with it that really matters. Skipping on the main meal and pureeing dessert is definitely not ideal - but you can definitely try a few things that are saved for the Christmas lunch table.
1. Continue to be aware of meeting your goals for protein, reducing fat and steering well away from sugar to keep you feeling well. "Christmas was a real blast - I had the dumping syndrome," said no one ever!
2. Follow the rules set out by your team, but do try a range of foods pureed to a safe. consistency. Focus on the friends and family presence and relish the extra time to rest and relax.
3. Get used to being hosted rather than being the one who is busy taking care of everyone else.
SOFT / SOLID FOODS STAGE
A little further toward your long term goal of eating a regular and balanced diet, now the limits to your Christmas dinner are slightly lessened. It's pretty easy to find a range of soft foods from the Christmas spread that meet your low-calorie diet requirements.
Stick with lean meats, plenty of vegetables and after a few hours, maybe try a small piece of something sweet. Look for options like the smallest portion of pavlova with fruit or fruit with yoghurt and honey. Making better food choices whatever the occasion is an excellent practice. Make some personal rules around this time of year so that you get to enjoy but still moderate your intake over the Christmas and New Year period.
Before, we might have just written the entire month of December off as time to unwind and overindulge. Now it might be wise to give yourself 2-3 days to live it up a little but regain your usual rhythm soon after.
To reduce your likelihood of regaining weight, stick to one meal a day where you enjoy the festive type foods; the other meals should still comprise a balance of healthy carbs and protein.
Start the day with your regular protein-rich breakfast, and you'll find you are less likely to really fall off track throughout the day. The holiday season might now be more about enjoying people, time away from work, and once again, learning to put yourself and your long term goals first.
Navigating the first few stages of your food after bariatric surgery procedures serves many purposes.
The main one is about your safety - making sure your sutures and tummy heal well without any complications.
The second is learning new habits and making better food choices.
The third is learning to manage bariatric portion sizes so that once the "honeymoon" of the rapid weight loss stage is over, you have set yourself up for long term success.
We truly hope you enjoy the Christmas period, with a new focus on making memories with loved ones -
which of course, at the top of the list is you!
Try our very own range of Christmas recipes here for inspiration at any stage.
The team at BN Multi wish you every happiness this Christmas.
Enjoy your loved ones, create new memories, and take stock of how far you’ve come.
BHSc Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine