After bariatric surgery, our stomachs hold only small amounts of food. This significantly limits the volume of food we are able to eat at each meal and, theoretically, for the entire day. However, grazing after bariatric surgery is a real threat that patients need to protect against.
Watch out! We can snack our way back into obesity, at worst, or at least slow weight loss by grazing.
Snacking and Grazing after Bariatric Surgery
Grazing is the consistent, day-long consumption of low value food items, in other words: unplanned snacking. For example, mindlessly finishing your child’s breakfast cereal, popping two donut holes into your mouth at the office, eating a protein bar mid-afternoon and a strawberry Greek yogurt with granola at night.
Testing suggests that those bariatric patients who are grazers often have a set of pre-existing traits such as binge eating and resistance to behavioral modification. I was a binge eater before my gastric bypass surgery in 2003. Grazing is a defeatist behavior that I still must guard against.
The best way to address grazing after bariatric surgery is to employ preventive measures prior to the onset. That said, many patients will not succeed preemptively and must therefore deal with the problem of grazing only after it presents.
Break the Grazing Habit
Discussions on patient support forums suggest that grazing is a common problem for patients after bariatric surgery. Should you find yourself in the habit of grazing after bariatric surgery, the obvious resolution is to break the habit. This is no doubt easier said than done, but consider all that you have achieved to this point.
The first step is to ask for help. It is unlikely that you can resolve maladaptive eating alone. So simply ask for the help that you would no doubt give to another if it were you who was being asked to help. Use your support network and those professionals who are currently among your inner circle.
Begin to monitor yourself closely. Write down all that you eat or drink for a period of three days or so, and then compare your notes with the nutrition plan from your bariatric surgeon’s office to note how much they do or do not coordinate. It is possible you are not getting enough protein or that your meal portions are too small. Write down the supplements and vitamins that you take, as well.
With your nutritionist as a guide, create an ideal bariatric meal plan for the next three days. Hang it in your kitchen and record your actions and compliance. Seek out patterns and record the habits and triggers that lead to grazing.
Using your support network, address your grazing behavior over the next three day meal plan.
Learn the different types of hunger, specifically head hunger and physical hunger. Continue to maintain and execute your food plan while making necessary adjustments along the way.
In addition, cut out all junk food. Sit when you eat, and mindfully enjoy the meal. Eat meals that contain protein and fiber in the form of fresh and lightly cooked or raw fruits and vegetables because they make you feel full. Drink plenty of water over the course of the day except at meal time.
My bariatric nutritionist advised me to eat three small healthy high-protein meals per day and one healthy metabolic snack (to boost metabolism). Choose lean proteins, fresh vegetables and fruits most of the time. Learn what is the ideal bariatric meal, read, “Gastric Bypass Pouch Rules for Dummies.”
As a rule of thumb, if you are eating healthy snacks and meals this way then you are likely consuming the ideal amount to help you lose weight. You should be satiated from your meals and have no need to graze. When you find yourself wanting to graze, it’s time to find something else to do.
Psychiatrist Judson Brewer is a thought leader in the “science of self mastery.” An internationally known expert in mindfulness training for addictions, he wrote the book The Craving Mind. Judson has developed novel treatments to help individuals with cravings and eating disorders.
Binge Eating Disorder Prior to Bariatric Surgery
Many bariatric surgery patients who are grazers struggled with binge eating disorder prior to bariatric surgery.
Binger eating disorder is a condition characterized by a person’s need to eat compulsively. This behavior is the result of emotional difficulties. Those who have binge eating disorder will overeat to the point of becoming nauseous and beyond.
The patient who was a binge eater prior to surgery must understand that bariatric surgery is not a cure for binge eating disorder. Bariatric surgery can and does result in dramatic weight loss, but it is not a remedy for behavioral misconduct. The only remedy for behavioral problems is to change behavior.
If a person has binge eating disorder and finds herself grazing after bariatric surgery, a professional and specialized interventions may be necessary. Such interventions are no more than asking for the help that is needed. Read, “Help for Binge Eating Disorder.”
Living larger than ever,
My Bariatric Life