With the holidays over, I figured it would be nice to talk about my experience eating with my family during Thanksgiving and Christmas.
I was extremely intimidated to go into the holidays this year following bariatric surgery. Holidays are a big thing for my family, a large family at that. I am Puerto Rican, Polish and Russian. If that does not give you an idea of the mix of food we have during the holidays, let me paint a picture for you: Arroz con gondulas, Russian golumki, Polish homemade perogies, potato salad, pasta, pig, ham, green bean casserole….and that is not even scratching the surface. What do most of these wonderful food options have in common? – carbs, lots of seasoning, fat, calories and most importantly, food that no longer sits as well with my stomach.
Ever since the surgery, my stomach is a lot more sensitive to carbs, sugar, creamy things and lots of seasoning. To make matters more difficult, my portion sizes are a lot, a lot, a lot, did i say a lot?…smaller now. But this is my lifestyle now and I would not change it for a thing.
However, this lifestyle does not necessarily match up with that of my family. In my culture, the meal during the holidays is an important family tradition. It symbolizes bonding, love and a time when all problems seem to not exist in the world. We are expected to eat our entire plate, a full plate at that. It is considered a sign of respect to the cook and it symbolizes you enjoyment of the meal. If you do not go for seconds or at least finish your first plate, you tend to be asked, “Did you not enjoy your meal? Was it bad?”
While my family has been extremely supportive in trying to adjust recipes and provide more healthier options for me, there is only so much they can do to accommodate me.
With that said, I took this holiday season to focus on making sure I was mentally prepared to go into the holidays rather than relying on my family to make changes.
My guide to Coping with Holiday Food After Weight Loss Surgery
- Avoid unconscious eating: I needed to remind myself to eat when I was hungry and not necessarily because food was in my face. I also tried to avoid socializing near the food so that I would not pick randomly at it.
- Focus on protein: I cannot eat as much as I used to. So, I decided to adhere as much to my nutrition plan by focusing on eating protein items first and then carbs/veggies second.
- Remember that one’s eyes are bigger than the stomach: While my mind was telling me that I could handle all of the food, I realistically knew I needed to be conscious of how much I was putting on my plate.
- Leverage smaller utensils to serve yourself: Instead of serving myself with the big spoons typically used, I used a regular eating spoon. It not only allowed me to watch my portions, I was able to try multiple food items without getting full immediately.
- Focus on non food related activities: Some food items kept calling my name during the meal and saying, “Eat me. One bite won’t hurt.” To avoid temptation, I decided to shift my attention away from the food and instead focus on playing games with my little cousins and building reindeer hats.
- Eat Slowly: While I knew everyone was going to finish their food quicker than me, I needed to remind myself to eat slowly. It was not a race.
- Do not drink while eating: Since I get full really quick now, I focused on eating first, waiting 20 minutes and then drinking water.
Now that the holidays are over, I realize that this is a journey and that it will be a bumpy one at times. On Christmas I ended up vomiting after eating too quickly but I did not let that stop me from enjoying my time AND the food. I waited a little bit and then tried eating again. While following this guide right now is easier said than done, I will still strive to meet my personal nutrition needs while staying in-tune with my personal upbringing and traditions. In the long run, I hope to realize how this guide, and these habits, can be useful outside of the holidays, when going out with friends and as means to practice daily at home.