Coffee Culture and the Bariatric Client Bariatric Edition

Shout out to all the coffee drinkers out there.  We all have one thing in common – we love ourselves a cup of hot, steaming Java in the morning.  How do you feel about your coffee?  Do you drink it happily, enjoying each sip or do you drunk it begrudgingly?  Do you savor the flavor or do you drink it in order to jolt some alertness into your body?

This can change over the years.  Did you know that?  Our tastes can change and all of a sudden that thing that we felt was the best tasting thing can start to taste different or strange.  

Post-bariatric clients deal with this very often and with a lot of different foods and drinks.  I often get calls where the client is describing how their once favorite flavor of crystal light now tastes too sweet and too chemically.  This is a very common occurrence.  

I personally have been having this same issue with coffee.  I have to ask myself “do you really want that cup of coffee or are you drinking it out of plain habit”?  If I was to be honest with my readers and with myself, I would say that 9 out of 10 times, I do not even enjoy my coffee anymore.  I don’t know what has happened but I kind of force myself to drink it because it is a habit and I believe that this is just what we are supposed to do in the mornings. 

When discussing coffee with our post bariatric clients, I often tell them to go ahead and continue drinking their one cup of coffee in the morning IF they want to.  If the habit of drinking coffee doesn’t bother you, then you do not have to give it up.  If it is just a cup of plain black coffee, even better.  If you have just a splash of cream and stevia, that’s fine.  We have to strike a balance but, if we are talking about morning lattes and cappuccinos, then we need to make some important changes.

When I think about coffee, I think about the stuff that I brew in my kitchen.  I am not thinking about the drive-thru coffee or the specialty coffee shops that prepare ginormous cups of steaming sugar, milk, cream, flavorings and coffee beans.  That is not coffee.  That is a dessert for breakfast.

We need to enter those fancy coffee shops with our eyes wide open.  In my 12 years working with bariatric clients, I have seen people entering and then exiting coffee shops, extremely overweight and probably battling serious health issues but they are carrying a syrup-laden latte.  Maybe we all want to believe that coffee is good for us, I mean read all the articles that tout the great benefits of drinking coffee.  It’s not the coffee that worries me, it’s what we are adding to our coffee that scares me.  We need to compare some of those coffees to the amount of sugar that a big gulp soda contains.  So many of our clients tell me that they will never drink soda again but, they continue to drink these sugar-laden lattes.  

Also, portion control, this just doesn’t seem to be a worry when we order a small or medium designer coffee.  These coffees are BIG – really BIG.  We all know that it only takes a couple of hundred additional or “extra” calories each day and that can add up to a lot of added lbs by the end of the year.  Who finds it easy to order a beautiful, fancy coffee and not order the gorgeous piece of lemon cake or blueberry designer muffin that is calling our name?  The two go hand in hand.  

Now let’s chat about the actual coffee or caffeine that we are drinking.  There is a team that insists that coffee is brilliant and how it is good for us.  They talk about how it increases our mental alertness and now it can even protect us against certain diseases such as type 2 diabetes.  

There is another team that tells us that coffee increases anxiety and tremors.  Our body has a “stress response” when we drink coffee and when our bodies are stressed, we release the hormone cortisol.  Cortisol inhibits weight loss plus the additional stress also reduces sleep and sleep quality.  Do we not struggle sufficiently with sleep issues already without coffee? 

There are so many other studies which cite the pros and cons of coffee.  I decided long ago not to choose one specific side.  I agree with some of the pros and with some of the cons and I ask you to decide for yourself if coffee is something that is good or bad for you at this specific stage in your life.

Remember, the maximum caffeine intake we should have is approximately 400mg each day.  If you order a large coffee, you will be at that limit already.

I tried to quit drinking coffee a few times.  I successfully stopped about a year ago for a period of 4 months.  It was terrific and my energy levels were so much better.  Sure, there was a learning curve and I missed my coffee for the first few weeks.  I tried to replace it with all sorts of things and I never found that magic replacement so I just stopped trying to replace it.   Of course, I became comfortable and one day I had a cup of coffee and it slowly snuck back into my life.  My one cup of coffee in the morning started up again.  Problem is, that one cup of coffee has now turned to two cups of coffee and sometimes I think about having an afternoon coffee.  I mean, where does it end?

Last week I decided to have my coffee with no cream and no stevia.  If I was going to drink coffee, it needed to be black.  That didn’t last very long.  3 days later, here I am, drinking TEA.  I don’t like black coffee and I don’t think I ever will.  What’s a girl to do?  For now, I will have my tea and see if I can break that coffee habit AGAIN.  

A fellow nutritionist once said to me, “if you cannot drink your coffee black, that means you are not addicted to coffee, it means you are addicted to the cream and sugar”.  You know what, those words stuck with me and I think she is right.  

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About the Author: Sheri Burke is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Bariatric Surgery Coordinator at International Patient Facilitators in Tijuana and Cancun, Mexico. She has worked with bariatric surgery clients for over 10 years and especially enjoys providing nutritional guidance to pre and post bariatric clients.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two teens and cooking up a nutritional storm in the kitchen.

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