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My Favorite Food – Bariatric Edition

Finding My Way Back ,,,
This is one of those topics that I cannot write enough about. It is a topic that plagues all of us. Our favorite foods.
Many years ago, when I first started working with bariatric clients, this was something that we just didn’t talk about. It wasn’t on the tip of our tongues as it is today. The idea back then was, have surgery and take care of a problem. It was a “surgery and done” mentality. Boy oh boy, we missed the boat back then.
Today my teaching style is very different. Bariatric surgery is the starting point. Bariatric surgery will be the tool that will help us to lose weight. What about keeping the weight off? That’s where it gets a whole lot trickier. If my clients want to lose 100 lbs and then slowly regain it back, they will keep doing what they were doing before their surgery. 
Now, nobody wants that, a regain? This is why it is of the utmost importance that they learn about food and a bit about nutritional science. We need to understand clearly what goes on when we eat certain foods and why they create the perfect storm for a regain to happen.
I want to discuss the regain mentality and how it happens.
I like eating French fries and pizza. I grew up eating them and I don’t want to give them up. They are my comfort foods. 
Heck, I have a whole lot of other comfort foods to add to this list. Go ahead and add warm, white bread with butter oozing off the top. You can add Doritos, Kraft dinner, Coca Cola, chocolate milk, and did I already say French fries? Ya, I mentioned them already. 
You can say that my diet wasn’t the best. I would order a bran muffin instead of a chocolate chip one and think that I was doing something good for my body. I really and truly didn’t have a clue. 
We didn’t eat vegetables? It’s not that we hated them but they don’t go with Kraft dinner now do they? My Mom was busy working and we didn’t live with our Father so it was down to us from a very early age to put food into our bellies. The convenience was King. These are my teenage years in a nutshell – grab and go convenience stuff. 
Was I a healthy teenager. Yes. I didn’t have any health issues and I managed to do okay.
The problem today is that I have a taste for that same convenience food. I want to eat like a teenager still. Why is it that those tastes are so ingrained in us? I should write an entire blog dedicated to just this topic.
Okay, so back to my clients now. Guess what, they have the same issue. They have maybe different foods ingrained from their childhood but I can guarantee you, if there was fried chicken on their stovetop growing up, they will be craving that chicken as they get older. 
My husband is from Mexico. What do you think he craves? You’ve got it – TACOS! Those greasy street tacos that some older woman is serving out of the back of the trunk of her car.
We can’t deny that we crave certain foods.  
My kids? What do they crave? I cannot be 100% certain because they are only 17 and 19 now. I have a good guess though. They crave home-cooked meals. 
I cook a lot. There is always something bubbling on my stove. This is not because I am a perfect Mother. It is because I like to cook. It is the one place that I can leave my stress. Something is comforting in chopping and peeling and preparing a meal. It is kind of like my “happy place”. 
When my husband and I go on vacation or a weekend away, we stock the fridge with “convenience foods” for our teens. We make sure that they have Kraft dinner, bread, and peanut butter, frozen chicken nuggets and pizza. When we get home, the kids always make sure to tell me how much they miss my cooking. I hope that this means that when they grow up, they are going to have a craving for REAL FOOD, instead of convenience foods.
Now my conundrum today is that even if I spend half my life cooking, I still crave those same convenience foods from my teenage years. I may make a beautiful beef stew but if a pizza is delivered to my door, I am eating the pizza? What the heck is wrong with me? I don’t think I am such a weirdo and I do believe that my feelings are the same as yours. Yours may not be pizza and it may be another food – but you get my drift right? 
So how can we keep away from the foods from our childhood that are “not so great” for us today?
I think it comes from education. It is not enough for me to say “French fries” are bad for me. I need to truly understand “WHY” they are bad for me. I have to understand the entire “cascade of events” if I am going to make a long-lasting change and try my best not to eat them.
Here goes: French fries are little sticks of carbohydrates fried in crappy oil that is very inflammatory.
When I eat the yummy fry, it goes into my body and is converted into glucose and fat. Remember, there are three macronutrients and everything is either a carbohydrate, protein or fat. Carbs convert to glucose (sugar).
The French fries are digested very quickly and RAISE my BLOOD SUGAR very quickly. When my blood sugar is high, INSULIN needs to go out there and grab that sugar and do something with it – Insulin is like the key that opens my cells and sticks the sugar inside of them. It cleans my blood of the excess sugar. Now my insulin levels are high and let’s face it when insulin levels are high, it makes it very hard to lose weight. Also, my blood sugar has dropped and I am going to be craving more high carb foods very shortly afterward. I am in a lose/lose cycle. Pass the pizza, please.
Even with a thorough understanding of nutritional science, I still have a hard time staying away from my lovely, yummy, greasy, french fries and pizza. Imagine if I only thought that they were “bad”. It would be even harder to stay away.
Now, what happens if I have bariatric surgery and I go back to my bad eating habits? I have all the good intentions in the world but I find myself eating gas-station pizza more than once a week and the smell of the French fries at the McDonalds drive-thru is enough to turn my steering wheel in that direction? I have what I like to call “carb-creep” and the crappy tastes that I have developed as a teenager have turned against me!
Nutrition knowledge is an important tool that helps me maneuver away from these bad habits. I need to remember the cascade of events with my blood sugar and insulin levels. I don’t want to be an addict, searching for my next “hit” of fatty food!! I want to feel good in my skin. I want to feel satisfied and not starving hungry thanks to crappy carbs.
The more I stay away from the “foods of my past”, the more control I have over my day-to-day nutrition. For me to avoid a regain at any time in my life, I need to be aware of my triggers and stick to the basics which for me are: prioritize protein, control carbs and fill with healthy fat. I never gain weight when I am eating chicken and broccoli. I never gain weight when I am eating gorgeous salads. I never gain weight when I am eating eggs with sautéed veggies. 
My weight gain occurs when I turn into the teenager of my past and eat that same way. Those days are long gone and I should not think that I can get away with eating like that. I can’t. I am no longer living in a teenage body. I guess that you are not living in your teenage body either. 
I wish that I could end this blog by saying that I have solved the puzzle and I no longer crave the foods from my past. Nope. I am here to say that I am a pizza-whore but I am trying to get a grip on it even today. The good news is that I win (most of the time) over my cravings today.
What is it that you crave? 

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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