Permanent weight loss is not a guarantee of bariatric surgery. You must do the work to not slip back into ingrained behaviors, habits, and ways of relating to food, as well as physical inactivity. In this 3-part interview with Lori Rosenthal, a bariatric dietician, we examine some of the healthy behaviors necessary and pitfalls to avoid in order to be successful with weight loss for your whole lifelong. Read part 1, Lifelong Eating after Bariatric Surgery.
Lori Rosenthal, MS, RD, CDN is a bariatric dietitian at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York. She provides individual nutritional counseling for weight management, focusing on dietary and lifestyle modifications needed to promote successful, sustainable weight loss before and after bariatric surgery. Follow Lori on Twitter @LoRoRD.
Take Control of Comfort Eating after Bariatric Surgery
We’re all familiar with comfort foods. Food that provides consolation or a feeling of well-being, especially love, typically associated with childhood or home cooking. In fact, much of our eating has to do with comfort. Comfort eating, then, is when we use food for reasons other than to fuel a hungry body and is usually rooted in deep-seated emotions. And bariatric surgery in and of itself will not resolve this. Let’s read what Lori Rosenthal had to say on the matter…
My Bariatric Life: What is the trick to avoiding temptations and comfort eating?
Lori Rosenthal: Take temptation out of the equation at home by not keeping unhealthy food in your house. If you don’t own it, you can’t eat it. This is especially important when it comes to “trigger foods,” those that we have difficulty controlling ourselves around.
It is very important to remember why you started this journey and use that as a motivator to stay strong when temptations arise. You need to want it badly enough to have successful, sustainable weight loss for life.
My Bariatric Life: What role do emotions play in the weight gain / weight loss cycle? How does a bariatric patient change her emotional relationship with food?
Lori Rosenthal: Emotional eating is a very common issue. This is the use of food to sooth our emotions. We collapse food and emotions together starting when we are very young. We fall down and are handed a lollipop. We have a break up and someone gives us ice cream. The truth is that sad doesn’t equal cookie and cookie doesn’t equal sad. Food is our fuel, not a security blanket.
It is important to find non-food related ways to cope with emotions prior to surgery – journaling, walking, talking to friends, etc. Soothing our emotions with food often leaves us feeling worse, which can lead to a vicious cycle: eating, feeling guilty/worse, eating more, etc. Post-operatively, emotional eating can result in a lack of weight loss, weight regain and even health complications.
My Bariatric Life: What does a healthy relationship with food look like?
Lori Rosenthal: A healthy relationship with food is one where we eat to fuel our body when we need to, consume foods that help our body run smoothly and enjoy what we are having. There are always going to be temptations. The trick is to find healthy foods and drinks that we truly enjoy. We want to be choosing foods because we like them, not because we are on a “diet”. When we feel restricted or deprived we wind up going right back to our unhealthy ways.
My Bariatric Life: What does “eating healthy” really mean?
Lori Rosenthal: When people hear “eating healthy” or “diet” they immediately think of restriction and deprivation. “Diet” did not always have this meaning. We have turned it into a dirty four letter word over the years. Our diet is simply what we eat.
Eating a healthy diet means consuming what our body needs to function at an optimal level and reduce risk of disease. This entails eating a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats that meets, but does not exceed our nutritional needs. A healthy diet does not contain excessive sodium, sugar, fat or processed foods.
My Bariatric Life: How can a bariatric patient handle events or activities focused on food or associated with comfort eating?
Lori Rosenthal: People who have undergone bariatric surgery often feel forced to eat in order to not offend relatives. It is important to explain why you are eating differently and that it has nothing to do with how much you love the person or their cooking.
Keep the focus on enjoying the company of family and friends during the holidays. Always eat something before a party or event with food to help maintain control. Scout out all of the options available and opt for dishes that are baked, broiled, grilled or steamed. Next, make a small, balanced plate. When possible sit or stand away from the food. Also remember to take the time to chew, taste and savor the meal. This helps us to naturally eat less and enjoy even more.
It is very important to remember why you started this journey and use that as a motivator to stay strong when temptations arise.
Parents need to speak to their children about bringing unhealthy food into the house and the changes that are going to affect them. I tell parents to explain to their teenagers that they can eat/drink what they choose when they are out of the house, but to be respectful and not bring unhealthy items home. It also makes it far more difficult for an adult to lose weight when their children complain or refuse to eat the meals they prepare. It is important for parents to explain why they are making healthy dietary/lifestyle changes and to try to enroll them.
It is very challenging to stay on track when the people closest to us are not supportive.
My Bariatric Life recommends The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness list of organizations if you need help to address your emotional ties to eating.
If you like this article, be sure to read the entire interview with bariatric dietician Lori Rosenthal, “How to Keep the Weight Off for Life.”
- Part 1, Lifelong Eating after Bariatric Surgery
- Part 2, Comfort Eating after Bariatric Surgery
- Part 3, Two Things that Will Ruin Your Weight Loss
Living larger than ever,
My Bariatric Life