I have gained 12 pounds in the past 2 months. On purpose! I know, it sounds absolutely crazy, but after I dropped twenty pounds when I got sick in April, my team of doctors seemed really focused on getting some of that weight back on me pretty quickly— even if I had to break some bariatric lifetime rules to do it. At first, it was really hard to reverse the weight loss to become a weight gain… then it became MUCH easier… and now it is beginning to become difficult to stop the gain and simply maintain. I am learning a LOT about weight loss, weight gain, and lifetime maintenance here and I thought I would share it.
In general, my weight loss after gastric bypass has been almost effortless. I lost quickly and steadily, reaching my original weight loss goal (150lbs) at 7 months post op and continuing on to level out at a comfie 128-132lbs in a few more months. I maintained that 130ish pounds for about a year with very little effort.
Or at least I THOUGHT it was very little effort. I am a very sensitive dumper, so I have to limit my carbs and sugar dramatically or pay dearly with hours of pain and misery. Therefore, my diet is quite protein focused with almost ZERO simple sugars and very limited carbs, almost always in the form of COMPLEX carbs made from slow digesting whole grains. THIS combo seems to be ideal for making my weight loss seem easy as… well, pie;)
I’m sure many of you have seen me urge newbies to really work hard to replace old behaviors and food preferences with new, healthy ones. I did that! And apparently, it worked like a charm. I had no idea HOW well it worked, until now. For almost 2 years, I felt almost no appetite and almost no cravings for “off limits” foods. Sure, I had cravings… for broccoli or cucumbers. Isn’t that hysterical?! And, I NEVER stuffed myself so full that I thought I would vomit. As a matter of fact, there were only a small handful of times that I even felt restriction because I was always satisfied with a small amount of dense protein followed by a couple of bites of veggies and one or two bites of a whole grain carb. I ate by the clock, choosing healthy and satisfying foods that I really enjoyed… but not TOO much. AND, I had not allowed “forbidden” foods like fast food burgers, pizza, and fried foods to pass my lips since surgery. It was simply a matter of daily life choices. If the family ordered pizza, I made something separate for myself. If they went to a burger joint for dinner, I had a salad with grilled chicken or simply ate afterwards. I never felt left out because I no longer craved the taste of the junk food and I enjoyed meals with my family for different reasons– to spend TIME with my family, not to savor a plate full of salty fries.
Enter operation weight gain—
The docs still aren’t quite sure what is wrong with me, but they have been very adamant that I needed to at least stop my weight loss quickly and even get some of those pounds back on. While I was sitting in my bariatric surgeon’s office and he recommended that I try to down some greasy fast food to pack on some of those missing pounds, I was utterly repulsed. Just the idea of eating some of those old fast food standby’s made my tummy do flip flops and made my mouth feel like I had just tasted a spoonful of Crisco. But, I am a good patient so I told him I’d give it the ole college try 😉 My docs also prescribed some medications to help keep me from experiencing dumping syndrome as easily and encouraged me to go forth and eat. As you can imagine, a dangerous thing for a girl like me 😉
My first try was a bacon double cheeseburger from BK. It was a real favorite of mine pre-op. Mmmmm… As I accepted the bag through the drive in window, I breathed in deeply to inhale the familiar scent of my old friend. It smelled just like I remembered… heavenly. As I proceeded through the drive thru, I moved the bun down to reveal the cheesy beef patties and bacon and took a bite before I even made it to the main road—I had been waiting for this for TWO years!
Interestingly, even after not using food as an emotional release for two years, I could feel my body anticipating that emotional stress-relieving sigh that comes with the first bite of a juicy fast food burger (you know what I mean;)) However, my mouth did not agree. BLECH! After only one chew, I spit the burger out into the bag and bunched it all up tightly to sufficiently squish the burger beyond a second attempt, and threw it into the passenger’s seat as far from me as it could get. It tasted horrific! Like I would imagine canned dog food to taste! BLECH! So much for the burger.
My next try was chicken tenders… fried chicken tenders from Jack in the Box. I used to eat four on my way to work every morning— when I was on the Atkins diet, LOL. These actually went much better. I have had no trouble with fat content after bypass and actually include plenty of healthy fats in my diet since they slow digestion, keeping me fuller and helping to prevent dumping. Despite my tolerance of fats, I had eliminated all fried foods from my diet post op because fried foods are simply not healthy foods to have in my diet. And I haven’t even missed them.
Well, the chicken tenders went over quite well. I could eat 1 ¾ tenders in a sitting without feeling sick (the dog was quite happy with the 1/4 she got, too) so that became my staple. Liquid protein drinks, nuts, cheese, and chicken tenders became my diet for a few weeks. And, let me tell you, those tenders can pack on some weight. I understand that my body probably wanted to gain some weight back so it was hoarding calories like crazy, BUT it did not actually GAIN any weight until those fast food tenders entered the picture. I know I was eating far below a thousand calories a day and somehow gaining weight as soon as I added the fast food to my diet— Calories in, calories out? NOT A CHANCE! But that is a rant for another day;).
AND, once I got a taste for the fried tenders, I got a craving for fried chicken, fried calamari, buffalo chicken strips, fried shrimp, fried mozzarella cheese sticks… Thank God I stopped at the buffalo strips, I think the cheese sticks would have sent me over the edge! Anyway, it was while I was incorporating fried foods (temporarily) back into my diet that I had my first “post-bypass diet epiphany”— I really LIKE fried foods. As a matter of fact, I like them sooo much that I eat MORE than my pouch can comfortably hold. At least an ounce more than my pouch is used to having when I eat my “normal” diet. Each and every time I eat fried foods, I shovel it in until I am debating whether to risk vomiting for just one more delicious bite… and I have NEVER vomited from overeating, I’m NOT happy to be flirting with that behavior at 2 years post op. My take on it is that I never overate because, while I really do like most foods I eat, they don’t trigger that JOY or FULFILLMENT or, I will say it: ADDICTION, that I used to associate with food pre-op.
This has really supported my idea that it is CRUCIAL to develop a new relationship with food during the first several months post-op, when it is easiest. It is imperative that we nurture new taste preferences during the “honeymoon” period, too. I remember introducing healthy foods for the first time after my surgery, just like you do for a baby. And being OPEN to new flavors. Before bypass, I LOVED pizza, spaghetti, all kinds of sweets and pastries, and of course, fast food burgers and fries. Now, my tastes have changed. I really enjoy lean meats and all sorts of veggies (especially Asian style), sweets are OFF THE LIST FOREVER (thanks to my sugar sensitivities) and even fruits are often too sweet to eat with abandon. I get excited by a good Greek salad while everyone else is munching on baklava, lol.
Unfortunately, now that I have RE-introduced some of my old favorites back into my diet, I can see it is going to take some effort to keep them under control. For me, that means I am going to have to eliminate them altogether. Now that I want to slow (or even stop) my weight gain, I have tried to incorporate a little fried chicken or calamari into my diet when I go out to eat or for lunch a couple of days a week. It sounds like it should be easy, right? And why not have it every now and then since I certainly have the cushion in my daily calorie intake AND in my current weight? Well, I will tell you why not. Because fried foods give me a different “feeling.” They feed something in my soul, not in my body. And THAT isn’t something I want to get comfortable with. If I want to feed my soul, I will read a good book, take a hot bath, talk to a girlfriend, snuggle with my family, or write in my blog;) If I want to feed my body, I will give it lean protein, healthy complex carbs, and plenty of fluids— all with the best nutritional bang for the buck.
It is amazing how quickly and innocently our post op diets can get off track. I can’t imagine how much easier it would be to go astray if I hadn’t developed such a solid post-op eating program. And don’t think greasy fried foods are my only food vice at the moment. I have experienced plenty more “learning opportunities” during my short quest for weight gain that I will share with you soon. I am just grateful I have a few dependable safety nets to keep me from going down the road of WLS sabotage: 1) I DID work hard to create a new, healthy relationship with food and healthier food preferences. 2) My family is loving and supportive at ALL stages of my WLS journey so they lovingly agree to help me walk the straight and narrow. 3) I am not blind to the pitfalls that can occur after WLS and recognized my trouble spots while I STILL have wiggle room and 4) I have so much support from you guys who really get it.