I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve had to relive a certain conversation over and over again since my surgery. It all starts out the same:
Friend: Hey, life has been stressful, just have a few glasses of wine.
Me: I’d love to, but I can’t drink.
Friend: Oh yeah, I forgot.
Or how about this classic conversation:
Waitress: Is there something wrong with your salad?
Me: No, it’s fine. Thank you.
Waitress leaves; only to come back less than five minutes later. “Are you sure I can’t bring you something else? You haven’t touched your salad.”
Me: Oh, no thank you, I wait to eat my salad until I’ve had my protein. Waitress leaves with a funny look on her face.
There’s even this classic family scenario that happens at least twice a week in our house.
Oldest child: Hey mom- have a bite of this; it’s auh-maazzzinggg!
Me: Thanks, but no th…
Son, who is 8: Paaaiggaaahhhh! That has sugar in it; you know mom can’t eat that!
Oldest child: Sorry, mom. I forgot!
Gastric bypass, the one thing I’m not allowed to forget. Not for a day, an hour, a minute or a single second. If I do forget, I increase the chances of either slipping into old habits or eating something that will wreck havoc on my system. No matter who the conversation is with or how it comes about; the outcome is always the same.
I wish I had the right answer to alleviate this scenario entirely or the universal answer that would make all gastric bypass patients’ lives easier. I don’t have one. I can only tell you how I handle it and what happens when I do.
How I handle ‘the conversation’
I don’t think there’s a universal acceptance to handling this conversation. Most people have zero concept of what a gastric bypass patient goes through on a daily basis. Many don’t understand how we religiously read food labels, avoid carbonation, panic and fret when it’s time for parties or family get togethers. Mistakes happen when our minds are not truly focused and when mistakes happen, we generally wind up sick.
So to anyone who thinks this is the “Easy way out” so to speak against those extra pounds; think again! Once we undergo this process, our lives are changed. We live it every single day. We don’t forget. We can’t forget.
Here are some tricks and truths I’ve learned that have helped me in this scenario. I hope they help you as well! If you have any others- please feel free to share!
- Be honest; don’t hide! Whether it’s a waitress doing her job or a friend who innocently slipped about your habits, don’t be embarrassed. You made a choice to change for the better. With that choice, comes a new set of rules to play ball. I’ve found a smile and a quick explanation goes a long way and most people won’t push the issue. Last week, after going through the drive-thru at Sonic for an ice coffee, the employee tried handing me a straw. Up until the last month or so, I just grabbed the straw and headed home, only to add it to a growing collection of fast food straws in our kitchen drawer. Since our drawer is filling up, I just smiled at the guy and said, “You can keep that; I can’t use straws.” He totally amazed me by telling me something I didn’t expect. He said, “Omg, you are the third person to tell me that today!” I smiled and told him it wasn’t an environmental stand or anything like that; I had gastric bypass and couldn’t use them so they might as well keep them. He nodded and that was it. I wasn’t ashamed. I wasn’t embarrassed and he felt like he was let in on a big secret. A total win/win. Every other person I’ve come across takes it the same way.
- Like you, it might take your friends and family time to get used to the new “norm”. When I worked in the radio industry, I was always front and center at various events. That usually meant using “liquid courage” to do my job. That habit kind of bled into family functions and parties with friends until drinking and socializing came hand in hand. Last summer, my niece got married and it was the first big social function I had attended post-bypass. I was a wreck. How on Earth was I going to make it through a wedding reception while only drinking water and Crystal Light mix?! I stopped, took a breath and realized something. You see, I have two truly amazing nieces who have shown me over the years to embrace your personality and have fun; no matter what. That’s what I did. I danced like no one was watching. I talked to everyone I could. I smiled the entire time AND I had fun; without alcohol. Gastric bypass diet for the win!! I did have a few friends offer me a beverage or two and I just politely declined and moved on. I understood they didn’t mean anything by it and I didn’t dwell on it.
- When it’s pushed on you; just walk away. I have had some friends tell me that “so and so” had a gastric bypass and they “drink, eat junk, don’t workout,” etc. etc. Well, good for them. I usually say that. That’s right, I shrug my shoulders and say, “My doctor doesn’t want me to do that” or even simpler: “I don’t want it.” You see, those people who have slipped and are doing “such and such,” you can see that they have gained weight. It might not be as drastic as it was prior to their surgery; but it is noticeable. I’m not going there!
- Don’t hide it from your kiddos. I do believe that children shouldn’t be brought into adult issues. Sometimes, obesity and failing health falls into that category. When I approached the topic with my children, it wasn’t on an adult level. I informed them from my surgery date on, there were things I had to do to stay healthy and every time they offer me things like a bite of their snack cake or a piece of candy, I just thank them and tell them I can’t because of the sugar content. My husband and I outlined a list of rules that I needed followed in order to stay healthy. For the most part, my kids follow them religiously and don’t make a fuss about them either. Those rules included:
- No eating in the living room or other family areas in the house. Eating was kept in the kitchen or in their rooms.
- No snacking in the car. This was more of a move to save my car and not necessarily me.
- No ice cream in the house at any time. Ice cream is my down fall, period. However, I’ve lightened up on this rule since I found a protein ice cream that makes me feel like I have something to enjoy.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions and read food labels in public! When in doubt; trust your gut. About three months after my surgery, I attended a class trip to an amusement park with my oldest daughter’s class. It was a crazy day. I was actually able to ride roller coasters again! Throughout the day, I got really sick of water and wanted something different. We found a stand that offered smoothies made from “fresh fruit”. I asked the employee how much sugar was in a serving because I had special dietary restrictions. She came back and told me it was fruit and there wasn’t any sugar in it. (I knew there had to be some because fruit has sugar in it.) Against my better judgement, I ordered one. I took a small sip and immediately spit it out in the trash can and washed my mouth out with water and spit that out. It was all sugar! You could feel the grit from the sugar against your lips. That was the first time I learned the lesson that to some people, “dietary restrictions” mean absolutely nothing. Last week, I went to the St. Louis zoo with my middle child’s class. The same thing happened. I asked the workers how much sugar was in a drink and I was told they only use 6 ounces of mix- which didn’t answer my question. I opted not to get one. My child, who ordered a strawberry smoothie, told me it was pretty sweet and I should be thankful that I didn’t order one.
- Focus on the positive! It’s a lot harder to give into peer pressure and cravings when you realize all of the things you can lose if you do! I like to repeat things over and over in my head: size 14 jeans; walking without being out of breath; riding roller coasters; my oldest daughter can now pick me up; etc. It helps!
- You are going to have cravings, in public, and it’s ok! Just don’t give into them. This winter, during a basketball game, my husband had the nerve to get a Cherry Pepsi and drink it next to me. I’m just kidding about the nerve part. He had no idea I had been struggling with wanting a soda that entire day. Guys- I’m not kidding; I smelled his soda. Once I did that, the memories of Pepsi perfection flooded my mind. That delightfully caramel-colored liquid in all of its glory. I wanted to lick the can. I wanted to bathe in Pepsi. I wanted to drink every single one in sight. Instead, I popped a piece of sugar-free gum, sipped on my lemonade-flavored water and waited for the moment to pass. Later on, I found a root-beer flavored water add in that I use when the cravings get too bad. Two years with zero soda and I’m still getting cravings. They won’t go away entirely. That’s ok. I just know I can’t give in.
- A little humor goes a long way! Constantly monitoring what goes into your body and dealing with “well intentioned” people can get a little old. I totally get it. Try to add humor to those situations and they help. I didn’t realize how it could help until one day, my 8-year-old son was in the car and he’s always doing what he calls “impressions” of people. I was having a bad day and we left a place where the service staff had reminded me of my situation. As we were walking my son popped up with: “Hi, I’m mom and if I have too much sugar; I’ll poop my pants.” It was in that moment of laughing so hard that tears were going down my face that I realized having to educate a few people on my life change is a very small price to pay for what I’ve gained post-surgery. I’ve used several things the past few months to get me out of a few, somewhat sticky situations:
- Sorry, I can’t skip my workout. I’m quite the witch when I don’t hit the treadmill.
- Sugar goes through me quicker than a rider on the log flume ride!
- Coconut butter. It’s kind of like a coconut cream pie except it tastes like putty.
- I love how sugar-free gum has no taste and gets really slimy the longer you chew it.
- I’m honoring the cow that gave its life for me to have my steak by making sure it’s the very first thing I eat in this meal. The salad has to wait its turn.
- I avoid alcohol and soda- all the cool kids do!
Finally, the most important thing for me to remember is simple. I am not alone! I have my husband and my kids to help me through it. I have my friends who truly understand me. I have a lot of support. When I’m having a rough day, it’s that support that gets me through this! Just remember- if you’re having a bad day; I’m always here, ready to help!