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Holiday Eating Mindset For Bariatric Patients: Enjoy, not Destroy, Yourself Over the Holidays!

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A few things that may sound familiar and affect many of us during the holiday season are:

  • Family traditions and ethnic backgrounds with food memories that have followed us through life.
  • Trauma, hardships or losses that make holiday cheer tough to enjoy or even tolerate on some levels.
  • Falling back on a diet mindset and thinking it’s ok to eat recreate old habits from October 31-January 2.
  • Awareness of mental and emotional struggles feeling more acute during the holiday season.

For bariatric patients, an immediate fear presents itself: “How can I survive all the parties and family celebrations while embracing my post-surgery food choices so I don’t lose control with holiday eating and drinking this year?” The practical answer: Prepare for it, just as if the surgery was ahead of you. Think and plan for success with the least amount of guilt and destruction possible.

Holiday foods are not “rewards” or “treats” or a reason to fall off the mindful thinking that you use every day. We all have family and cultural traditions of holiday foods, and the meanings behind them; that often follow us into adulthood. The connection is to people, not food itself. Holiday time often intensifies many people’s mental and emotional struggle with life issues. Food can often be an immediate distraction and way to receive immediate gratification in tough times. The trouble is, the stresses and issues remain after the food is consumed. Often, alcohol consumption increases at holiday time as well, so mindset is altered by allowing more uninhibited behavior to prevail. Using good judgment often decreases as well.

So, if we can use the model of being prepared and accountable for ourselves, what would it look like?

  • Think of the season on your terms. Where can you plan and take the lead on making good choices for yourself while still feeling the holiday spirit? Find control where you can make food to bring to others parties or meals. Host at your home to take pressure off of yourself. Be honest and ask to be considered when food is being prepared and served so that you can also taste but be flooded by the excessive choices and behaviors all around us.
  • Find ways to relax and refresh so you are not overwhelmed or drained by the holiday madness. Keep a journal of your thoughts, fears, successes and challenges to remind you of the proud journey you are on now. Use meditative activities to bring a more even and peaceful attitude to the business of the season and the potential for burnout and self-destruction. Give of yourself to others that need to be uplifted.
  • Find a community, group hobby or counselor if the season is troubling of extremely unmanageable. Many times the holiday triggers are too hard to handle alone. Ask for help and know that you are being proactive (helping yourself) instead of reactive (always behind and at the mercy of others decisions and actions).

The key is to stay connected to the resources, the people, places and things that bring successful experiences to us, and avoid harmful or undermining circumstances that reinforce low self-esteem and bad, and often destructive, behaviors. As a bariatric patient, being accountable is helping yourself stay focused on a positive and productive mindset with help provide a fulfilling and peaceful holiday season each and every year. Yes, this is you, enjoying your life during the holidays.

I enjoyed reading this, my surgery is Nov 21st, my 1st family gathering will be Dec 13th, fortunately this group breaks tradition and the whole family brings in all kinds of different Soups, there are bad choices and good choices. I heard someone once say to make all your food choices a "CHOICE" not a cheat, I have already been planning how I am going to handle this day, but I think I will be okay.

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