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Got Your Guard Up for Holiday Season?


Like pretty much everything else in your life, the holidays are a whole new ballgame after weight loss surgery. Your weight loss surgery diet is strict. It doesn’t include fatty foods and sugary desserts. Going off your weight loss surgery diet can stall weight loss and also cause complications. You could be prone to dumping syndrome if you have the gastric sleeve or gastric bypass, and lap-banders can face obstructions and acid reflux with the wrong foods or too much.

If you let your guard down for the rest of November and December, you can find yourself slipping off of your diet and feeling pretty unhealthy. But by keeping your eyes open and planning ahead, you can keep yourself on track and get through the holiday season feeling proud of yourself.

Watch Carefully to Avoid Extra Calories

Calories show up everywhere at this time of year. Sometimes they don’t even seem that bad, but they add up quickly. Have a bite here and a handful there without paying much attention, and you might be disappointed when you weigh in on New Year’s Day. Don’t let calories slip into your diet.

  • First, be aware of the extra calories that are around. They can include any of the following.
  • Lunch or dinner out when a friend or family member comes to town.
  • Chocolate truffles on the secretary’s desk or the break room at work.
  • Cookies from well-meaning friends and family who want you to taste-test their creations.
  • Sweetened, pumpkin-spice coffee instead of calorie-free regular coffee.
  • Food court fare when you’re holiday shopping at the mall.
  • Holiday parties, potlucks, and dinners.

Stick to Your Good WLS Habits

The first line of defense is to stick to your regular good everyday weight loss surgery habits. Log every bite of food you take to keep from getting in hundreds of extra calories from sneaking in a taste here and there. Even if you have to estimate the calories in some of your food, especially if you eat out or at a party, you can keep more discipline if you log your food.

Also, think about your other healthy habits. Keep drinking water between meals. And, protein is still all-important. Make sure you have some at each meal and snack. Focusing on finding lean protein can keep you focused when you’re faced with all kinds of other unhealthy choices.

Arm Yourself Against Temptation

If you’re starving and you’re face-to-face with a basket of chocolate-covered pretzels, you might opt for the sugary, high-carb snack. Unless that is, you have your own weapon. Keep some high-protein and low-calorie choices with you at all times so you never need to go for the junk food in desperation. We have many health snack options at the BariatricPal Store! Take them with you to work, or in your car, purse, or pocket. You can have them if you’re stuck in traffic or at the mall at mealtimes.

  • Almonds packed in 1-ounce portions.
  • Beef jerky (not fatty beef sticks).
  • Apples
  • Cheese sticks
  • Roasted soybeans or garbanzo beans
  • Tuna pouch
  • Work around Your Cravings

You don’t need to deprive yourself completely at holiday time. If there’s a particular taste you want, there’s a good chance you can satisfy your craving with a healthier alternative. For example, you can have lean ham and turkey breast instead of brisket and turkey with the skin on it. Roast green beans with onions, rosemary, and balsamic vinegar instead of having green bean casserole, bake sweet potatoes instead of having candied ones, and puree cauliflower or carrot instead of making mashed potatoes.

Use the same strategy for desserts. Go for sugar-free cocoa mix instead of chocolate fudge when you’re craving chocolate. Munch on plain popcorn while your friends are passing around the caramel corn. For breakfast, make high-protein oatmeal pumpkin pancakes instead of regular pumpkin pancakes.

Plan for a Few Treats

Almost everyone has a few holiday treats that are irresistible. There may be some family recipe that you’ve had at every Christmas for as long as you can remember, or maybe a coworker brings in her cinnamon rolls made from a secret recipe. Whatever it is, you feel as though the holidays are incomplete without it.

There’s no reason not to plan for one or two key treats. Just be sure you plan for them and stick to a single serving. Savor it, and concentrate on the flavors and on the memories and feelings it brings up. Then get right back on your regular diet.

There are a couple of reasons why some weight loss surgery patients might be better off skipping even the occasional special holiday treat. First, don’t start if you’re not sure you can stop. If you’re not confident that you can stick to a single serving, it’s best not to start eating.

Second, some weight loss surgery patients can’t tolerate all kinds of junk food. Fried and doughy foods are risky for lap-band patients, since they can obstruct the band. Gastric bypass and vertical sleeve gastrectomy patients are at risk for dumping syndrome from eating too much sugar or fat at once. And, no weight loss surgery patient should eat too much, since that can stretch the pouch or sleeve.

The holiday season is a happy time, but it’s a struggle if you’re trying to lose weight and get healthy. You can prevent it from sneaking up on you and interfering with your weight loss by staying alert and having a plan.



Amazingly, I have no fear or anxiety about Thanksgiving this year. Last year preparing for surgery, the thought of not binging on Thanksgivings after surgery gave me such sadness. This year I am banded and in my green zone. I'm looking forward to all the special foods I make only at holidays, and I know I'll have small portions and stop when I am no longer hungry. Good article. I will definitely have a plan, and some changes I am making include more healthful choices at the table. But the gift of my band is that I will truly be able to enjoy the meal without overdoing it. Thankful? You bet!

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I was basically going to write what JustWatchMe wrote. I've been at this nearly two years and I love to shop because clothes look good on me again, and I can walk with very little pain. I don't fear having to walk anymore. That's vital when you live in NYC which is a walking town. Holidays?? Puhleeze....I'm looking forward to them same as I always did but even moreso now because I'm healthier and happier than I've been in terms of my weight than I've been for years. If that means walking away from more than a spoonful or two of a favorite food, so be it.

As my signature says, 'Nothing tastes as good as normal feels'.

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I have no fear of Holiday folly :) I will be making all the food, so I know what's going in there and what's not!! I never have time to cook, and coming from a large Italian family I know how to cook for large volumes of people :) Ken and I have that pretty much on lock his Grandfather was the cook in the Navy!

We will be having a small intimate affair this year with our 5 son's well the amount of them that actually show up for dinner :) and our animals!! It's always a 5 course meal in my house and as I posted in another post I get full just on the aroma filling up the house.

We do a lot of work for the holiday, to transform the space to accommodate a large group of people sitting at the dining table. So everyone gets their exercise in!!

Ken and I when all is said and done and we actually sit down to eat will enjoy a small plate of food with the kids, and we try to have something through out the day and not in one big stuffathon :)

Then we will take the pups for a nice walk around the lake and come back for some dessert and coffee and maybe some table games....if anyone sticks around long enough :) You know kids in their 20's they got things to do people to see and places to go. Me I'm going to just enjoy being HOME and having a house full love awesome smells and lots of LOVE!!!

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Thanks - this is a great article. And I'm happy to see that it aligns with my plan as well. I was just PMing with a friend from this site and saying that I do plan to indulge in a few things over the holidays, but will work to resist going into that zone of "oh what the heck - it's the holidays!" It's about control, but a few extra allowances just so you don't feel like you're missing out.

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heck no

i am looking forward to the holidays

i am gonna eat some of this and some of that

and drink me some wine...and enjoy being w/my hubby

3500 calories is a pound ate or drank whether its Christmas or July 4th

if we eat more calories than we burn off, we will gain..holiday or not..

so if we over do it calorie wise, get right back on it

one heavy meal wont make us gain 20 pounds....

enjoy it....i know i am

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I plan to eat Protein and drink Water. Like I do every other day. Thanksgiving or any special holiday is just a day. My health, well that's every day for the rest of my life.

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It's a party every day in our society so the holiday time is really no different. I am not on a diet now so there's no going off whatever diet and overdoing because I know I'll have to go back into a super restrictive mode -- that mentality did not serve me well.

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Guard up! No way...this is my favorite time of year...can't wait.

The band has given me a new lifestyle...I eat very little as compared to my old self, and what I do eat I make the best choices I can.

So for the holidays, all those office parties, family get togethers, my choices will be a little different than a regular day.

And the band will still be the band which means no matter what, I will not be over eating, just making different food choices.

Not to mention, there are foods I will never eat...so that leaves out Cookies, cakes, pastries, etc....everything flour based.

Then I'll do what most people do...head to the gym and run it of!!!

And since I'll have some extra days off, that means extra time at the gym....

Thank heaven for the Lap band!!! It saves me from my old self!

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I'm 10 days post op and have been doing shredded Proteins and cooked veggies for a few days now. I plan to enjoy a spoonful or two of some holiday favorites, but mostly I'll do turkey and veggies. I'm not going to say that I will never eat anything I enjoy again, but I see it much differently now.

I went to lunch after church with my family and a couple of friends and after the meal my daughters and my husband ordered a gigantic piece of cheesecake. I sincerely had no desire to eat it because the grilled fish I had completely satisfied me. I skipped the bread too…which honestly was harder than skipping the cheesecake. In the future, I may indulge in a bite or two of a favorite dessert….perhaps on a holiday, but I don't plan on getting out of control. I'm trying to get rid of type 2 diabetes, which means I can only have certain things in moderation for the rest of my life…and I'm okay with that. My desire is to have a healthy balance.

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@Alex Brecher Great article. I totally get where you are coming from and agree 1000%. Being almost 9 months out, I can now eat a significant quantity of food. So much so, that QUALITY of food and calories/macros consumed DO make a difference in whether or not I lose, stall, or even gain. And it's all cumulative, with Halloween and Thanksgiving leading the way to holiday parties, socializing with friends and family, the actual "feast days" themselves and just generally living life. Each bite that we "write off" as insignificant, impacts our daily total.

I wish I wasn't one of those people who were sensitive to extra cals/carbs, etc. I wish I didn't have snacking triggers. Heck, I wish I didn't ALWAYS want to party, over saying, "Nah...we're just gonna stay in tonight and eat a salad." LOL.

I will always maintain that this isn't magic bean surgery. Nothing "magically" happened after my RNY. It's all been very purposeful methodical dietary principals combined with exercise and moving more! It's been the easiest and yet the HARDEST thing I've ever done. And the RNY didn't "magically" take away my need to put effort, responsibility, and making good choices into the equation for success.

I think because I DO plan and I plan for holidays so that I come back either the same, or a couple of Water pounds up that are taken care of immediately when I get home, I've been able to reach my first goal in about 8.5months. I've exceeded my RD's and surgeon's WL goals and am already well on my way to achieving my 2nd goal--which I will hope to happen before Christmas!

Thanks for the reminder to have a good action plan in place and the tips on making good substitutions and choices!! Mazels!

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