I thrive on routine and familiarity. It goes back to my childhood. My mother is fond of telling people I was "a schedule baby." Now that I'm an adult, I still rely heavily on routine. I get anxious when I have to break from the norm, and it's a trait that's become even more pronounced in the months since I had weight loss surgery.
Anyone who tries to 'eat right' knows it takes planning and preparation. Greasy, fast food is so accessible that if you don't make the healthy stuff easy to get ahold of, you're going to opt for the bad stuff. In the nine-and-a-half months since having gastric bypass surgery, I've carefully crafted a new, protein-based food routine, and I don't stray from it.
Through trial and error, I've pulled together a small collection of foods that works best with my new digestive tract. I keep lists on my phone and check the fridge and the pantry daily to make sure I'm never without the foods that make me feel good and give me energy. Hard-boiled eggs, deviled eggs, cheese sticks, and this amazing little concoction called "cloud bread" are always in the fridge. Sugar-free lemonade mix and nuts are always in the pantry.
But this past month I had to break from my food routine for the first time since surgery. I flew to Michigan to join my husband and my father-in-law for a few days of fishing (but very little catching) and relaxation on Lake Huron. For the first time since surgery I was venturing out into the world without my food safety nets; I couldn't take my deviled eggs and cheese sticks through airport security. I'd have to make do with what I found along the way.
The first stop was concourse D at BWI. Thankfully I found a Starbucks - their Protein Bistro Box comes with cheese, a hard boiled egg and peanut butter -- excellent protein options. After I ate my cheese and egg I was full, but I had an hour and a half until my plane took off, so I looked around for something to do. All I saw were restaurants.
That's when it hit me: I wasn't going to be able to distract myself with food. I hate flying and realized that, on past trips, I'd busy myself with eating to avoid thinking about the flight and the likelihood it would crash and I would die. While waiting to board the plane I'd get an Auntie Anne's pretzel (with cheddar cheese), treat myself to a chocolate milk shake, and down a slice of pizza.
I'd also be sure to grab a fountain soda, giant cookie (hopefully with icing on it) and French fries to nosh on while waiting in my seat for take-off. But post-surgery, the idea of any of those foods turns my stomach. I'd have to find something else to do. I opted to trade gluttony for narcissism and began working on snapping a look-at-how-pensive-I-am-watching-planes-take-off selfie.
On the plane they offered us trail mix. I didn't want to risk getting sick from the sugar in the chocolate, so I picked out the peanuts and offered the rest to the 10-year-old sitting next to me. He gladly accepted them.
The next challenge came when I stepped off the plane in Detroit into a hallway filled with pizza, burgers and candy -- all things that, following surgery, make me sick if I eat them. I managed to find a deli and considered the egg salad. Eggs are my favorite post-surgery food, loaded with energy-providing protein; but I suspected it was made with regular mayonnaise, and I didn't want to risk getting sick from all that fat. I opted for a pre-made turkey and Swiss wrap.
Gastric bypass patients are supposed to avoid lunch meat, but I got lucky - this wrap was made with real turkey! I wasn't in the clear though: the wrap was slathered in honey mustard. There was no way of knowing what the sauce was made with, but chances were good it was loaded with fat or sugar, so I snagged a bunch of napkins, unwrapped the wrap, wiped off all the honey mustard and put it back together as best I could. I was able to eat about a quarter of it before feeling like I'd just finished Thanksgiving dinner. In hindsight, I should have just eaten the meat, cheese and lettuce because the carby wrap took up too much space in my small stomach.
Eventually, I arrived at the tiny airport in Alpena with a big question swirling around in my head: How do other people fill the void when they loose the ability to fall back on their go-to crutch?