I was lucky enough to marry a man who cherishes the same summer tradition I grew up with: an annual beach vacation with the extended family. Every August my husband and I join the Johnson clan on North Carolina's Outer Banks for a week playing in the ocean, napping in hammocks, and putting together jigsaw puzzles. And, just as when I was a kid, nightfall in Nags Head often comes with a family trip to the ice cream shop. That's the occasion when, for the first time, I regretted my decision to have gastric bypass surgery. It didn't last long, but it was real regret.
A few days into our trip I found myself walking up to the Scoops Ice Cream shop with my husband, our niece, and her friend. The small, family-owned joint sells the best ice cream I've ever had (and I had a BMI of 45, so I've eaten my fair share of ice cream). They make the stuff from scratch, and I promise you, it's what the angels eat in heaven. As we walked up the stairs toward the door the sweet scent of fresh waffle cones hit me, I noticed the line spilled out onto the porch, and I prepared myself for a long, torturous wait.
As we inched closer to the coolers I tried not to look at the flavors inside, I avoided reading the overhead menu, and I tried not to pay attention as my niece and her friend debated the finer points of Double Chocolate verses Death by Chocolate. I entertained the idea of getting a kids' cup of Cookies-n-Cream, but knew more than a bite would give me Dumping Syndrome; for hours, if not a full day, I'd feel as sick as if I had the flu.
The weight loss surgery I opted for involves taking the duodenum, the first part of the intestine, out of the active digestive tract. The duodenum is the part of your body responsible for absorbing fat, sugar and carbohydrates. If I eat any of those things, the food dumps, unprocessed, into the second part of my intestine. In about 20 minutes my heart races, I start sweating and get nauseous and dizzy.
Even the best ice cream in the world isn't worth feeling that bad. I grabbed a bottle of water to keep my mouth busy while everyone else was noshing and, to satisfy my sweet tooth, I sucked on a couple pieces of salt water taffy (I did the research while standing in that long line: each piece of taffy is about 4 grams of sugar. I can have two and still stay under the 9 grams of sugar I'm allowed in one sitting).
Sure, I could have walked into another shop and browsed for jewelry or souvenirs, instead of subjecting myself to temptation. However, I went into Scoops because I wanted to prove to myself I could do it, that I was stronger than the cravings I gave into in the past, and capable of following the rules weight loss surgery demands of me.
Later in the week, my sister-in-law asked me if the Pinterest memes are true: "Nothing taste better than skinny feels." I thought back to those minutes in the ice cream shop and confidently said, "Yeah. Totally true," because, no matter how badly I was craving ice cream -- nothing beats walking out of that shop half the person I was the year before. Even better than that: for the first time in my life, I was walking around the beach in a bathing suit feeling confident about how I looked.
Even though I can't have traditional ice cream, I did some research with my nutritionist and found a product that's close enough to ice cream to satisfy the cravings. It's called Arctic Zone. It's a lactose-free, GMO-free, gluten-free, fat-free miracle the label bills as a "fit frozen dessert." Granted, it'll never be as rich tasting as the real thing, but having "chunks of cookie dough and chocolate chips in vanilla flavor" is better than having no frozen treat at all!