Two weeks before my surgery date, I finally realized how prominent a role food played in my life. Prior to surgery most doctors put patients on a liquid diet designed to shrink the liver, so that the surgeon has more room to move his instruments around in the belly. During that week, every time I thought to invite someone to meet me at a restaurant, I was hit with the reality that all I could have was protein shakes, broth, Jell-O and popsicles. I found out food was my whole social life, and that it had been that way since before I was an adult! Among my high school and college friends the question, "What do you want to do?" was always followed up by someone saying, "I could eat!"
When I began the liver shrinking diet I was producing the 6 a.m. hour of Good Morning Maryland so, at least once a week, I would meet my mom for breakfast after I left the station. On Fridays, when I didn't need to be at work the following night, I'd meet my dad or my husband for lunch. Saturdays it was dinner with friends, Sundays I did family dinner at my father-in-law's. Food was also the one thing my husband and I planned to do together every day. We'd fit in a meal (his dinner, my breakfast) during the hour or so between when he came home from work, and when I left for the station.
My insurance company, and my surgeon, required I attend several months of classes to prepare for the drastic changes that would come with weight loss surgery. During those classes they warn you that your relationship with food will change, and mine sure did. Food is no longer the reason I go out and see people. It's not longer something I look forward to. Now, food is merely fuel for my body.
There are three diet stages patients go through following the weight loss surgery I had; they're similar to those a newborn goes through as they work their way up to solid foods. At six months out, I consume about 800 calories a day. The most important thing is to make sure I eat enough protein and drink enough fluids. For breakfast I have a cup of iced coffee with protein powder mixed in (there's a whole bariatric supplement universe online and I was able to find a flavorless protein powder I put in most of my drinks). I pack two hard boiled eggs and two string cheese for work. Sometimes I bring cucumber wedges and Greek yogurt too, though I rarely get around to eating those (I'm still at the point here my eyes are bigger than my stomach, and the amount of food I throw away is embarrassing). Dinner is about 3 ounces of chicken or fish with a bite or two of a vegetable and maybe a bite of a starch. I usually end the day with sugar-free fudgsicle or a glass of sugar-free chocolate skim milk.
I avoid fruit; all that sugar will just make me feel sick. I also avoid bread; it's too filling and feels like a weight sitting in my pouch. Prior to surgery fruit and bread were two of my favorite things. Now, I don't have much interest in them at all.
For hydration, I'm a huge fan of sugar-free popsicles, Crystal Light, and sugar-free half tea half lemonade (with that flavorless protein powder, of course). I weaned myself off diet soda during the liver shrinking diet and won't go back to it because the carbonation could stretch out my pouch, which would then allow me to eat more.
With this blog I'm posting a picture of one of my dinners from last week next to my husband's from the same night. I was able to eat all the chicken and spinach and 3 noodles before I felt like I'd eaten Thanksgiving dinner! As is the norm, he was willing to eat whatever I left over!