A Lifetime of Habits

*This article is written with the gastric bypass patient in mind.  After weight loss surgery, individuals receive new instructions or “rules” when it comes to eating patterns and nutrition.

Each of us have spent a lifetime learning about food, more specifically, how and what to eat and drink.  These are not taught intentionally, but more of a “learn by observance” method.  Here are just a few of them, which are now behaviors that we as weight loss surgery patients must change:

  • A meal consists of 1 meat, 2 or 3 vegetables, bread and dessert
  • You should clean your plate
  • Drinking with meals is an acceptable practice
  • It does not matter at what speed you eat a meal

When I was growing up, mother served meat as our main entree along with two, sometimes three vegetables.  It was not out of the ordinary to have two starches during the same meal.  Bread stayed on the table just in case someone wanted a sandwich, bread with butter, or to slop up their gravy.   Today we know more about nutrition, and this is an unacceptable meal in our home!

My mother was not a terrible caregiver; she did not understand the importance of balanced meals.  She also continued in the way which her mother taught her.  There were also four children in our family, and we were by no means wealthy.  It is my opinion that in order to make up for the luxuries she could not provide to us, she tried to show her love with food.  (Even today, she uses food as a means to show how much she loves us).  Quite simply, she got by with what she could afford.

Recently, my friend, Scott blogged about the “Clean Your Plate Club” which has been introduced into our school system.  I’m certain that a well meaning person(s) created this group as a means of ensuring children receive 3 balanced meals per day.  However, it has turned out to be the source of another problem on the homefront of America:  Obesity.  In my childhood, we believed the Clean Your Plate theory and heard the words, “There are starving children in Ethiopia, now eat all your dinner.”  I always wondered why we could not just box it up and send it over to them!  As a result of years spent cleaning my plate, I took in too many calories.  This also does not allow a child to learn the signals of their body as to when they are full.  Instead, their parents’ instructions to “clean the plate” override the feeling of satiety, causing overeating tendencies.

There is a religious saying, “Train up a child… and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  Did you know that the years of learned behavior and training are difficult to change?  Lessons from childhood remain with us; we must combat those mentalities which are not conducive to our good health, and create new ones.  Here are just a few of our new methods:

  • Take small bites, and chew well (it allows us to listen to our bodies saying, “I’m full” and also helps our food digest properly and adequately through our newly rerouted pouches)
  • Eat smaller portions (use a child’s plate or saucer if necessary so that you are not tempted to overdo your plate.  Measure food if you cannot listen to your body signals telling you that it’s full)
  • Cut out grazing/snacking unless it is planned for your nutritional day
  • Eat only when hungry, planned or necessary for nutrition
  • Give yourself permission to throw food in the trash (it’s better to let it go to waste than to cause yourself to become overweight and unhealthy again)
  • Don’t drink with meals and allow 30 minutes to pass after your last bite (this allows your food to stay in your pouch, causing satiety.  Drinking flushes out your food and causes you to be hungry, and can also cause low blood sugar episodes)
  • A meal does NOT have to consist of meat, 3 vegggies, dessert.  As a wls patient, it is imperative that you follow the PROTEIN FIRST, moderate carbs second rule.  Protein is to be your main focus.

There are times I still remind myself NOT to grab a drink while eating.  Just the other evening, we met a couple of friends for dinner.  I allow the server to bring a glass of water just to avoid a confrontation or long reason as to why I do not want something to drink.  As we were eating and chatting, I inadvertently picked up the glass to take a sip.  Even after 2 1/2 yrs, sometimes its easy to fall back into the learned behaviors from the past.  It takes a conscious effort to break these habits.

What about you?  What learned behaviors or ideals do you find yourself struggling to break?

Until next time,

Melinda Richardson

Visit my website:  www.RecoveringFatty.com

2 Responses for A Lifetime of Habits

  1. Melanie


    May 9, 2009 1:01 am

    Melinda, You wrote above that protein should come first. I am trying to be a vegetarian, but am finding it difficult. Do you have any ideas for protein being the center of a meal and using something besides meat? I would love to see a blog on that. I agree with you that they way kids are eating is all wrong these days too. My parents almost never served dessert with dinner. There was always meat and usually 2 side dishes, but that was it. I always thought it was good to drink water with a meal to help you feel fuller? That was wrong? Also, I’ve noticed most people who have gastric bypass surgery almost always end up gaining back the weight they lost. Is that because they go back to their old eating habits and eat more?

  2. May 9, 2009 9:04 am

    Melanie, the suggestions that I would provide would depend on one major piece of information. Are you a weight loss surgery patient (lapband, Rny, DS, VSG, ERNY, other)? I am not versed in the vegetarian lifestyle, but I do have several friends who live a successful postop life as vegetarians (and they average 100 g of protein per day). I know it is possible, and can gather some data for you, but need to know if you are a wls patient. The info will vary greatly than if you are not a wls patient.

    Regarding the water with meals… It is a very foreign concept to NOT drink with food. But typically, the idea of a person filling up on liquids so that they eat less is called “water loading”. But, the timing of this is of utmost importance. Drinking fluids should take place prior to eating a meal. This allows the fluid to work through through the stomach into the intestines where it lies until processed completely. Eating will continue filling the stomach, rest of intestines. The pressure from the liquids against the food and vice versa will cause one to feel full. If done in the opposite order, the pressure from the water pushes the food out faster than if it were just allowed to sit and work through on its own timing. *Some may think it does not make a difference because there could be the thought that all the food/liquids mix together and makes mush, but that isn’t how it works. Whatever substances are entered (working from the esophagus to the stomach) last cause pressure that pushes out the remaining food/liquid out of the body.

    You are correct in that weight loss surgery patients can gain weight back. This is why its so important to make lifestyle changes, and view food differently. One must make healthy choices, and as I have found, it is a daily choice. Those who gain weight back usually (a) never made the necessary changes or (b) returned to their former eating habits. And, it is so vital that patients maintain a support system. Hope this helps…