In our Facebook Support Groups we see posts from all ends of the Post-Op Spectrum. With many coming to join for support before surgery and many coming to us for help to lose a Regain.
One of the most common issues we hear about is late night food cravings and an inability to stay on track. We know why, but the reason escapes a lot of post-ops. The answer is on your plates. This is a Tale of Two Suppers - the Left and the Right.
The supper plate on the LEFT is a meal prepared by a four week post op with the caption "Protein, Protein, Protein". While this person is not wrong, this is a plate of protein. It's also a plate of fat. Let's break down this meal on the left so we know what we're talking about:
- Bacon, 2 slices, cooked: 87 Calories, 6 grams Fat, 6 grams Protein, 0 grams Carbohydrates
- 1 Egg, hard boiled: 72 Calories, 5 grams Fat, 6 grams Protein, 0 grams Carbohydrates
- Cheese stick: 71 Calories, 4 grams Fat, 6 grams Protein, 0 grams Carbs
- Avocado, 2oz: 88 Calories, 8 grams Fat, 1 gram Protein, 2 grams Carbohydrates
- Total: 409 Calories, 28 grams Fat, 28 grams Protein, 4 grams Carbohydrates
- Do most your meals look like this?
- Do you struggle with feeling hungry or "fighting cravings" in the evenings?
- Do you crave "Crunch" on a regular basis?
- Do you have a hard time staying motivated to eat right?
- Do you get leg cramps a lot at night?
- Do you have issues with on-going constipation?
Bonus: Did you know that 28 grams of fat means that over half of the calories (252 calories are from fat as every gram of fat has 9 calories!) of this meal are from FAT and NOT the lean protein your body needs?
If you're fighting hunger and cravings, it's simple. You aren't feeding your body properly. SURE you are giving it calories and protein. Great job! BUT you are missing a key part of nutrition. That vegetables "do" something other than just sit there and be green.
Everyone who has weight loss surgery understands the concept of satiety or satisfaction. Both in physical form of feeling "full" and the mental enjoyment of eating delicious food. However most of us also miss the Third part of Satiety or Satisfaction from eating....the sensation of food in our mouths.
Do you know WHY you answered YES to the question about craving "Crunch"? It's because you aren't crunching. Crisp veggies and even the bite of steamed broccoli will fix that in a second and you will ALSO get the bonus of feeling physically full because veggies contain fiber and water in addition to a whole group of things called "Micronutrients" that help with many things like leg cramps, vitamin deficiencies and energy levels.
Part 2 of why vegetables are important at most of our meals is that they provide carbohydrates. When your Dr & Nutritionist said to eat them, they didn't mean to make a pot of rice. They meant use veggies. The number 1 reason people can't stay "On Track" is because they think "Protein, Protein, Protein" and drastically cut Carbs so low a human can't stick with the plan for long at all...no matter how much yummy fat is included in the meal to trick us into thinking we're satisfied.
Let's look at the supper plate on the RIGHT. Roasted Pork Tenderloin, broccoli & cucumbers tossed in dill flavored olive oil and salt and pepper. Let's break this one down, it's a bit different so pay attention.
- Pork Loin, 5oz roasted:150 Calories, 3 grams Fat, 28 grams Protein, 1 gram Carbohydrate
- Broccoli, steamed: 22 Calories, 0 grams Fat, 2 grams Protein, 4 grams Carbohydrates
- PLUS:Fiber, Vitamins A, C, E, K, B1, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium, Water
- Cucumber, diced:16 Calories, 0 grams Fat, 0 grams Protein, 3 grams Carbohydrates
- PLUS:Fiber, Vitamins A, C, K, Folate, Calcium, Magnesium, Potatssium, Sodium, Zinc ,Water
- Dill Infused Olive Oil, 1tsp: 40 Calories, 4 grams Fat, 0 grams Protein, 0 grams Carbohydrate
- Total: 228 Calories: 8 grams Fat, 31 grams Protein, 9 grams Carbohydrate
Wait....how does the meal on the RIGHT, the plate that has MORE food on it have FEWER calories?
FAT. Despite the addition of straight olive oil to this meal this is still a very lean plate of food. Lower fat means lower calories. Why? Every gram of a Macronutrient (Protein, Carbs, Fat) contains a number of Calories. For Protein and Carbs, it's 4 Calories per Gram. For Fat? It's 9 Calories per Gram.
Big difference. So think about that fact for a moment. IF you choose foods naturally low in fat, you can eat more.
There's a few more important things here we need to address:
Cucumbers have CRUNCH. Broccoli takes some chewing, this is not only physically filling because of the volume, it's mentally satisfying because there's a TEXTURE that's not just smooth silky cheese or egg.
There's a good bit of fiber n this meal and it's paired with foods that naturally contain water. Both will help you "Go".
Not only is there Potassium, Magnesium, Fiber & Water but there's Sodium. Despite many having an unfounded fear of Sodium, it is a vital nutrient that our bodies need to balance our electrolytes and keep muscle function on point. Want those pesky leg cramps to go away? eating a variety of veggies might help a great deal.
Can't stay on track?
You aren't eating a variety of foods. EVERYONE gets burnt out on meat meat meat plates. If they didn't then we would have solved the Obesity Epidemic the FIRST time Dr Atkins swept the nation with his super low carb diet back in the 1970's. Super low carbs is not sustainable long term for a ton of reasons, but the biggest is that it's BORING no matter how yummy the cheese stuffed meat is.
Hungry in an hour and a half after meals?
While this might be Head Hunger it also could be because you aren't using your pouch or sleeve. Meat is great as it's dense but that first plate is not dense lean meats that will help you stay satisfied for a while, it's instant gratification. Everything on that plate are SUPER easy foods that you can chew and swallow without much resistance . They just don't fill your pouch enough to trigger that mental satiety for very long, don't believe me? Can you eat a whole cheese stick? What about a chicken breast? Think about how many times you thought you can't "Tolerate" Chicken...was it that it got stuck, or was it that you can't finish it?
Take away: When building meals we need to create Balance. Pair protein with fiber rich veggies and you'll be full for 3-4 hours! TRY IT!
The second plate is tricky to learn how to eat. So let's have a little tutorial. When you pair your lean protein with veggies we all WANT to start with the protein and finish that THEN go to the veggies. BUT here's why that's wrong.... You won't have room for the veggies. You just won't.
So try this easy 1-2-3 trick.
- Eat 1/4 of the protein.
- Start alternating bites of the veggies and protein until you are satisfied but not FULL.
- STOP for a few moments and think about how you feel.
Remember that you are an adult who does NOT have to finish all the food on your plate. There's no reason to stuff yourself or take tiny bites until it's all gone. That's exactly how you got to need Weight Loss Surgery and exactly what you need to change right now if you want to do more than lose weight for a short time. The longer you force food down to finish it, the more you will be pushing that food OUT of your pouch or sleeve and cheating it of feeling full fast.
You had Weight Loss Surgery to eat less. Pick the RIGHT foods, eat them and if there's too much, next meal plate LESS food, you'll get the hang of things soon if you stick with it. And you won't just lose the weight. You'll learn how to keep it off. For life. And that? That was the REAL reason you had surgery wasn't it?