Grazing after WLS is a common problem faced by both pre and post-operative clients. Many people graze when they are feeling bored, unstimulated, distressed, or just stuck in a pattern of habit. The problem with grazing is that we tend to underestimate how much we eat while we are doing it. Having some grapes here, a couple nuts there, and a few chips later can add up to a substantial amount of calories by the end of the day, and will eventually lead to weight regain.
Furthermore, continuing to graze reinforces this maladaptive habit, and it can condition us to use food to cope with unpleasant emotions or boredom, which is not something you want to develop if you don’t do it already. The good news is there are several strategies you can use to prevent yourself from grazing.
1. Define your meals and snacks
As a new post-operative patient, you may find yourself in the grazing trap due to not having room in your pouch to eat good sized meals. This is normal. Your stomach is smaller now, and your meals will be too, so you have to change the way you think about them. Maybe you want to do three meals and two snacks, or maybe you’d prefer six small meals with no snacks – it doesn’t matter, just choose a pattern that works for you. Once you’ve chosen your pattern, stick to it.
If it is almost dinner time and you’re tempted to munch on something, remind yourself that your meal is coming soon, and grazing would ruin your appetite for the meal you’ve worked so hard to make!
2. Catch yourself before you start grazing
You may find that you graze without thinking about it on a conscious level. If this is the case, you need to work on recognizing and changing this behavior. Any time you notice yourself opening the fridge and looking around for food between meals, catch you. Literally say “stop”, either out loud or in your head, and think about what you are doing. Examine why you are doing it. Maybe you are bored, maybe you are sad, maybe you are accustomed to eating while watching TV and you’re grabbing your snack to watch Netflix.
Whatever the reason, assess why you’re doing it, so you can pick up on your patterns. If you identify that you are doing it because you are bored, it’s time to find something else to do.
3. Go for a walk or hit the gym
I know you’ve heard this one before, but it’s for a good reason – it works! Both eating and physical activity cause the release of your body’s own opioids and dopamine, which physically make you feel good. If you’re grazing for entertainment, replace it with exercise to help you get that same feeling without food. Even better you are killing two birds with one stone by getting in your exercise and avoiding grazing at the same time.
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