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Sunday, February 27, 2005

Is Snacking THAT Bad?

Snacking is the easiest of the four rules to break, and the worst possible thing you can do to yourself. Weight loss surgery patients who snack gain weight. Snackers risk severe swings in blood sugar levels and glucose overdose. Snackers are not moving forward to the healthy life that surgery makes possible. Snackers will be self-loathing because they know they are causing harm to their body and defeating the bariatric system.

After surgery there is no physiological reason for snacking. When a patient eats three protein-rich meals a day the body’s fuel requirements are met and satiation results. Hunger does not occur if water is sipped throughout the day. If a patient is taking vitamins regularly she will not be nutritionally wanting. Given that, patients who take to snacking are doing so out of habit; a habit that contributed to obesity.

Much has been written about the emotional connection to eating – we eat because we are unfulfilled, looking for comfort, loneliness, or suffering stress. We are bored, worried, angry or sad. Something is missing in our life and we are eating to fill the void. I say baloney! Before surgery I ate unchecked because I love food. Sweet, salty, smooth, sticky: I love it all! I ate when I wasn’t hungry because the food was there. That’s why I was fat.

It is true that eating is often connected to the emotions, but not necessarily negative emotions associated with the inability to cope with life. Think wedding – there’s the cake; think funeral – there’s the potluck; think Father’s Day – there’s the barbeque; think Christmas – there’s the feast. The media would have us believe that the obese are people whose only coping skill for life’s daily challenges is a doughnut in each hand. But I know of many overweight people who are highly regarded professionals – lawyers, engineers, teachers, chefs, physicians, and writers – all quite capable of coping with life’s emotional dilemmas. I suggest that very few obese people are as emotionally incompetent as popular wisdom would have us believe. Obese people are overweight because they love food, eat too much, live in a society where food is ever present, have a genetic tendency to store fat and have found it discouraging to incorporate exercise into their lives.

Pre-operative patients are screened for their mental health, specifically their ability to cope with life’s ups and downs. If you passed the screening to have surgery you are mentally sound and capable of dealing with little upsets without running to the refrigerator or bakery for comfort. The public at large has underestimated your power to survive and thrive.

Successful patients understand that snacking is bariatric purgatory. When they begin to snack weight loss will cease and weight gain will certainly result. Successful weight loss patients – those who maintain the weight loss years after surgery – do not snack.

Snacking allows a patient to return to a caloric rich diet in spite of the tinny tummy system. One patient found her system tolerated graham crackers and they satisfied her life-long habit: the after school (work) snack. So, for a time, after work each day she would nibble on a graham cracker. Then it was two crackers, and within weeks she was having 8 graham crackers – about 1000 empty calories every afternoon. She added a cup of coffee to her "after school snack" and her weight loss stopped – in fact, she started gaining weight. The graham crackers and coffee was a perfect combination to defeat the system. She was making a slurry in her tiny tummy that passed through the stoma quickly so she didn’t ever feel full and could continue to eat the crackers with abandon. When, at the advice of her bariatric counselor, she stopped this behavior her weight loss resumed.

(Update: 4/11/05 - - a reader commented that 8 graham crackers is about 240 calories. Graham crackers are in sheets of 4-crackers, so two sheets is a serving of 8 crackers- about 240 calories. I should have specified that my friend was eating 8 sheets of graham crackers - 32 crackers or 4 servings - roughly 1,000 empty calories. Thank you, reader, for pointing this out.)

Almost every patient, in the adolescent phase, will find a way to trick the bariatric system. This is because our dieting history has conditioned us to a diet/splurge cycle – we follow the rules for so long, then we splurge because we’ve been so good. You know what I’m talking about. But weight loss surgery is for life; it is not a diet but a lifestyle.

With practice we can give the diet/splurge cycle new meaning: how about a success and reward cycle. As we succeed at living after weight loss surgery we reward ourselves with tangibles – a new outfit, a new haircut, a trip to the theatre and the intangibles – more energy, improved wellness, better sex!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

8 graham crackers is not 1000 calories, more like 240 calories