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Bariatric Patient Shares Tips for Managing Holiday Eating

Last updated: December 16, 2022

Paul Amond has always loved the social aspect of enjoying food and drinks with friends.

Ever since undergoing weight loss surgery in early 2020, his eating and drinking habits have changed, but he hasn’t stopped getting together with friends. These days he’s mindful of food choices, and if he meets friends at a bar, he’s careful about how much he drinks and chooses low-calorie options.

“I’ve never lost one friend over all of this. Even though a lot of my habits have changed, I still go out and socialize. I’ve never given any of that up,” he says.

In the nearly three years, since Paul underwent Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery through the ThedaCare Bariatrics Center, he’s enjoyed some major successes. He’s lost nearly 175 pounds and gone on to compete in half marathons. At the same time, Paul has experienced challenges, including undergoing difficult back surgery later in 2020 and a painful skin removal procedure in 2022.

Through it all, he’s stayed committed to the positive habits he’s created. Each day when he heads to his job working on a paper machine at Neenah Paper, he brings a healthy meal. He spends time every weekend pre-preparing portions of lean protein and steaming vegetables for the workweek ahead.

“I never have that problem anymore where there’s nothing in the house and I need to go to a fast food restaurant,” he says.

He also follows up eating with exercise, walking three times per day — for 30 minutes after each meal.

The change has been dramatic. “It used to hurt me just to go up and down the steps just to do the wash,” Paul recalls. “Now I run up and down the steps when I do it.”

‘One Day, One Meal’

For Paul — and anyone who undergoes bariatric surgery — maintaining weight loss takes a lifetime commitment. Along the way, he’s had to navigate challenges like going out to dinner and making good choices about what to order.

“There’s days where I get off track for one meal, but I get back on track,” he says.

Holidays, birthdays and other special events also prove challenging. To navigate the temptation of unhealthy food and drink, Paul goes in with a plan — and a mantra.

“Everything is one day or one meal. Christmas doesn’t last a month. It lasts one day or one meal,” he says.

More Ways to Stay on Track

Dr. Krista Gonzales, a ThedaCare endocrinologist who’s certified in obesity medicine, shared these additional tips for enjoying holiday celebrations in moderation.

1. Eat a good breakfast

It might sound counterintuitive, but starting a holiday with a well-balanced breakfast is a great way to avoid temptation later. A healthy breakfast can dampen the rise in hunger hormones and help you stave off the urge to overeat.

2. Pay attention to portions

Portion control and holidays don’t typically go hand in hand, but you might be surprised how little of each traditional holiday dish you need to feel satisfied. Instead of heaping servings of all your favorites, aim for smaller portions of a variety of foods. 

3. Savor your food

Special holiday meals are a great time to practice mindful eating. By savoring each bite, not only will you enjoy the meal more, but your brain will identify when you’re truly full.

4. Get moving

That feast takes a while to cook, so instead of watching football or grazing on appetizers in the meantime, why not get everyone moving? Is exercising going to counteract an entire holiday meal? Not always, but it can help. Chances are you’ll feel better. Try a family-friendly activity such as playing in the snow, putting together a game of touch football, or taking a walk or hike.

5. Give yourself grace

No doubt, you’ll feel proud of yourself if you resist overeating, but you shouldn’t feel guilty if you end up exercising less self-control than you’d hoped. Keep it in perspective and remember that one day of merriment won’t derail an otherwise-healthy lifestyle.

“Food is often a huge part of celebrations with family and friends,” Dr. Gonzales says. “It’s OK to enjoy the occasional indulgence over the holidays, but if you go into the day with some guardrails in place, it might just help you stay on track.”

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Tags: alcohol Dr. Krista Gonzalez healthy breakfast holiday eating Paul Amond portion control Weight Management

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