Bariatric surgery provides us with a life-altering tool toward health and wellness if we commit to it, but we also must find adequate coping strategies to manage the emotional and psychological challenges that emerge post-surgery. Now as the autumn season reaches its glorious heights of color, scents, and tasty offerings, a wide range of memories may begin to stir, many of which are bittersweet. For example, many of us may hold memories from Halloweens past as some of the most prominent of our childhoods. For those of us that struggled with weight, and often teasing, isolation, or bullying about size, we found a temporary escape in our trick or treating costumes, becoming someone else for that special night. The autumn season still conjures potent imagery and feelings for many of us now as adults. Symbolically, holidays like Halloween and food-centric Thanksgiving may come to represent “my old life.” Post-surgery, patients may feel a sense of deprivation, loss, and resentment over the ability to enjoy certain fall foods. After a while, protein supplements and other types of “replacement foods” may seem like poor substitutes for the seasonal dishes others are enjoying. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. The authentic foods and flavors of autumn can work in the post-op diet, with some effort and planning. This whole-grain-based breakfast recipe for Pumpkin-Pecan Oatmeal with Pears is an example.
Pumpkin-Pecan Oatmeal with Pears
1 cup non-fat milk
½ cup non-fat powdered milk
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup quick cooking oats (uncooked)
½ cup canned pumpkin puree
2 cups canned pears in juice (diced)
2 tablespoons sugar substitute (Splenda)
8 ounces light vanilla yogurt
2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans
Combine skim milk and powdered milk, sugar substitute, and pumpkin spices in a saucepan on medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes and bring to the boiling point, stirring occasionally. Add oatmeal and heat for about 30 seconds. Add pumpkin pulp, pecans, vanilla yogurt, and pears and mix. Continue to heat about another minute, until oatmeal is heated through. (This recipe serves 4 and provides 11g protein per serving.)
Breakfast post-surgery presents the dual challenges of maintaining adequate protein intake and fending off boredom in food choices. Think of Halloween and dress everyday breakfast ideas up in some new creative outfits. Transform your basic eggs dishes into Cajun deviled eggs, sweet potato or kale and tomato frittatas, or give tofu a try in a veggie scramble. Swirl some canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice into your Greek yogurt or cottage cheese for a seasonal treat. Also, consider “non-breakfast” foods for breakfast, especially high-protein whole grains like quinoa and amaranth, fish dishes (consider heart-healthy smoked salmon), and roasted chickpeas.
Remember: Navigating holiday eating is about making choices, not deprivation. If you love Halloween and the autumn season, there is no need to give up one of your favorite times of year due to the “candy dilemma.” If you had bariatric surgery, why risk dumping syndrome or overindulging by having Halloween candy around in the first place? Instead of tempting yourself with bowls of candy, give out small toys to your trick or treaters. You made the decision to have bariatric surgery to improve your health and quality of life. Embrace new coping strategies and make better lifestyle choices to enjoy a fuller, healthier life post-bariatric surgery.