Navigating Social Situations After Gastric Sleeve Surgery

It’s a common refrain from my gastric sleeve patients: “I never realized how much of my social life revolved around food and drinks!” Meeting up for post-work cocktails, grabbing a bite to eat before a movie, digging into big family dinners…it’s tough to think of an instance when eating and drinking isn’t at the heart of a get-together. Before you think that becoming a recluse is your only option, consider these tips and tricks to keep you on track while enjoying the company of friends and family.

Tip #1: Stretch the truth. That sounds better than “lie,” doesn’t it? While many sleeve patients are open with everyone in their life about their procedure, others choose to keep the information private. The only downside to keeping quiet about being sleeved is the need to…get creative…sometimes. “I just ate,” “I had a big lunch,” and “I’m still trying to shed holiday pounds” are all good responses if and when people question your small (or non-existent) portions. Not keen to fib? A simple, “I feel amazing when I eat well,” can shut down additional questions while letting you do you. Keep in mind that even if you choose not to share your journey, people in your life willnotice the difference in how you look. It won’t be a secret, in other words, that you’re losing weight. There’s no need to mention a sleeve if you’re uncomfortable with it, but embracing your choice to eat well can help inspire others to do likewise.

Tip #2: Pick your poison. You probably already know that eating and drinking at the same time isn’t comfortable—or sometimes even possible, physically. So decide ahead of time whether you’ll be indulging in a drink or in a small meal. If you’ll be meeting the gang for a drink, remember that most sleevers can’t handle alcohol like they could pre-surgery. So stick to a single glass of wine, one beer, or a cocktail that features more mixer than liquor. And speaking of mixers, you’ll probably have to weigh whether calories or carbonation is your greatest enemy. Diet soda or soda water is a zero-calorie add-in, but it creates uncomfortable pressure for many post-op patients. Juice, on the other hand, has quite a few calories. Your best bet is to ask the bartender to use low-cal juices if possible. And if you opt for a meal over a drink, the good news is that your pals will likely appreciate the fact that they have a new designated driver!

Tip #3: Think small. Lots of my patients have discovered the beauty of small plate or tapas restaurants. At these eateries, the portions are intentionally small so diners can order a variety and share. With so much picking going on, no one will notice that you’re taking less than your share. Eat slowly, enjoy yourself (and your friends!), and you’ll get maximum bang for your social buck.

Tip #4: Plan an adventure. Dinner and drinks is the usual plan, but that also means it’s the usual plan. Maybe you’re not the only one who’s ready for something a little different. Next time you’re organizing a gathering, why not suggest an outing that doesn’t have anything to do with downing a heavy meal or rounds of drinks? A painting workshop, (healthy) cooking class, bike ride through pretty terrain, concerts, or outdoor yoga are all great options for switching things up. “You will be surprised how many of your friends will be up for hiking or even just going to a coffee shop and playing board games or something,” promises my patient, Gayle.

You don’t have to sacrifice your social life in order to enjoy post-sleeve success. With a little pre-planning, you might even find you’re having more fun than ever before!

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“Changing lives…one sleeve at a time”.