Stick to what you know
Every big holiday meal features protein as the star of the show. Whether it’s a Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham, it should be fairly easy to load up on your protein first, just like you would at any meal, at any time of the year. Then move on to the crudité platter, choosing hummus as an accompaniment rather than sugar-laden dips. Eat slowly, just like always, giving your stomach time to register satiety. And while it might be tempting, don’t “save” calories for parties; you’re practically guaranteed to eat much more than what you cut out at lunchtime. Trading your usual 300-calorie lunch for a couple of plates from the dessert buffet is not an equal substitution. Sticking to your usual routine helps you stay on track.
Many VSG patients like to preview a menu before they go to a restaurant, but that’s not usually an option for a holiday party. Kill two birds with one stone by not showing up empty handed. Help the hostess by volunteering to bring a dish or two, and make sure they’re foods you feel good about eating. Whip up the keto dessert that everyone raves about, or bring a hearty on-plan side dish that can fill you up if the hostess decides to make it a pasta night. If alcohol doesn’t sit well with you anymore—or you just don’t want to spend the calories on booze—then show up with nicely packaged, flavored sparking waters.
Prioritize people over pastries
It seems like every gathering is centered around food, especially in November and December, but you probably look forward to those get-togethers because of Aunt Rose, not just Aunt Rose’s pumpkin pie. So instead of focusing on what you feel like you can’t do (inhale the entire dish of mashed potatoes like you did pre-surgery), focus on really talking to the people who are there. Without loads of food and alcohol to distract you, maybe you’ll finally have time to ask Grandma Mary about her childhood or Cousin Rita about her exciting new career. You’ll remember who you connected with much longer than what you skipped at the buffet.
Pick your battles
You can navigate the vast majority of holiday-related diet minefields, but things like cookie swaps are just going to bum you out and/or lead you into VSG diet purgatory. So when your pal invites you to her cake-and-cocktail event, feel free to politely decline while proposing an ice skating or walking outing on a different day so she knows you would love to spend time with her—just not with a pound of sugar.
Remember that it’s just one day
This is two-fold advice. Number one: If you’re not able to participate in the way you’d like, keep in mind that, while it might feel like the end of the world right now, you’ll have plenty more opportunities to make merry. It’s especially true for people who are doing the pre-op diet or who are in liquid/soft food phases post-op. Your gastric sleeve diet might not allow for anything other than protein shakes right now, but it will soon. And number two: If you overeat, consume way more sugar or carbs than usual, or skip exercise in favor of a family gathering, keep in mind that you haven’t done any damage that you can’t undo. No matter what, don’t let a holiday slip-up (or two) make you say, “Well, I might as well keep indulging,” because that’s what causes weight gain in the double digits. Have fun, try your best, and remember that come January 1, everyone else in the country will wish they had been as discipled as you!
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