Fighting “Boredom Eating” After Gastric Sleeve Surgery

When you’re stuck at home, your gastric sleeve diet might be in as much danger as your sanity. And when you add kids to the mix—whether it’s summer break or a viral pandemic—both of those may be even more precarious. If it seems like there’s nothing to do and nowhere to go, many people are tempted to make eating a form of entertainment. Below are a few tips for redirecting everyone in the family away from the fridge.

Tip #1: Keep your hands busy
• Learn a new hobby. Crafts like knitting, quilting, and cross-stitching that require two hands can not only occupy your hands and mind, but may make you think twice about setting aside your supplies to make a trip to the pantry. This works for kids, too, by the way. Legos, jigsaw puzzles, nail art, and making friendship bracelets can keep them from snacking as much and, perhaps, tempting you to do the same.
• Tackle your “someday” list. You know the one—the list of things you’ll get to “someday” when you aren’t so busy. Well, this is that day. Clean out your closet, de-junk the junk drawer, etc.

Tip #2: Minimize stress
In times of uncertainty, boredom eating and stress eating are double whammies, feeding off each other to give you twice the number of reasons to head to the kitchen. Lower your stress levels, and you might reduce your snacking.
• Pick a new channel. Watching or reading news for hours will probably only raise your stress levels. Rather, choose material that supports your vertical gastric sleeve goals, like programs about weight loss.
• Delegate. If it feels like the weight of the world is on you right now, look for ways to shake some of it off. Your spouse can make the kids’ lunches (yes, peanut butter sandwiches count) while you meditate or read a book for 10 minutes. Your kids can vacuum or load the dishwasher—even if it’s not as well as you could do it—while you take a much-needed break.

Tip #3: Pre-sort your snacks
Designate a separate plastic container (like you’d use for leftovers) for you and each of your kids, and fill it with a day’s worth of snacks that you feel good about. Yours might include carrot sticks, cucumber slices, and beef jerky. Theirs might be granola bars, apple slices, and grapes. Everyone gets to eat these snacks whenever they want, but when they’re gone, you’re done snacking for the day.

Tip #4: Bribe yourself
Sometimes you need to focus on a reward while you’re white-knuckling good habits. For every week that you stick to your gastric sleeve diet (including the snack box above), reward yourself with something that feels like a treat. It could be something small, like a new box of your favorite tea, or a bigger splurge, such as a subscription to an exercise app.

Tip #5: Remember the basics
A different schedule—like being home rather than in the office—may trick your brain into switching to vacation mode. Because this sense of “different” might much up your usual healthy habits, let’s recap some basics we know work.
• Keep “bad” snacks out of the house. It’s tough to overeat chicken or hard-boiled eggs. Your kids complaining about the selection? Oh well. Now is a great time for them to learn good eating habits, too.
• Sip rather than snack. Rather than reach for a fork, reach for your water bottle. Indulge in new flavors of Crystal Light or other calorie-free hydrators as a motivator.
• Make mint your signal to stop. Most food tastes pretty awful after you brush your teeth, not to mention that you likely won’t want to ruin the freshly-brushed feeling with potato chips. Who says you need to stop with brushing just twice a day? Keep your mouth minty fresh all day, if necessary.
• Switch up your routines. Just like a smoker who’s trying to quit might need to give up a habit associated with puffing (drinking, for example), VSG veterans falling back into boredom snacking might need to reevaluate their routines. If you tend to snack when you watch TV, try cutting back on TV and picking up a good book. At least until you break the association.

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