How to Avoid Feeling Deprived After Gastric Sleeve Surgery

One common source of anxiety for pre-op VSG patients is that they’ll feel deprived of their favorite foods or, similarly, feel dissatisfied with their food for the rest of their lives. That vertical sleeve gastrectomy is a choice between being thin and miserable or fat and satisfied. Unfortunately, that worry can sometimes affect how they view their weight loss journey for months or years after bariatric surgery in Mexico.

What is a deprivation mindset?
At its most basic, a deprivation or scarcity mindset is a feeling of not having enough. It can be applied to many things—love, affection, money, etc.—in addition to food; for this blog, however, let’s focus on deprivation mindset as it relates to food. It’s a particularly nasty trick your mind plays on you, saying things like, “Once I have VSG, I won’t be able to have biscuits again, so I better eat the entire batch today.” Or maybe it’s something like, “It won’t feel like a celebration if I don’t have a big piece of cake.” Pretty easy to see how a deprivation mindset can not only cause stress, but weight gain, right?

Tips to beat deprivation mindset
If you’re dealing with scarcity thoughts, I encourage you to use these ideas to combat them:

• Know your limits. Some people can squash a potato chip craving with just a few. For others, a few always turns into the entire bag. Which one are you (be honest!)? If you have a salty craving but know that you won’t walk away without devouring the whole bag, keep a list of alternatives on hand that feel truly satisfying. Trying to substitute carrots for French fries, for example, will probably feed into your sense of deprivation. But if you chow down on low-carb veggies like green beans or zucchini that are battered with egg, parmesan cheese, and spices and then baked to crispy perfection, you’ll probably cure that craving and feel spoiled rather than deprived.

• Remove the fear. Many times, a deprivation mindset can strike when your brain says, “Eat lots of this right now—you never know when you’ll be able to have more!” The reality is that most of us don’t have to worry about where our next meal is coming from. That’s simply our mind making things up. So talk back to it. If you feel satisfied with a bite or two of cake at a wedding, but your brain is screaming that you should eat the whole piece (“It might be years before we have wedding cake again!”), stop and really think about it. If you want cake again tomorrow—which you hopefully won’t—you can probably find a piece 24 hour a day.

• Take back control. Along the same lines as the better-eat-it-all-now thought process, deprivation often has its roots in (false) feelings of not being in control of your life. Many gastric sleeve patients use self-talk such as, “I can’t have that.” Who says you can’t? Unless it’s a safety issue, like when you’re doing the pre-op gastric sleeve diet or liquid phases of your post-op diet, YOU are the one saying you can’t have a food. So acknowledge that you’re making a choice, rather than being denied a food by some outside force. Remember when your mom said you couldn’t have a cookie and then all you wanted was a cookie? It’s the same principle here. “I’m choosing” is a very powerful phrase to help you realize what’s real and what’s your deprivation mindset talking.

• Deprivation vs. self-control. Reframing your decision to avoid a certain food or take just a few bites as “discipline” or “self-control” can go a long way toward helping tamp down the deprivation mindset. Deprivation is about making decisions for the short-term; discipline is about making decisions for the long-term. Deprivation says, “I want that doughnut right now,” whereas discipline says, “I want to feel good in my skinny jeans for years to come.” The only thing you’re depriving yourself of are foods that hurt your VSG goals, rather than help them.

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