Many patients are disheartened that, after vertical sleeve gastrectomy, they still have cravings for sweets. Alas, it’s pretty normal. In fact, sweet is the first taste we humans develop. And it helped us stay safe back when our hunter-gatherer ancestors were trying to determine which berries were safe and which were poisonous (sweet usually means safe to eat). When you’re trying to lose weight, though, those sweet cravings can be a nightmare. Because this issue is so common, I’ve put together some great suggestions, from both the medical community and your VSG brothers and sisters. We know that everyone is different, so try one or try them all until you find what works for you.
• Prepare to indulge. There are so many tasty low-carb dessert options these days. So if you’re able to keep relatively good choices in the house without eating them all, it’s a great way to be prepared when you’re driven to distraction by a craving. “I found individual keto-friendly desserts in the baking aisle,” says Karen. “Also, Russel Stover’s makes some awesome sugar-free candy. I limit myself to two a day.”
• Substitute smartly. If possible, bypass your sweet cravings altogether with substitutions that tamp down the urge without doing damage to your gastric sleeve diet. A piece of fruit is certainly better than a bag of cookies, so don’t feel bad about a slice of watermelon or a bunch of grapes. And if your cravings are stemming from hunger, try filling that hole in your stomach with a food that’s reminiscent of dessert. “A small teaspoon of peanut butter helps me to not have drops in my blood sugar,” Annette says.
• Go cold turkey. This isn’t realistic for some, but many people find it be the only way to kick cravings for good. Likening sugar to a drug may sound dramatic, but it’s an accurate comparison. Says Kristi, “I do find that the more I have the more I want! So if you can steer clear all together, do so!” And when you’re white-knuckling it, just trying to outlast a sudden craving, think about why you’re giving it up. “Look at some old pictures and remember how you felt back then,” advises Dalene. After resurrecting good eating habits following an off-the-wagon period, Jeanne now prefers to focus on the positives of life without sugar and its accompanying cravings. “I’ve been eating healthy for almost two weeks now and am amazed how good I feel and how much energy I have,” she says. “I’ve been watching Marie Kondo on Netflix and organizing my entire house.”
• Skip the artificial sweeteners. Sugar substitutes may not have calories, but they can keep your cravings going strong—and even increase your cravings overall. Why? Artificial sweeteners are many times sweeter than regular sugar and can accustom your taste buds to needing more sweet flavors. People who rarely crave sweets may be able to satisfy their once-in-a-blue-moon desires successfully with fake sugars, but it you routinely struggle with it, try to give up the imitation stuff.
• Keep a “rolodex” of strategies. The truth is that cravings hit for different reasons. Sometimes it’s an emotional response to stress or a strong emotion like sadness or anger; other times it’s a physical sensation. Learning to identify what’s really going on with your cravings can help you successfully defeat them. For example, your list of strategies for emotional cravings could include calling a friend for support, cuddling with your dog, picking up knitting to occupy your hands busy, etc. Keeping a literal list (either in a notebook or online) of different options can help you zero in on the “right” one based on the source of your craving.
Learning to beat cravings is one of the hardest—yet most important—aspects of a successful VSG lifestyle. Remember that the Endo Hospital staff is here to provide advice about cravings and other dietary issues throughout your VSG journey.
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