How to Eat

Kinda sounds like a dumb thing – but what a lot of people don’t realize when they’re heading into WLS is the fact that the WAY you eat has everything to do with how you ease into life as a post-op.

I think a lot of “normies” assume that we’re all gluttons and shovel food into our faces 24/7 and DUH, no wonder we got fat.  Wouldn’t they be surprised if they’d had to live through a few years in our shoes?

I really honestly believe that the majority of post-ops DON’T have big time eating disorders.  Yes, there are some who do.  But no, not everyone does.

What we do have to contend with – probably bigger than anything else – is the fact that the current American food culture has affected us so profoundly.   I.e., choose the biggest, take big bites, eat it quickly, maybe eat it while you’re walking around the house – or even down the street, and typically at least one meal in the car via the convenience of a drive-through, and wash it all down with lots and lots of sugared beverages.

Sorry – but that’s not healthy for anyone – regardless of whether you’re underweight, normal weight, overweight, morbidly obese, or super morbidly obese.

We have a local Baltasar support group meeting.  We meet once a week for a couple of hours, and afterward we go out to lunch somewhere – some nearby local restaurant.  The pre-ops that go with us to these luncheons are amazed at how well we post-ops eat.  But after a while they start to realize that we sit and talk and eat slowly and enjoy one another’s company.  Some of us can eat all of our lunch – depending on how much talking we did!  LOL!  A lot of us take part of our food home for a snack later on.  The pre-ops that hang out at these sorts of things – hands down – do so much better as early post-ops – because they’ve seen what it’s like to eat as a post-op.

But observation really isn’t enough.  You have to know the basics.

The first few weeks after surgery are a huge adjustment in terms of learning how to eat and drink.  It’s not automatic OR easy to completely change the way that you’ve been eating and drinking your entire life.  Many of us think of a sip of a beverage as six or eight ounces in one gulp.  Or one bite to be equivalent to about 1/4th of a sandwich.  So many of us are proud members of the clean-plate club.  Yeah, none of that is gonna fly any more.

As a brand new post-op the first thing you’ll consume is clears – i.e., water, herbal tea, consomme, popsicles.

Seems like it would be no big deal – anyone can do that, right?  BUT – you’re not slamming stuff back, you’re taking tiny sips.

See this:  shiebler_teaspoon_4001

Just your regular teaspoon that you set the dinner table with, right?  It’s your new best friend.

Sips of any fluids for the first three weeks should be teaspoon sized.

Got it?

And not only teaspoon sized sips – you need to WAIT between sips.

Two to three minutes between sips.


I’m serious.

Some folks do better waiting 5 minutes between sips.

Meet your next new best friend:

Hourglass Egg TimerThis is the $1.75 egg timer I bought about 7.5 years ago when I was a baby post-op.  (If you’re in the Portland area, you can still get them for $1.75 at Kitchen Kaboodle.)  I can’t tell you how many times this baby has taken a trip to Spain and used by post-ops!

This egg timer gives you between 2 and 3 minutes to wait between sips and bites of food when you’re a brand new baby post-op.

Never leave home without it for the first few weeks.  Yes, it might look dorkey if you pull it out and put it on the table when you’re eating out at a restaurant, but too bad.  This little gadget can make your life SO much easier and stress free.

Wanna know why?

Because we scarf.

I pretty much believe about 99% of Americans just inhale their food.

So stopping, learning how to take small sips and bites, and waiting in between bites DOES NOT COME NATURALLY for nearly all of us.  Wish it did, but yeah, not.

So – let’s say you’re four days post-op and your surgeon has you on clears.   You have a lovely cup of chicken broth in front of you and a teaspoon.  Here’s how it goes.  You take the teaspoon, you dip the broth into the spoon, you put the broth into your mouth.  You swallow s-l-o-w-l-y.  You put the teaspoon down.  You turn the egg timer over.  You wait.  When all of the sand has reached the bottom, repeat.  Seems simple, huh?  Harder than it sounds.  We want to take two or three sips, and then wait.  Not wise.

Please, if I can teach you anything right here and now as a baby post-op – DO NOT PUSH IT!  Go slow!  Use this time as an investment toward a very happy post-op experience.

When you move up to soft foods you start over at the beginning again.  Let’s say you’ve got a scrambled egg in front of you and it’s time to eat.  You’ve got your plate, your fork, your egg timer.  Most of us don’t eat scrambled eggs with a teaspoon, but if you prefer, that’s okay.  But eventually, you’re gonna need to learn what an appropriately sized bite is without having a teaspoon in your back pocket.  So – look at your index finger.  See the tip of your finger?  See the first joint of your finger?  What’s that – about half an inch long?  THAT is the size of the biggest bite you’re going to take.  Okay?  Handy reference, huh?  Same rules apply here as with liquids.  Get a bite onto your fork – make sure it’s small enough.  Put it in your mouth, chew slowly and carefully, then swallow.  Put your fork down on the table.  Turn the egg timer over.  Wait.  When all of the sand has reached the bottom, repeat.  Again – no multiple bites.  No big bites.  No rushing it.  Go slow.

NO – you don’t eat like this forever.  BUT, you do need to train yourself to change the way you eat for the rest of your life – so DO make a point of doing this for at least the first month post-op.  Then, if eating is going effortlessly, you can stop the timing and the like.

Learning early on as a post-op how to eat will serve you well for the remainder of your life!


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