I'm Dreaming of a Light Christmas: Holiday Weight-Maintenance Tips
For anyone trying to maintain weight loss – especially people who have undergone weight loss surgery – the holidays can pose quite a challenge. In fact, studies suggest that the average American gains five pounds or more between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. According to Dr. Mark Mofid, a cosmetic surgeon in San Diego, California, many bariatric patients eventually regain about 10 percent or more of the weight they lose. The holiday season can be especially challenging for these patients, who must follow rigid dietary guidelines to prevent weight gain and serious health complications. With so much at stake, can a person who has undergone bariatric surgery keep from gaining weight and enjoy the holidays?
Holiday Weight Maintenance Challenges for Post-Bariatric Patients
Post-bariatric patients face several challenges during the holidays:
Following a restricted diet. To attain adequate nutrition and avoid damaging the stomach, patients must follow an extremely restricted diet, building up from liquids two weeks after surgery to child-sized meals six months after the procedure. Patients should choose nutrient-dense, low-fat, low-starch, no-sugar foods and avoid “grazing.” Imagine trying to adhere to such guidelines when faced with an endless barrage of junk food! Moreover, the typical holiday feast of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, and pie translates into fat, starch, and sugar – among the no-no’s for post-bariatric patients.
Resisting the dietary free-for-all. Many people view the holiday season as a dietary free-for-all, an excuse to stuff themselves like a Thanksgiving turkey. This gorge-thyself mentality is extremely destructive for people who have undergone bariatric surgery, since overeating can cause “dumping” – bloating, vomiting, and diarrhea – and other health hazards.
Maintaining regular exercise. The benefits of exercise for post-bariatric patients abound: exercise boosts metabolism, stabilizes blood sugar levels, improves mood, and provides a distraction from culinary temptations. However, making exercise a habit requires significant time and effort, especially during the holidays, when the temptation is to relax.
So How Can a Bariatric Patient Keep the Pounds Off During the Holidays?
Are there ways to make the holidays fun yet healthy for patients with so much riding on maintaining their weight loss? The following suggestions may help patients survive – and even enjoy – the holiday season while meeting their weight-loss goals.
Join a support group. A National Weight Control Registry study found that people who attended bi-monthly support groups maintained weight loss, while people who “went it alone” regained nearly half their weight.
Get the family on-board. To get their family “on board” with their weight loss goals, patients can suggest family activities, such as brisk walking, leisurely backyard games, and health-conscious cooking.
Develop positive coping strategies. Positive coping techniques, such as exercise and meditation, can allow patients to deal with negative feelings without resorting to over-eating.
Adopt a mantra. Adopting a mantra, such as “Thanksgiving is only one day” or “one day at a time,” can help patients resist unhealthy temptations.
Although maintaining weight loss during the holidays may be extremely difficult for bariatric patients, it is possible. With the right tools and support, the holidays can be an opportunity to exercise a new approach to life.
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