The festive season is a joyful time filled with gifts, time with family, and lots of eating and drinking! But after WLS, Christmas time can be daunting, especially when it’s your first post surgery. Read our guest blog by Tash Jarrett, for her experience and tips to help your end of year celebrations be more enjoyable.
“I was 6 months post op when my first Christmas after Gastric Bypass rolled around in 2018.
I had felt a few nerves in the lead up to the “big day” because Christmas always meant a lot of food in our family. I spent most of the day waiting for that wonderful “Christmas moment”! I felt all those special Christmas feels! Oh joy of joys when the aroma of your favourite foods start to waft past your nostrils and then you lay eyes upon it! Yummy delights in all their various forms, making their way on well-practiced hands, to the table and suddenly, reality struck! There would be no gorging myself for the whole afternoon, no seconds and thirds, what had I done! In fact, as I ate my little, tiny bit of food (which was about half a cup at that time) I felt decidedly ripped off by the experience that was Christmas with my new tiny tummy! I wasn’t just disappointed! I was totally distraught! And in that moment I decided that I would do everything in my power to avoid feeling like that again in the future.
Christmas has always been a very important time of the year to me and to my family.
I will be honest and admit that a lot of those fun, celebratory moments revolved very much around food. After that dismal first Post WLS Christmas, I came up with a plan so that I would not turn Grinchy in the future! Now that we are a few years down the line, I can safely say that my post weight loss surgery Christmas experiences are quite different to the ones that I had before my surgery. The food coma, the uncomfortable amount of eating and the drinking until I could nearly burst has absolutely changed! However, all is not lost! There is a serious amount of hope sprinkled into this Christmas tale because I have realised that ‘different’ to how things used to be, does not have to mean bad! Different can mean totally wonderful! Let’s unpack that for a moment shall we?
A different type of Christmas
A different type of Christmas for me these days, means that my focus has changed and the way that I eat around festive times has also changed too. That isn’t really all that surprising is it? I think that my pre bariatric self, lived for all the food we would eat at Christmas! I mean seriously, I lived for it! I was 100% about the breakfast, lunch and dinner and that was truly my passion. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still love a beautiful meal, but my relationship with food has changed! Now my love for food does not consume Christmas like it once did. I will still LOVE everything that I eat and drink but I find that I look up from my plate and ‘enjoy the moments’ far more. But let’s face facts, we still want to eat our favourite things and you can! I have found that with a little bit of planning, I can still enjoy those favourites of mine, while cherishing every moment with friends and family.
I start the run in to Christmas in November!
I like to make sure that I give myself a kilo or two of wiggle room so that if I decide to indulge in a few treats, that it will not be the end of all things. Let’s remember, particularly in 2021, that Christmas and time with each other is so important that we should plan to relax and be thankful for all that we have. I don’t mean that I go dieting. We did not have weight loss surgery to diet forever! I mean that I am mindful of my choices and I cut out my post “school pick up” run to the fridge. In other words I don’t get jolly too early.
During my first post bariatric surgery Christmas, I realised that I had made a big mistake. I knew in my head that I could only eat a small meal but the reality of how that would look on Christmas day had not really been very well though through.
The big meal that I used to enjoy was not going to be possible and I felt very sad that I could only have my very tiny portion of food. By the time the next Christmas rolled around I had things dialed in! So these are my tips to enjoy the Christmas season, bariatric style!
Have a plan. I have a “Christmas Hit List”!
- Have a plan. I have a “Christmas Hit List”! On that list are the things that I want to eat for it to feel like Christmas to me! This doesn’t have to be a big deal. I have three things on my list, and I make sure that I get to have them every year. I may not be able to eat all those things in one meal or even in one day, but I could eat them over 3 days and 3 days is what I personally plan for. On those days I give myself grace to eat things that are away from my usual eating. I will not make myself and others around me miserable on Christmas because I feel like I am missing out! Bariatric surgery for me is not about having a life-long diet. For me, it has been about repairing my broken relationship with food. So I enjoy myself while sticking to what my little tummy will allow me to fit in. My Christmas Hit List has my mother’s Baked Ham on it, Duck fat Potatoes and Lemon Meringue Pie (that I had to learn to adapt so that I don’t dump) and a couple of drinks too!
- I give myself a free pass. I give myself a number of days to have things that I would not usually have. In my day to day life, post weight loss surgery I do not restrict myself in terms of food groups but I know the types of meals that work best for me so when I say, ‘give yourself a free pass’ I mean enjoy whatever you choose to eat! I eat the things on my ‘Hit List’ and enjoy a good choice of yummy bevvies. I also accept that the scales may change a little bit during this period of time. I know that once my free pass expires I will back to my usual way of eating.
- If you are on liquids or on puree at this time and feel like all the joy is gone from your soul when you think about what you won’t be having at Christmas – I have got you! It is still possible to enjoy the day and feel a part of things with familiar flavours! There will be some suggestions coming your way for a fluid or mushy phase Christmas. (Check out our recipe section soon for some puree recipes!)
- I plan to eat the things that I love on Christmas day and I have found that Buffet style is wonderful because it means that we can opt to have a small bit of all of the things. This is also a really great way of not drawing attention to the small amount of food that may be on your plate.
- Grazing boards are a sensational way to satisfy bari and no bari bellies! (My top tips for Glorious Christmas Grazing Board goodness that are packed with protein and flavour will be coming soon!!) I make mine up on Christmas Eve while the Sidney Myer Music Bowl carols are cranking in the background and we are wrapping gifts. We usually have one on Christmas Eve and one on Christmas Day!
- Make the things that you love into versions that you can enjoy if you can no longer tolerate the original. This one was a bit of a hard pill for me to swallow. Even a few years after weight loss surgery it has meant that for some things I have made low carb and/or lower fat versions because I am prone to episodes of dumping. If you are not prone to dumping then just enjoy those things that you love in smaller amounts. Christmas Day is not the best time to find out that your Pav recipe no longer agrees with you (this may or may not have happened to me that first Bari Christmas – I do not recommend this lol) So if something is very much outside of what you would usually eat, my lived experience suggests perhaps trying a tiny bit of that, or a similar thing a few weeks in advance to make sure that you are reaction free!
- Enjoy yourself because you deserve it. It truly is a wonderful time of year to be thankful for everything that we do have and for the weight that we no longer carry around!
Tash Jarrett xx
Admin @ Bariatric Support Australia
3.5 years post RNY
14 years Post Lap Band