How to Develop a Healthy Relationship With Food

Why Is It Important to Develop a Healthy Relationship With Food?

Even before undergoing bariatric surgery, it is important to start developing a healthy relationship with food. Your pre-op bariatric surgery diet will probably entail some substantial changes to your diet–such as eliminating carbonated beverages for a period before surgery, and cutting down on nocturnal snacking and grazing–and making these changes may require changing your underlying relationship with food.

After undergoing weight loss surgery, it is even more important to develop a healthy relationship with food. Bariatric surgery is a powerful tool to help you level the playing field in your battle with obesity, but it is not a magical cure. After surgery, you will need to stick to a very strict diet and exercise regime in order to maximize your long-term weight loss and prevent weight regain. This will involve eating nutrient-rich foods and eliminating empty calories, which for many patients can represent a substantial shift. Adopting a healthy diet starts with developing a healthy relationship with food.

The Importance of Discussing Your Dietary Habits With Your Bariatric Surgical Team

How do you create a healthy relationship with food? One important step is to meet with our bariatric dietitian, who will work with you to understand your food triggers and your unhealthy eating habits, and to develop healthy eating patterns that will set you up for success. Our dietitian will work with you to find foods and recipes that you enjoy that are still nutrient-rich and low in calories, as well as to find healthier replacements to foods that you really enjoy but that may not be contributing to your weight-loss goals.

Nutritional counseling with our dietitian can also help you psychologically, by identifying some underlying causes of different food cravings and triggers so that you can find healthier ways to meet those needs. For example, many people in the United States “eat their feelings.” If you have an emotional dependence on food, than our surgical team can help you identify alternative ways to process sadness or loneliness that don’t derail your weight-loss goals.

Tips and Strategies to Help You Stick to Your Diet

Both before surgery and after surgery, your diet will probably change dramatically from what it is now. Here are some strategies to help you stick to your new diet in order to maximize your long-term weight loss and prevent weight regain.

1) Set Yourself Up For Success

The first strategy is to set yourself up for success when it comes to daily decision-making. This means recognizing that our willpower is limited. Many patients report that they have struggled to lose weight in the past because, when they’re bombarded with invitations from friends to go to restaurants (which tend to have high-calorie meals) or go out for drinks, saying ‘no thank you’ over and over drains their willpower and eventually they give in.

A more effective way is to plan ahead. Recognize ahead of time the situations that will tempt you, and act proactively to remove the temptation and test of your willpower. For example, if you know that you have a hard time resisting the smell of garlic bread once you’re in an Italian restaurant, then ask to be seated outside (away from the kitchen) or order your meal ahead of time. If you know that you’re really tempted to get drinks with the girls after work, then plan ahead and proactively suggest a different activity. This is far easier than getting to the bar and *then* trying to resist the urge to have a few drinks.

2) Remember Why You’re Doing This

You’re working to lose weight and keep it off for a reason. You chose to have bariatric surgery for a reason. When times get hard and you feel very tempted by unhealthy food or a high-calorie desert, then remind yourself of your reason. Get specific. You might be doing this so that you can have a super soaker fight with your kids or grandkids, or meet that special someone or just enjoy a walk around a pretty lake. Visualize this reason, and visualize how it would feel to lose weight and keep it off and get your life back. Getting back in touch with why you’re doing this can help you find the inner strength to push through temptation.

3) Remove the Guilt and Shame

Many of our patients report that, before surgery, they were trapped in a toxic spiral: they would overeat, and then feel guilt and shame about their bodies, and those negative emotions would drive them to overeat more. 

One key that we teach is to let go of the guilt and shame. You are a human being made in God’s own image, and you have incalculable worth. There is no one on this planet who is more valuable than you, because every human being has equal and intrinsic worth. Once our patients really internalize that idea, then a lot of temptation loses its sting.

Taking the Next Step: Scheduling Your Bariatric Surgery

Developing a healthy relationship with food can be difficult, but the rewards are worth it. Your

health and your life are worth the mental and emotional investment. If you’re considering

bariatric surgery and want to learn more about what a healthy relationship with food looks like and how it–in conjunction with surgery–can transform your life, then we encourage you to schedule a bariatric assessment with us or visit our Getting Started page.

Our patients routinely say that surgery was the best decision they ever made.

“Dr. Long took the time to listen to my situation and he allowed me to voice my fears and concerns as well as ask several questions. He treated me like a valuable human being.”–Martha Lugo, patient

“We were no longer prisoners in our own bodies, we were no longer handicapped by our weight, we were living and moving and feeling better then we had felt in so many years.”–Lisa and Chris Chesrown, patients

If you’re suffering, don’t wait. Contact our Denver office today.

Dr. Joshua Long headshot

This page was medically reviewed by Dr. Joshua Long, MD, MBA, FACS, FASMBS. Dr. Long is a double-board-certified bariatric surgeon and bariatric medical director for Parker Adventist Hospital.
Full Bio: Dr. Joshua Long, MD, MBA, FACS, FASMBS
Page Updated: September 13th, 2023

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