Eating with Mindfulness During The Holidays After Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric Tips

Hey Babe. Are you thinking about the holidays that are right around the corner and just feeling a tad worried? There are so many new challenges to overcome with friends, family, traditions, and favorite meals. 

How in the world can you cultivate mindfulness during the holidays? 

I’ll show you!

(Are you new here? Welcome! I’m Jamie, a pink-haired Registered Dietitian, AND fellow bariatric patient. I’m 5 years post-op and spend my days joyfully leading an amazing community of people just like you who are planning for their weight loss surgery or learning to thrive post-op.) 

Being mindful during the holidays (and the whole year, TBH) isn’t just some crunchy granola kind of touchy-feely stuff; being mindful helps us all to be present instead of being at the whims of emotions, family drama, or scheduling changes. There is something in this post for everyone, so let’s dive in!

A cute little white dog taking a snooze on a wrapped Christmas present under the tree.
Photo by Andrew Te on Unsplash

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is all about being fully present in the current moment; not rehashing the past or worrying about the future. Wayyyy easier said than done. 

We use a lot of things to avoid being present; doom scrolling on social media, binge-watching episode after episode of the Great British Baking show, listening to murder podcasts and eating in front of our computer, or even drinking too much.

Do any of those ring true for you? 

Now, I’m not saying that doing any of these things is bad or wrong once in a while; we all deserve a chance to let go. 

The issue is when we are mindless all the time. As humans, we like to avoid things that are uncomfortable. Who wouldn’t?

But when we avoid those uncomfortable feelings, we miss an opportunity to address (and fix or change) whatever was causing the uncomfortable feeling, to begin with. 

And worse? When we aren’t mindful and present, we miss the joy, too. Bahumbug.

So this holiday season, let’s use the following strategies to be mindful. This includes while eating and celebrating. Let’s connect with our joy as much as possible, starting with a foundation of a rock-solid wellness routine. 

Stick with your wellness routine

It can be draining to deal with an ever-changing routine as you move through the holidays, work parties, family gatherings, and trying to cram in time with friends. 

You’ll have more resilience and calm if you stick with your wellness routine. Move your body in a way that feels good, fuel yourself according to your post-op diet, practice gratitude, and don’t forget to get a good night’s sleep (I know, easier said than done). 

Writing in a gratitude journal, spending a few minutes meditating, and finding time outside can really help you to feel more balanced, present…and dare I say it, mindful. 

Your wellness routine includes how you plan and eat your meals. Let’s cover that, now. 

Build your plate

What can be so darn hard for the year after weight loss surgery is that you have to stick with your post-op diet plan, no matter what month it is. Even if there is a Christmas tree in your living room or PSL available at Starbucks. 

Buckle up for some tough love: If you are under a year post-op you have to stick to that prescribed post-op diet. Period. 

If you are further out from surgery, then any of those holiday treats you choose to have should be eaten mindfully and with awareness and intent. 

Even so, start your plate with protein and then a fiber-filled choice, and then add your carb choice. If this is your indulgence, do so with purpose and intention. 

Indulge with purpose

If you’ve reached that milestone – one-year post-op – congrats. You now probably have a bit more wiggle room with special treats and indulgences. 

If you do indulge, do so with intention and purpose. Choose the couple of things you really want and mindfully enjoy each bite. That means sitting with that food, putting down your phone, turning off the TV, and really paying attention to each special bite.

Otherwise, you’re going to miss it! Have you ever been watching an exciting sports game on TV, only to glance down at your phone and then – BAM – the winning point was just scored and you missed it? Eeks! We don’t want to miss the part of the meal that is the most exciting indulgence: tune in, turn off distractions and mindfully enjoy it. 

Remember, you don’t need to eat everything just because it’s there. You have the ability to make choices surrounding your food habits every day of the year. 

If you’re still in that first-year post-op, hang in there. I encourage you to make bariatric-friendly versions of your favorite treats, such as sugar-free protein hot cocoa or high protein pumpkin dip (and BTW – I share a lot of these kinds of recipes with members of the T.R.I.B.E. Grab your complimentary copy of my top-favorite holiday recipes right here – you’re going to love having bariatric-friendly versions of your holiday favorite recipes!)

Say no to the things that don’t bring you joy

So…what are the things that are making you want to zone out, to begin with?

This can be opening Pandora’s box a bit, but as you delve through the stuff that makes you uncomfortable, you make room for more joy and connection in the present moment. 

And a hot tip: just because something has been a tradition in the past does NOT mean that you have to do it again this year, or ever again. 

This might include talking about diets, weight loss, or anything about food in general. If your annoying Aunt Brenda only wants to talk about her latest fad diet or your WLS, you have my hot-off-the-press permission slip to shut that conversation down. Feel free to set a boundary by changing the subject, saying that those topics are off-limits, or even leaving the room. No time like the present to see what is going on in the other room!

Practice mindfulness

I know that this will not come as a huge surprise, but we get better at the things we practice. 

This includes being mindful. 

One way to practice mindfulness is to do a sensory scan of your environment. Gold star if you can do this outside. Put down your phone and take a slow scan of your surroundings. What do you see? Smell? What textures can you touch? What sounds do you hear?

Tuning into the sensory information around you forces you to slow down and be fully present. It is hard to have anxiety about a work deadline or a weird family dynamic at the exact same time that you’re appreciating the aroma of a wintery pine tree or the sound of leaves crunching under your cute hiking boots. 

And while we are changing focus, let’s keep it off of being negative, about yourself or others.

Change the focus

There are so many traditions and expectations around the holidays that are based on eating. Thanksgiving turkey, Christmas eve dinner, decorating (and chomping down) on sugar cookies or savory latkes topped with warm applesauce. 

This holiday season, I encourage you to take the focus off food and focus more on the experience with your loved ones and non-food-related traditions.

Instead of decorating sugar cookies that you’re tempted to eat, try making homemade ornaments or  crafting a beautiful new centerpiece for your holiday table Instead of meeting with friends for appetizers and wine, try meeting for a hike or going ice skating instead. Cultivate that cozy feeling that you can enjoy in the present moment, without foods that you’ll regret eating.  

Let go of judgment

Judgment just isn’t great energy to have, towards yourself or others. Let that judgment go and fill the space with emotions that are far more productive. Try on compassion, curiosity, and kindness for size. 

When you’re in the first year post-op, you’re learning a whole lotta new stuff. Figuring out how to build your plate is tricky and doing so over the holidays is even harder. You’re going to make mistakes. That’s ok: you’re human. 

Brush it off, forgive yourself and move on. The next meal, the next day, and the next part are coming. It will feel easier with practice and a good plan. 

Take care of you

There can be a lot of “shoulds” around the holidays. But tending to everyone else’s expectations without any regard for your own needs and wants will leave you feeling drained and even resentful. 

That is a 180 from joyful, right?

Don’t forget: the best person to take care of you is YOU. As you learn to be your own best advocate, you’ll enjoy being in the present moment more and more. 

Key takeaways

I invite you to cultivate more mindfulness this holiday season. While dealing with the tough stuff is no picnic, it clears room for some joy, from belly laughs with your friends to new memories with family. 

It’s tough to stay on track after surgery, especially as you mourn the loss of familiar traditions and the ability to indulge in special holiday treats. It is even harder when you don’t have anyone else in your circle who gets it. 

If you’re ready to have clear guidance on how to eat in a way that feels joyful and supports your weight loss goals, check out the T.R.I.B.E – we are a one-stop shop where all your post-op weight loss surgery needs are met in one place. Not only will you have prime access to support materials on demand, this month you’ll also have access to forty (40!) live support group sessions. The pressures of this time of year can dial up our emotions way up, so a community of people who understand what you’re going through is so valuable. 

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Remember: this post is for informational purposes only and may not be the best fit for you and your personal situation. It shall not be construed as legal, financial, or medical advice. The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional advice of your own attorney, accountant, physician, or financial advisor. Always check with your own physician, attorney, financial advisor, accountant, or other business or medical professional before trying or implementing any information read here.