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Lose Your BFF and Gain So Much More

By B. Charles Ihrig, PhD

For many of my bariatric patients, before and after surgery, food is their trusted bff (best friend forever). So it comes as no surprise that many of them express a sense of loss after surgery because they can no longer eat the same things.


I’m not ashamed to say I enjoy a delicious meal at the end of a long day. But I try to keep in mind that eating is supposed to be mainly about providing nourishment for my body. A relationship with food that is centered around healthy eating is better for your weight and your well-being.


I often tell my patients that I have yet to come across anyone addicted to baked chicken and broccoli. But, on a daily basis I see people craving and self medicating on simple carbohydrates such as sugar and starches. Unfortunately, this is the one food category that should be avoided after weight loss surgery. For some, eating simple carbohydrates will cause an immediate consequence such as “dumping”, which is an insulin reaction associated with the Roux en Y gastric bypass procedure. However, everyone will struggle with reduced weight loss and possibly weight gain if they engage in high carbohydrate eating behaviors. The one thing that is sure is that most patients will miss this part of their life. But eating fast-acting carbohydrates act as a trigger to making other poor food choices and can easily bring back old eating habits.


Your long-lasting love affair with carbohydrates is a one-way street because carbohydrates have never loved you back. They are like a lousy lover who just isn’t good for you, the friend in school who dared you to do the things you shouldn’t, or the friend who stabbed you in the back when the opportunity presented itself.  Yet, many patients grieve the loss of carbohydrates like they would the death of an old friend. For some it starts right before surgery, just knowing that soon the food will be gone. Others wake immediately after surgery and are overwhelmed with a sense of loss. We even have a name for this, often referred to as “buyer’s remorse”.


If you’re like most patients, you have mourned the loss of carbohydrates too. You may have used them to get you through many emotionally tough times. They may have been a crutch to cope with stress, sadness, lost love, financial problems, or even to just fill the boredom. So take the time to grieve the loss. You may feel yourself going through stages of sadness, anger, and denial.  But also try to remember all the things carbohydrates have stolen from you: your energy, your sexuality, your self-confidence, your life. Instead find a real friend and take them to the amusement park, the beach, or for a nice walk. No matter what, always remember how much you have gained in life so that this loss is kept in perspective.