Eating Out After Bariatric Surgery

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I’m heading out today to have lunch with a friend I met while going to school. It’s been almost 9 years since I had weight loss surgery and don’t really think much about how to handle eating out. My friend picked the restuarant but then emailed me to make sure that I would be able to find something suitable to eat. She knows I’ve had a gastric bypass and have issues with reactive hypoglycemia. I was amazed that she even thought of this since most people, including family, never do. They simply figure you will eat whatever is available but just in smaller amounts. I’ve attempted this mutltiple times in the past with varying degrees of success. Sometimes it works and sometimes it leads to the mother of all dumping episodes. Even worse are the times where some food ends up causing serious stomach issues that result in sitting at the table for the whole meal while deciding if your are or aren’t going to throw up. Not a fun time.

Here’s a few tips that I have found really helpful when eating out after bariatric surgery.

* If there is a particular type of food you find you can’t eat speak up when it comes to restaurant choices. Chinese food is a killer for me so I opt out of those types of restaurants. Italian, with it’s mostly pasta filled dishes, is another tough one. Buffets and all you can eat places aren’t worth it if your only eating half of a plate of food. If you know it’s going to be hard to find something to eat try to pick a different place to eat.

* Check out the menu online before going. It’s really helpful to be able to decide on what to get before even arriving. You can see the items that will work for you and avoid those that sound good at that moment but will probably cause some type of problem.

* When I first had surgery people on the various WLS forums talked about getting a card/note from your surgeon stating you had surgery, can’t eat a whole lot and that you should be allowed to order from the children’s menu. The idea was you would get a smaller portion for a lower price. Don’t do it. The children’s menu is filled with stuff that even kids shouldn’t be eating. Mac ‘n cheese, pizza, hot dogs, etc. It’s all basically high carb, high fat junk food. Pass on the kid’s menu and look to see what else is available. I also don’t really feel like sharing with the waiter/waitress that I’ve been surgically altered and can only eat half a meal. I head straight to the main menu to order.

* The servers will always ask if you want to order an appetizer. I pass on those by simply saying no. Sometimes I toss in more information such as “I can never finish my meal if I get an appetizer” if they keep pressing the issue. The server’s job is to keep telling you about all the options so you will order more. The more you order the bigger the tip they get. Telling them your not interested in an appetizer is usually enough. Again, it’s no one’s business but my own and I feel no need to tell them I’ve had surgery and can’t eat a bunch of food.

* Skip the bread, tortillas with salsa, popcorn or any other free nibbles that the restaurant might give you before the meal comes. Most of these items are high in carbs and are usually the culprits in many dumping episodes. They are also the items that many of us return to grazing on over time and contribute to regain. Avoid them when possible.

* To drink or not to drink (I’m talking water, tea, soda, etc not just alcohol)? This one is a loaded question. Most people have been told to not drink 30 minutes or so before or after meals. Not to drink soda. Not to use a straw. We’ve been told all kinds of things. Personally I need a little something to drink during meals. I’ve discovered that I like to at least have some water available in case something should go down wrong and it feels like it’s stuck. Whether you do or don’t get a drink should be based on what works for you. Remember to avoid sugary drinks including alcoholic ones such as margaritas. These fruit based drinks usually have lots of added sugar. Also avoid sipping throughout the meal if possible. This will only create a slurry which quickly moves through the stomach which will keep you from feeling full. In the end I think having a drink available during a meal becomes something each person has to discover what works best for them.

* When ordering look for meals that include protein and vegetables other than some form of potatoes. If your meal comes with fries, rice or potatoes, and your looking to avoid them, ask your server if you can swap them for additional vegetables or even a small salad. Most of the time this isn’t a problem.

* I love eating out. I usually get at least two meals or more from the one I bought. When the server stops back to see how we are doing, and usually asks if everything is ok because I’m not eating much, I find this is a perfect time to ask for a container to package up my meal. I find that the server’s will usually ask again if the meal is good when they see I haven’t eaten much. You can easily reassure them that things are fine by simply saying “I guess I wasn’t as hungry as I thought” which is actually the truth.

* No matter what you end up buying remember to eat slowly, take small bites, chew your food well and put down your fork before that too full feeling kicks in. For many, once that point is reached, it’s already too late. Nothing ruins a meal quicker than feeling so full that your sick for hours afterwards.

I’m sure there are many other tips that people have to make eating out at a restaurant after WLS much easier. Please share some of the things that you find helpful in the comment section.

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