Managing Food Cravings After Bariatric Surgery

Managing Food Cravings After Bariatric Surgery

Food cravings are not uncommon and happen to the majority of people. Understanding why you might have a food craving can really help you know how to fight it off or prevent the craving from happening in the first place. Here are 8 tips to help reduce the likelihood of getting a craving or managing them if they happen often. 

Eat 3 Meals Every Day- No Skipping!

When meals are skipped, your body will have a lower blood sugar. Since your body wants to raise your blood sugar to a normal level, this may trigger carbohydrate or sugar cravings. This is a quick solution to low blood sugars.

The trouble is that these foods digest fast, and leave you feeling unsatisfied about an hour later. This can create a cycle of experiencing food cravings throughout the day. Do your best to eat 3 meals each day as consistently as possible. 

Increase Protein at Meals

Foods high in starchy carbohydrates like bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, or cereals digest really quickly and often leave you feeling slightly hungry an hour or so after eating them. 

Foods higher in protein take longer to digest, which helps you feel fuller for longer after a meal. This can help reduce the craving to snack since protein doesn’t cause a spike in your blood sugars.

Don’t Forget the Fiber

Similar to protein, foods high in fiber like non-starchy vegetables and fruits also help slow down digestion and add bulk to the stool. Besides helping you feel fuller longer by slowing down digestion, fiber also helps fight constipation which is a common side effect of a high protein diet.

Drink More Water

It is very common to confuse being hungry and thirsty. They can feel very similar. Make sure you are drinking at least 64 ounces of water throughout the day. But remember to sip slowly and consistently between meals. 

Focus on Stress Management

For many, stress and anxiety (among other emotions) are triggers for emotional eating. And emotional eating is strongly linked to craving and eating comfort foods. It’s important to begin to ask yourself the question, “Why am I eating,” before any meal or snack. It’s helpful to check in with yourself to identify any emotional eating before it happens instead of experiencing the guilt after overeating on comfort foods.

 If you’re experiencing an emotionally trying time, try to find an alternative way to improve your mood or manage the emotion. For example, if you are stressed, try going for a brisk walk, meditation, listening to calming music, or stepping outside to remove yourself from the stressful situation. When feeling lonely, try giving a friend a call. Taking care of your mental and emotional health or stress levels can be an important piece of the puzzle for managing food cravings related to emotional eating. 

Establish a Sleep Routine

Poor sleep can affect your appetite and lead to food cravings as well. Try to have a consistent sleep schedule. It is helpful to turn off all electronic devices like the TV, cell phone, ipad or tablet, about 1 hour before bed. The blue light from these devices keeps you awake and makes it harder to fall asleep.

Some alternatives might include reading a book or magazine, utilizing adult coloring books, and establishing a night time routine to help you relax before bed. 

Incorporate Activity and Exercise

Research has shown that being active for 20-30 minutes helps reduce junk food and sweet cravings! This happens by exercise helping manage your stress levels and emotional health, improving your sleep and keeping your focus on a healthy lifestyle. 

Try different types of exercise that you find enjoyable. For example, try walking, riding a bike, dancing, water aerobics, yoga, or using a peddler for those that have physical limitations from pain, injuries, or medical conditions. For others, that might mean doing the exercises given to you by a physical therapist. Do your best to slowly incorporate physical activity into your daily routine.

Limit Artificial Sweeteners

When following a lower sugar lifestyle, different types of “diet” products are likely going to be found in your pantry or refrigerator. However, some of the sweeteners found in these products may be adding to your sweet cravings. Aspartame, splenda and sucralose, are about 500-700 times sweeter than natural sugar, making these products unnaturally sweet. 

When we get used to these products, naturally sweet foods like fruit become less satisfying. Simply because it cannot hold a candle to these artificially sweetened products! 

Try to look for products sweetened with Stevia, Monk Fruit, or sugar alcohols like Erythritol. These products aren’t as sweet as aspartame, but are similar in sweetness to regular sugar. They are all natural, zero calories, and help you stick to your low sugar lifestyle after surgery without the cravings.

If you need help staying on track after surgery, give us a call to schedule an appointment with a dietitian!

Katie Ott, MS, RD

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