Ahh, fall—cooler temperatures, shorter daylight hours, fall colors, kids getting ready to head back to school, and fall produce at its peak. The fall season always feels like the start of something new, and after the laidback summer months, it seems natural to return to a more structured lifestyle. Set some health and wellness goals for the fall and by the time the holidays roll around, you’ll have some good habits in place and substantial achievements under your belt.
What is it that you would like to achieve in the next 3-4 months? Health and wellness is a journey—one that requires continued effort. After all, our society isn’t especially supportive of behaviors that promote health. For instance, eating out is easier than preparing meals at home, jobs are often sedentary with long hours, and foods with low nutrition quality are more readily available and less expensive than healthier fare. On top of all of that, we are fighting the decline in our bodies that happens with age and from the years of carrying excess weight. It takes effort and motivation to overcome these obstacles, but with determination and the tool of bariatric surgery, it is well within your reach.
Take a look at the behaviors that lead to success with weight loss and maintenance after surgery. Do a mental assessment and if you find any areas for improvement, consider taking the next few months to focus your efforts on making positive inroads.
- Use a website or phone app to ease the process of tracking. You’ll be able to see if you’re meeting your nutrition goals and any shifts in your eating behavior. Tacking allows you to assess how your current calorie intake is impacting your weight. The single act of tracking will make you very aware of your eating habits and can help you control your food intake.
- Record your weight on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Understand that it is normal for your weight to fluctuate by a few pounds, but have an upper weight flagged as a warning sign. If you weight creeps past that warning flag, it’s time to take action.
- Find one or more ways to measure your exercise efforts. It may be the number of steps you take in a day or week; the pounds you can lift for a variety of exercises, or the number of cycling classes you take in a week. We all have great intentions, but it’s important to track the efforts that we are actually able to make.
Drink Calorie Free
Your surgery restricts calories from solid foods by limiting the amount of food you can eat at one time. It is not good at restricting calories from fluids. Sipping on higher-calorie fluids can derail your efforts. 100% fruit juice, if consumed, should be limited to 6 oz. a day. Milk and/or protein drinks count as a meal or snack. Sugar-sweetened beverages should be strictly avoided. Alcohol can also contribute significantly to caloric intake and may slow weight loss or cause regain.
Eat Small Meals.
Eating small meals throughout the day can help to maximize weight loss—about every 2 ½ to 3 hours. Take 20 minutes or so to eat your meals and then put the food away and stop eating. Don’t pick on the food until it’s gone in an effort to meet your protein goal. Avoid grazing or eating anything with calories between meals—this is your time to sip on calorie-free fluids. Your surgery restricts the amount you can eat at one time, but it does not prevent you from eating small amounts all day long. If you tend to eat out of boredom, when you’re stressed, or while watching TV, find strategies to avoid eating between meals.
The amount of food that you are comfortable eating at a meal can increase over time. To minimize this, be sure to avoid drinking with meals and for 30 minutes after, measure and limit meals to no more than 1 cup of food per meal, use smaller plates, bowls, and glasses, and log your food intake to be fully aware of how much you are eating.
Include a source of protein at most or all meals. This helps you to meet your protein goal, keep blood sugar levels more even throughout the day, and staves off hunger.
Eat Healthy Foods
- Prepare foods at home. You’re much more likely to eat healthier foods and consume a lot fewer calories when you prepare foods at home. Plan and prep on your days off. Dish up leftovers into single serving containers to refrigerate or freeze until later.
- Meet your protein goal daily. Protein helps you to keep more of your muscle tissue, feel more satisfied, and maintain your weight loss. There is no need to change your original protein goal (provided before surgery) once you’ve lost weight. Initially, most of your protein will come from liquid sources (milk and protein drinks), but you’ll want to transition to getting the majority of protein from the foods you choose throughout the day.
- Eat the right foods. Build your diet on lean protein sources and fresh vegetables. Add in fresh fruits and small amounts of whole grain and healthy fats. Eat mostly fresh, unprocessed foods. Limit simple carbs in the form of added sugars, crackers, granola bars, rice, pasta, potatoes, and breads. Carbs should come mostly from low-fat dairy, fresh veggies/fruits and small amounts of whole grains.
Get Regular Exercise
Incorporating regular exercise into your daily routine will help you to reach your goal weight and reduce your risk of weight regain. The time invested in exercising pays off immediately by raising your energy level and mood. The long-term benefits are numerous. In addition to better odds of reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, you’ll have a lower risk for numerous health conditions, including heart disease, many types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and many others.
How much exercise do you need? You need at least 30 minutes of brisk exercise 5 days a week. You can do this all at once or break it into smaller chunks of movement throughout the day. Keep in mind that as you lose weight and become more fit, your body will work more efficiently and you’ll need to increase your effort level to continue to become more fit.
Learn and Practice Stress Management
If you tend to cope with emotional highs and lows with food, you’ll need to be aware of that and work to find new coping mechanisms. If you notice that you’re grazing throughout the day, feeling out of control with your eating, or continually making poor food choices, you may want to engage the help of a trained therapist. Independently, you can work on implementing stress management techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing.
Learn and Connect
Make education a top priority. You’ll need knowledge and skills to make changes in the way you eat, think and live for best results from your surgery. Barix Clinics offers many opportunities to learn and connect with others: follow up appointments, in-person support groups, a Facebook support group, monthly newsletters, and tips sheets. You can sign up to receive emails when the newsletter and tips are available or access past editions at barixclinicsstore.com. Being part of the online or in-person support groups helps you to stay informed and motivated.
Review Your Health
There are a multitude of medical conditions which could affect your weight loss. You’ll want to work with your primary care physician to manage medical conditions. Medical conditions that can impact your weight loss include:
- Sleep apnea. Continue with your C-Pap machine after surgery until you are cleared by a follow-up sleep study.
- Thyroid problems.
- Medications can slow weight loss. Discuss the medications you take with your primary care doctor. For those that promote weight gain, see if there are options for weight neutral medications.
- Joint pain can slow you down. Work with your doctor to find safe medications that relieve pain without being harsh on your new pouch or sleeve.
If you’ve identified an area or two that need a little attention, it’s time to set goals and make some changes.
Step 1. Write down your overall goals with the end in mind. A big, overall goal might be to maintain your current weight. Starting with that goal and using the list above, think what it will take to make that goal a reality–food and beverage choices and amounts, exercise habits, adequate sleep, managing stress in a healthy manner and regular weight monitoring.
Step 2. Break down that overall goal into smaller daily or weekly goals. State your goals in a way that will allow you to measure if you’re meeting them or not. I will eat six small protein-rich meals each day, I will avoid foods with more than 2 grams of added sugar, I will eat 1 cup of fresh vegetables 5 out of 7 days each week, or I will walk an average of 5000 steps next week are examples of goals that can be measured.
Step 3: Plan specific strategies to help you meet your goals. Our habits are a cumulative result of many small choices each day, so it makes sense to break down smaller goals into very specific behaviors for your particular challenges. For example, avoiding foods with more than 2 grams of sugar may include taking sugar-free treats to enjoy during work birthday celebrations, keeping food in a cooler at your desk to avoid the break room, taking a sugar-free dessert to a family celebration, offering fresh fruit along with cake when hosting a birthday party, finding new recipes and products that you enjoy, not purchasing sugary foods for yourself or others in your family, or having low-sugar treats available for family members. Thinking through situations ahead of time and having a plan and a goal in mind will improve your success.
Step 4: Evaluate your progress weekly or monthly and make adjustments as needed. When you first start working on a goal, it takes a lot of effort. You need to overcome the tendency to do something a certain way without thinking about it. Over time your efforts can actually change the neuro-pathways in your brain—making the desired behavior the new auto-pilot. You won’t even need to think about it, or at least not as much. Each small goal reached will add up to a healthier you.
Step 5: Be sure to celebrate each of your successes. It might be simply saying “Yes!” to yourself as you manage a moment, new workout clothing after a week of meeting exercise goals, a new hairstyle, a planned trip, or taking a class that you have always wanted. Appreciate and reward yourself for all of your hard work—you earned it.
The fall season is close by. What will you do this season to propel your health and well-being? Assess, set goals and get going. It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it.
Autumn Chicken Salad
3 cups chicken breast, cooked and chopped
1 cup apple, diced
2/3 cup seedless red grapes, halved
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
6 cups mixed salad greens
Divide salad greens onto 6 separate salad plates. Mix together all chicken, apple, grapes, celery, walnuts, and cheese; top salad greens. Drizzle with your favorite Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing. Makes 6 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 178 calories, 19 grams protein, 7 grams fat, 9 grams carbohydrate, 189 mg sodium.
8 large apples
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup dried unsweetened cranberries or raisins
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup + 3 tbsp water, divided
Preheat oven to 350°F degrees. Wash and carefully core the apples, making sure not to put a hole in the bottom of the apple.
In a large mixing bowl combine the oats, walnuts, cranberries or raisins, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, butter, and 3 tbsp of water. Place the apples in a deep baking dish and pour one cup of water in the pan. Spoon the filling into the apples and cover the pan with foil.
Bake for one hour or until fork tender. Serve warm. Half of a stuffed apple served with vanilla Greek yogurt would make a delicious breakfast treat. Makes 8 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 238 calories, 3 grams protein, 8 grams fat, 41 grams carbohydrate, 87 mg sodium.
Download On Track with Barix: Fall Tune-up