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How To Handle Sugar Cravings After WLS

Strawberries and sugar free whipped cream are in a bowl and are a healthy alternative to high sugar treats

If you’re like most of us, you’ve got a sweet tooth. Before my bariatric surgery, I was ALL about the sweets – cakes, ice cream, cookies, lattes, candy… you get the idea! And to be honest, bariatric surgery only tackles the stomach, not the brain. So, those cravings did not go away magically. Although bariatric surgery restricts how MUCH you can eat, it’s certainly not a cure-all for cravings. Here are some tips for when those old cravings creep their way back in.

One of the exciting and lesser-known side effects of bariatric surgery for some people is a change of tastes and preferences. Things you used to love might suddenly taste unappealing. Or something that you never cared for might become a new favorite. It’s possible (but not very likely) that you may not like sugary things anymore.

Odds are, though, you’ll still want the occasional treat. We’re only human. So, what do you do if you find yourself craving sweets, and can you work that into a successful post-bariatric plan? If you’re like most unsuccessful dieters, you’ll try to get by on sheer willpower, occasionally fail, beat yourself up over it and end up feeling depressed. Setting up that negative feedback loop makes you feel worse and more powerless about your diet “cheats.” The “cheats” become more frequent, and you then eat more to feel better about “slipping up.” And then you feel worse because you ate. You’re setting yourself up to “fail.” But fear not – it doesn’t have to be this way.

First, you just saw these words — “cheat,” “slip up,” “fail” – in quotes. They belong in quotes because they are words others say, not a person reclaiming their relationship with food. A big part of that new way of seeing food is not giving food the power to derail you. No food is a cheat, a slip-up, or bad. It is just food. You have the power and confidence to see them for what they are and decide what they mean to you.

So What Do We Do When Faced With a Craving?

Sugar can be a very addictive substance. So, by simply cutting it back into your diet, you’ll find that the cravings become less frequent and intense over time. As your body gets healthier and stronger, it will crave foods that fuel it. Take time to meal plan and prep to give your body what it needs first and foremost. And note the slow and subtle changes in your meal plans and food logs. You will start to notice a reduction in the overly-sweet foods of the past.

Of course, those craving days will still come when you want a sweet treat. But there are lots of healthier options that you can make for yourself. Some chopped strawberries with sugar-free whipped cream are always delicious. Scatter a few sugar-free chocolate chips on top for extra decadence. You can make all kinds of light, fruity whipped desserts using sugar-free Jell-O and sugar-free whipped cream. You can even “hack” things like protein bars by cutting them into squares and baking them into cookies.

Need more sweetness? You can find low-carb candies, cookies, ice creams, pastries, and just about anything! Larger companies have many options, but you can also see and support smaller businesses on Etsy or in your town. Low-carb, low-calorie desserts tend to cost more than their “regular” counterparts. But remember, not only are you paying more for higher quality, but you’re also eating less at a time. Now, this suggestion comes with a caveat. There are many different sugar alternatives out there. And not all of them agree with everyone’s stomachs. What works for one person may give you bloating, cramps and gas. So, try different products slowly to see how you respond to them. Once you find the treats that work for you, you’re in business!

You can also allow yourself some grace on days you want to celebrate. And these will become clear to you along your journey. Maybe for a holiday or special occasion, allow yourself a piece of grandma’s famous cake. Just keep the piece a reasonable size. On days you indulge grandma (and yourself), try to increase your walking steps to balance the extra calories. Or take an additional exercise class that week. Burning some extra calories is the perfect way to allow yourself some indulgence and starts to change your way of thinking for the long term. You are not meant to exclude the celebrations – you are meant to love them and yourself for staying on track after them.

Lastly, make sure you practice mindful eating while enjoying your treat. Desserts will be MUCH smaller for you than they used to be. Take the time to savor and enjoy. You’ll find that mindfully eating a small, healthier treat can be far more enjoyable than distractedly eating a big bowl of empty calories.

Way to go. You’ve got this!

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Amy is a 39-year-old gastric sleeve patient of Dr. Tsuda, living In Las Vegas, NV.  She is almost 2 years post-op and has lost over 145 pounds.  Through this weight loss journey, Amy has discovered a passion for health and fitness.  Now, she enjoys sharing her experiences to help others on their own journeys.