Halloween is a season of candy and sugared goodies. And as a bariatric patient, this can be quite frightful. It can be hard to resist the temptation to open the bag of mini chocolate bars you planned on giving out to trick-or-treaters. And it can be even harder not to pick out your favorite treats once the kids get home, which you can guarantee they will not have overflowing pillowcases of broccoli and cauliflower.
Haunting Effects of Sugar
It is no surprise that Halloween is the day that Americans consume the most amount of sugar. On average, children eat three cups of sugar on Halloween, and the parents are not too far behind. All of that sugar can potentially derail your weight loss progress and cause you to pack on a few extra pounds.
And not to mention, for most people, Halloween marks the beginning of unhealthy eating that carries all the way through the holidays.
Sugar is said to be as addicting as cocaine. When sugar is consumed, especially in excessive amounts, the brain releases a chemical called dopamine, also known as the "feel-good" chemical. Over time, greater amounts of sugar need to be consumed to reach the same dopamine level and ultimately feel that "sugar high." This is one reason why the more sugar we eat, the more sugar we crave. If we give in to those cravings, it can have haunting effects on the entire body.
Sugar Cravings after Weight Loss Surgery
Most bariatric patients should avoid sugar six months to one year after weight loss surgery. And although most stick to this plan because they have experienced the impending sensation of doom (aka dumping syndrome), it can be hard to resist the temptation when everywhere you look there is a bowl of chocolate.
Therefore, it is crucial to map out a game plan and create habits that will stick throughout the holiday season. Here are my tips for curbing sugar cravings, even when they seem to be uncontrollable.
1. Don't even go there.
Before you begin binging on the sweets, remind yourself that it will be harder to stop once you have started (see above where I mentioned that sugar is as addicting as cocaine). You should get in the habit of saying "no" to those little treats and start your holidays off with the right mentality.
2. Wait to buy.
If you plan on passing out candy at your house, we recommend waiting to buy it until the night before Halloween. Otherwise, the candy will haunt you and be calling your name from the pantry. This will keep the temptation out of the house and will limit your access to treats. Plus, the bags will likely be on sale.
3. Throw it out.
If you have sweets and candy in your house, throw it out! Again, if the candy is sitting around, you will be more tempted to eat it. If your family members are the ones buying it, kindly ask them to hide it away. Also, ask them to please not eat them in front of you—that is just cruel!
4. Stick to your regular schedule.
Just because Halloween is around the corner, followed by the holidays, doesn't mean you forget all of your bariatric tips. You should still be eating regularly with three meals a day and two small snacks. By fueling up on nutritious foods, you will keep your sugar levels consistent. When sugar levels drop, people are more likely to crave sugar.
5. Spice things up.
Try adding spices to your foods and drinks, such as coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom. These spices will naturally sweeten your foods, reduce cravings, and provide the perfect fall flavor to any meal.
6. Eat breakfast.
Remember, breakfast "breaks the fast." Have a breakfast high in protein and fat to avoid sugar cravings as the day gets longer. If you notice you are hungry shortly after eating breakfast, you will want to look at what you are eating. If it is a meal high in carbs and sugar, then it is no surprise you will still feel hungry plus crave more sugar throughout the day.
7. Get enough sleep.
Sleep is so crucial for your health and bodily function. When we are tired, our bodies use sugar for energy to stabilize the exhaustion. This leads to a sugar high and a hard crash, making you crave more sugar throughout the day. Similarly, sugar has been linked to disruptive sleep, making you more tired during the day. And the cycle continues.
8. Is it a craving or emotions?
Look into any emotional issues that may be surrounding your sugar cravings. More often than not, sugar cravings are a sign of an emotional need that is not being met.
9. Read the nutrition label.
You are bound to be spooked when you find out how much sugar you are consuming. Not to mention how long you will have to move to burn off those calories, so the weight doesn't begin to creep back in. Take a look at those calories and the macro breakdown and begin to really understand what you are putting in your body.
10. It's all about willpower!
It can be hard to stop yourself from giving in to the temptation to eat sweets, especially during the first few weeks, when you feel desperate for it. But you have to tell yourself no and exhibit willpower. As Dr. Stapleton has told patients, say "NO" out loud (I'm serious!) and talk to yourself.
Bariatric Approved Sweets
We know that avoiding sugar and sweets during a day when Americans consume the most sugar all year can be hard to do. If you MUST have something sweet, turn to low sugar options. Below are some bariatric approved low-sugar, low-carb options:
- Sugar-free popsicles
- Sugar-free Jell-O
- Sugar-free pudding (you can make this with a protein shake)
- Lily's chocolate bars
- Sugar-free cool whip
- Sugar-free candies, such as Lifesavers and Werther's Original
- Fruit, such as berries and melons
You're going to feel much better physically and mentally when you stick to your bariatric plan. Just because the holidays come and go doesn't mean your weight will too.