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Crave Sugar After Weight Loss Surgery ?

Just because we had a bariatric procedure, the reality is that we can still crave sugar after weight loss surgery.  Unfortunately, our insides were altered but the part of us that crave sugar after weight loss surgery can still remain.  If you were a person that craved sugar and sweets before your surgery, the probability is that isn’t eliminated.  Depending on the surgical procedure you had, such as RNY gastric bypass, you can experience dumping syndrome which can be a deterrent but doesn’t eliminate the craving.

The clinical studies vary.  I believe one of the reasons is because each of us are different with unique emotional, environmental and situational circumstances.  I can’t, and don’t want to, agree or disagree with clinical results.  What I can bring to the topic of those of us that crave sugar after weight loss surgery is my own personal experience along with my coaching clients and other hundreds of WLS’ers I’ve talked with through my 10 year career in bariatrics.

Pre-op, my food consumption consisted of anything with sugar, simple carbs as my meals, snacks and grazing choices.  The best food-like substance (sugary stuff isn’t really food) was mostly sugar with some fat in there too.  Unfortunately, I’m not exaggerating here.  I existed on sugar, sweets, fast food, junk food, snacky foods.  I would drive-thru the Golden Arches for a Big Mac, largest of large fries, caramel sundaes (yes, plural sundaes as in two or three) and, of course, a DIET soda because I was watching my calorie consumption!!  On the way home, I’d usually stop at a convenience store for candy bars (yes, plural again as in many) or stale baked goods.   From my work in bariatrics, my food consumption regimine isn’t uncommon.

I knew sugar was a huge problem for me so during my first year post-op (actually 13 months), I was very aware of my prior love of all things sugar.  Not a coincidence, I lost the majority of my 147 pounds in 13 months.  I decided I was bullet-proof and had overcome my previous love affair with sugar and began to ease up my food choices “a little bit.”  From “a little bit” grew over the next few months to “some” sugary food choices.  It wasn’t long before my ex-loves Ben and Jerry came back to me and we were reunited.  As with any substance that is abused, 1 sugary food choice was too much and 1,000 wasn’t enough.  I craved sugar before my surgery and I still crave sugar after weight loss surgery.

1 is too much and 1,000 isn’t enough:

When you crave sugar after weight loss surgery, let’s look at the cycle of sugar.  Sugar is a vicious cycle.  Just by eating sugar sets you up for a craving then more cravings.  When you eat sugar, your blood sugar levels spike and then fall very quickly.  This spike and fall of blood sugar is like our wave example.  In fact, the fall of blood sugar spike is referred to as a ”crash.”  When you “crash” guess what happens……your body will want to rebound by eating more sugar which turns into a craving.  Thus, the vicious cycle that makes us crave sugar after weight loss surgery.   When your body “crashes” the instinct is to rebound by eating more sugar.

Whether a person’s had WLS, cravings occur periodically.  A good way to identify a craving for what it is, if you have a strong urge for foods that are primarily sugar, fat and high calorically, it is a craving.  If eating a healthy food choice wouldn’t suffice, then it is a craving.

Surf the Crave Wave:

Cravings come and go.  Think of a wave in the ocean.  It builds and builds, growing more intense and then weaken.  Cravings (and head hunger) are like waves.  The intensity can seem impossible to endure so we cave and succumb to the craved substance.  Thinking of my sugar cravings as waves has helped me immensely.  I think of a wave and can (or try) to distance myself from the craving….let it build and know that it will weaken.  As it builds, I will distract myself. In fact, I have a list of things to do instead of eating.  I will review the list and do one (or some) of the items until the wave weakens to the point of crashing on the beach.  For me, this has worked more times than it hasn’t.  On the flip side, when we give into the craving urge, it only makes them stronger and more frequent.  The more I practice my “cravings as waves” process, I get stronger in the resistance of the craving and trust that “this too shall pass” because it has for me time and time again.  I remind myself that I am stronger than a crave as a wave!

If you crave sugar after weight loss surgery, here’s how to surf the crave wave:

1. Change your environment – Change up your environment.  If you’re experiencing a craving, go outside, go to a different room to change your environment.  Many times our surroundings can set off a craving.  Change your environment to change your perspective to ride the crave wave.

2. Drink H20 - Many times cravings and head hunger are simply misinterpreted as our body’s need for hydration.  Drink an 8 oz. glass of water or Crystal Light, herbal tea (the heat from the beverage can be soothing) or other non-calorie beverage (per your surgeon’s guidelines, i.e., coffee).

3.  Clean house (remove sugar) - If sugar is your thing and you crave sugar after weight loss surgery, nix it.  Let’s face it, even if you buy stuff for your kids or family, they don’t need sugary foods either.  Sugary foods contain virtually no nutrition and are jam-packed with empty calories.  Get sugar out of your house thus out of your body too.  Make sure to eat nutrition filled balanced meals.  Make sure to eat protein and complex carbs that will keep your blood sugar stable and avoid the crave wave of crash and burn.

4.  Move it and sweat – When a craving hits, move it!  Take a brisk walk to work up a sweat or a leisurely stroll to enjoy the great outdoors, plop in a dvd and exercise.  Not only will you avoid the craving but you’ll be doing activity for your body at the same time.  Double score!!

5. Eat regularly – Try this exercise…..take a deep breath and hold it…keep holding it…hold it, hold it and then what happens?  After you’ve held your breath for as long as you can, you naturally have to blow it out and start breathing.  That is what happens to our bodies as well.  When you starve yourself or skip meals, your body can hold out for a short period of time and your blood sugar drops.  The lower your blood sugar, the weaker you and your will and the set up for a big craving begins.  If you eat regularly, balanced meals (smaller if more frequent) and snacks throughout the day, the better for your body and ability to beat a crave sugar after weight loss surgery.

6.  Know yourself – Some people can eat sugar in moderation and some can’t.  I’m one of those that can’t.  I know this about myself.  There is freedom in knowing yourself and weaknesses.  If you crave sugar after weight loss surgery, acknowledge it.  What you don’t acknowledge or admit gains more power.  If you have a weakness for sugar, accept it and avoid it.  I’ve had people tell me to just eat sugar in moderation.  I know myself and from past experience, eating my trigger foods sets me up for binging.  For me, I just don’t go there.

We’ve had weight loss surgery to change our lives.  The changes that occur are that we lose weight, our health improves but we may still crave sugar after weight loss surgery.  Even though we crave sugar, it doesn’t mean we can’t do something about it.  Indulging in a sweet craving or the wave to crave sugar after weight loss surgery is just doesn’t fit into our healthy lifestyle.  It is a simple equation – to maximize your weight loss from WLSANDmaintain your weight loss, overcome and ride the wave to crave sugar after weight loss surgery.  Look at all the changes you’ve made in your life (YAY YOU!), this is just another way to feel great about yourself  when you overcome any cravings that will hold you back in your weight loss and health.

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