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Well, I guess I don't dump from sugar...



This post is the follow-up to my post asking for advice earlier this week - http://www.thinnertimesforum.com/topic/120767-advice-for-post-op-dinner-party/

A few days ago, I starting really worrying about a dinner party I was invited to and asked for advice. I got lots of good pointers, mostly along the lines of “don’t get so worked up over this - people won’t care/notice.” Well, last night was the dinner party, so here I am for a post-party postmortem.

Before the party, I had emailed the hostess to say that I was a vegetarian-who-now-eats-fish (a category I once derided as “fake-atarian” but must now dignify with the name of “pescatarian” I guess). I was happy to hear that the hostess also falls into this category, as does another guest (whew! I wouldn’t be arriving at a lamb-roast! that’s a good start!). I loaded up on protein early in the day just in case, and determined to do my best to eat a little bit of whatever was served. I was also praying for salad, since I can do a pretty decent job of taking out some green leafy vegetables without getting too full. Or maybe a buffet-style thing where I could just take tiny bits of things.

I arrived to find that there were only 5 of us, total (alarm bells!) and that the hosts are sort of famous for their cooking (more alarm bells!). However, they are also very very very fit and health conscious people, so I was still holding out for something other than a giant plate of carbs. I had some wine before dinner and some veggies and hummus, which was a great option. Then, the baked brie topped with fruit and nuts and maple syrup (Canadians!! grr!) came out of the oven, and a loaded up cracker was thrust at me. “This,” I thought briefly, “would be a bad time to find out that I dump from sugar.” You see, dear reader, I have had no sugar, other than the stuff naturally occurring in dairy, fruit, and veggies, in 8 months, so I had no idea whether this would be the end of the world or no big deal. (I maybe should have experimented beforehand.) I ate the cracker with the stuff on top, and the maple syrup definitely wasn’t a selling point in my opinion, but it went down and stayed down, and I felt OK. As a non-Canadian, I do like maple syrup in theory, but do not enjoy the liberal use of it that Canadian expats seem to enjoy.

Then, to table. Out come pre-plated dinners (worst case scenario!). They served seared tuna and grilled vegetables and grilled halloumi (an excellent firm salty Middle Eastern cheese, best eaten grilled or fried, doesn’t melt, just gets crispy). Yes! I can eat all of those things! I skipped the bread (and actually the salad, too, no room with this giant plate of normal sized portions!), and attacked the tuna, which was delicious. I ate really really slowly and drank wine while eating (please just wash some of this food through so I can eat more!) and managed to eat about half of the tuna, all of the halloumi and some of the veggies. I mumbled some things about low carb and how delicious everything was - it was actually really delicious. At a certain point, I was admonished to stop eating if I was full and not worry about it, since of course I was the last one eating and the only one who didn’t clean her plate :( I gave up at that point. 

Then, the hostess disappeared into the kitchen to get dessert. Which came back to the table already plated (small voice inside making strangling sounds). It was sitting in front of me before there was any possible way I could have politely declined or even asked for a smaller piece. These are people I don’t know at all, remember, and who are being very nice to me and my husband as new people, to invite us over for dinner - so I can’t really be rude here. It’s super ultra rich chocolate cake and ice cream (small voice takes on new urgency, sort of quietly screaming). I’m pretty sure I looked a little like a deer in the headlights, but I tried to be calm, really I did. I skipped the ice cream and got some tsk tsks for that, but I ate a lot (for me) of the cake. I maneuvered around the frosting and got only the cake itself, to minimize the dumping risk. I ate super slowly. I tried to refuse the fancy Italian chocolate liqueur that was served with it, and was allowed to share one with my husband (I took fake sips). 

The cake was good. I’m not really a chocolate person (sounds crazy, I know, but I don’t love it, and since my sense of smell went haywire last winter, it just tastes sort of bitter to me), so it wouldn’t be my thing in the best of scenarios, but at this point, I’m just eating slowly and hoping that I’m not going to have a dumping episode right here at these fine people’s house. I did not. I got a bit hot and sweaty, but nothing other than that. I’m glad I didn’t push my luck with the ice cream. I was fine. 

After we left, I was like “Woo hoo! I made it through being invited to someone’s house for dinner and I did OK! I ate like half of everything! I ate cake! I made it!!!!!!” I think I’ve just established myself as a person who doesn’t eat much or maybe a picky eater, which is fine. I guess that both of those things describe me now, so that’s probably a good thing. “Hi, I’m Jen, and I’m a picky eater who doesn’t eat much.” BUT, I’m a picky eater who doesn’t eat much who can go to dinner at someone’s house and not die! 

I did my MFP food diary when I got home (gee, I’m so fun), and I only had about 1100 calories total for the day, even including the two glasses of wine and the cake. I guess there’s only so much damage you can do if you’re eating tiny quantities. Good to keep in mind while focusing on keeping the quantities of suboptimal things small. 

I think this dinner was the signal to me that I need to experiment a bit more and figure out some more coping strategies for dealing with being served things that are less than ideal for my way of eating. Living the life of an expat in this part of the world means eating dinner at other people’s houses pretty frequently, as that’s a major portion of the social entertainment available. Since we’ve just arrived, I think there will be a good number of these kinds of things as people get to know us, and I’m hoping they all go as smoothly, despite my fears, as this one went. 

I’m about 28 pounds from GW right now, so at some point in the foreseeable future, I’m going to have to learn how to maintain, which will require learning to deal with the normal everyday food challenges presented as I go through my life. Up to this point, I’ve been narrowly focused on eating *perfectly* and this has served me well, but my strategy will have to change a bit. In general in life, I find it much easier to be an “all or nothing” kind of person - I can do *perfect* perfectly, for a while, until I can’t. I have a hard time going back to something like *perfect* after falling off the wagon, or making periodic allowances that disrupt *perfect*. This is something I need to work on. The cake didn’t kill me. The maple syrup didn’t even kill me. Today I can eat whatever I like, which in this post-WLS iteration of my life means greek yogurt and protein shakes and cheese and shrimp, and I don’t have to feel bad or guilty or anything negative at all about what I ate last night. In fact, I can feel good about it. I was flexible and I ate both to sustain my health and to perform a social function, and both of those things are important in life. 

And they liked us enough to invite us camping next weekend, so I guess we passed the test. I’ll make sure to bring some protein bars.


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2 hours ago, Gretta said:

Great update! You handled everything so well. Did the new foods trigger any cravings afterward?

Actually, no. I mean, the maple syrup and the chocolate cake were the only things I really wouldn't normally eat - thank goodness for a menu planned by extremely fit, health-conscious people! I woke up with a bit of a weird food-craving feeling in my stomach (what I used to think was hunger but now I know it's some kind of hormonal response to carbs I guess) and I fed it some greek yogurt, and was all good. Pretty glad about that! We were gifted some banana bread by someone yesterday, and although it smelled delightful, I haven't been motivated to check it out. My husband will polish it off before I know it, so I think I'm all good as far as cravings go. I know that in my former life, it would be haunting me until I had some, so the feeling of control over that kind of thinking (or compulsion, let's call it what it is) is great. 

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You did great! That wasn't super easy to navigate, and I imagine it has to be a little terrifying being unsure if you'll end up with dumping syndrome at a stranger's home, but you managed it all very well! Good to hear you didnt really have cravings after, either.

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6 hours ago, Carina said:

Tell me about the "hormonal response to carbs" as a not-the-same-as-hunger feeling.

Hi Carina, I know you've had issues with feeling hungry, and that sounds tough. I've been fortunate in not feeling hungry very often, which is probably down to luck of the draw in how my body reacted to surgery, but just in case my behavior and/or thinking has had anything at all to do with it, here's what I've done/thought. Warning: this is LONG!! I really put some thought into it. It may not be pertinent at all to your case, and I don't want to dismiss your hunger as "in your head" or "fixable" because I'm not in your head, and I don't know how you feel, and everyone is different. This is just my way of thinking about myself, and it seems to help.

TL;DR - Carbs make me hungry and crave more carbs, so I avoid them as much as possible. When carbs make me feel hungry and crave more carbs, I tell my stomach to shut up and stop lying to me. These two things seem to have worked pretty well for me so far.

1. I stick to low-carb/high fat almost all of the time, usually 30g or fewer carbs, 99% of the time 40g or fewer. I know from pre-op that this leads to me feeling less hunger - it was the only way I could eat less before surgery without feeling like I was starving to death. I really like carbs, like to a problematic degree, and I know how they make me feel: they make me crave more of them. It's not just a craving thing, though. It's that stomach rumbling, "I gotta eat something right now!" sort of feeling. Like a few hours after eating a carby meal (pancake breakfast, big plate of pasta, Asian food with lots of white rice, candy, cookies, whatever), I feel ravenous. If I don't eat that stuff, that stomach rumbling ravenous feeling doesn't happen. This is me, and as I'm sure you know from reading this forum ad nauseam, everyone's reactions to everything seem to vary quite a lot, so no guarantee that's what happens to you, or really anyone else. But I know that it happens to me. 

2. Knowing that this rumbling stomach feeling is because of how my digestive hormones are reacting to too many carbs, I have committed myself to very purposefully forcing my brain to reassign that feeling to "reaction to carbs" (insulin, ghrelin, leptin, who knows what else) rather than to "hunger". It's not hunger. It happens a couple of hours after I eat carbs, when I shouldn't feel hungry if things are working correctly. Previously, I always interpreted it as actual hunger, and proceeded to eat something to make it go away (which works! for a while). If I was being smart, I would eat something with protein, and the feeling would go away. If I was being stupid, I would eat more carbs, what my body was screaming for, and the feeling would go away, only to rear its ugly head again pretty soon after, triggering a spiral of eat/"hunger"/eat/"hunger" that would sometimes last for days. It's not REAL hunger - that feels like being empty, low on energy, light headed, or whatever else accompanies low blood sugar due to needing to eat. It's also not hedonic hunger, I think, because it's not just my brain wanting something to satisfy its habit of turning to food for pleasure, entertainment, comfort, etc. It's something different. It feels like a drive to eat, like "I feel this gnawing feeling in my stomach, and if I put some food in there it will go away" *quiet whisper* "it will go away better if it's crackers or cookies or chips or pizza or ice cream or pasta or..."

SO, after thinking long and hard about this, and also watching my favorite hot bariatric surgeon, Dr. Matthew Weiner, talk about this in his video about head hunger, I decided to re-name that rumbling stomach, drive to eat something feeling as "reaction to carbs." I had it a fair bit in the first couple of weeks after surgery when I was drinking watered down juice and applesauce and stuff (sugar), but every time it happened, I just told myself, "That's your body having a reaction to carbs. You're not hungry." I drank some water or herbal tea or whatever, and the feeling generally went away pretty quickly. It does come back every time I eat too many carbs - like after the dinner party - but calling it by the better descriptor, rather than hunger, has made it so that I don't want food when it happens. What I want is for the feeling to go away! So, instead, I drink some water, eat some protein, or go for a walk, and it does. Then, I think about what caused it, and try to avoid that in the future. That's why I take giant horse pill calcium instead of delicious calcium chews - the chews have just enough carbs to trigger that feeling, and I hate that feeling. Fruit doesn't do it, maybe because the sugar is bundled with fiber, so I eat some fruit. Dairy doesn't seem to do it, either, so I eat a ton of yogurt and milk and cheese. That's basically where all my carbs come from, though, besides beans, which I eat in small quantities, too. Fake sugar often sets off this reaction in me, too, which means that living where I do now and not having access to very much fake sugar stuff is probably very good for me. 

Wow, talk about a long answer to a short question... 

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17 hours ago, CJireh said:

Wow! You did terrific both at the dinner party AND the next day  (my downfall was always after the party!)


I totally hear you on the day after thing. This relates to my comment to Carina, actually. My favorite thing to do the day after I had hosted a party was to go to the kitchen and make snacks out of leftovers - like all day long. I suspect I ate more the day after than the day of many times. Carbs -> carbs -> carbs -> carbs... 

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It sounds like you were calm and collected at the party.  Kudos to you!  The idea to test out some different foods so that you can cope better in social situations is a good one; I'm not sure how I'm going to handle that first happy hour when it inevitably comes, and your post provides some good food for thought on that. 

I love the way you describe your "reaction to carbs"; it is exactly how I feel when I eat carbs.  I, too, have been very careful in selecting my vitamins, because I've tried the fancy bariatric chews and they give me that same fake-empty feeling in my stomach.  There is no doubt that carbs got me to where I am today - needing WLS. 


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