Eleven Tips for Navigating Social Situations After Bariatric Surgery

Eleven Tips for Navigating Social Situations After Bariatric Surgery

Alex Brecher

Bariatric surgery changes so much in your life, including how you feel and act in social situations. They can feel challenging because of how people may treat you or the foods that are present, but they can still be an important and wonderful part of a healthy, post-op life. Here are 11 tips for navigating social situations after bariatric surgery.

  • Choose your narrative.
  • You are in charge of what you share with people. You can tell them about your weight loss surgery if you choose to. That can help explain why you make the food choices you may make in social situations. But you do not need to.

    You could also say something more vague. It is true if you say something like, “My doctor says I need to eat a certain way and avoid some foods.” You don’t owe anyone a more detailed explanation. 

  • Plan your food.
  • If possible, find out what food will be available at the event. If it is at a restaurant, check the menu online or phone the restaurant. Otherwise, you can ask the host what will be served. Then plan for what you will actually eat. Usually, the goal is to stick to lean proteins and vegetables as much as possible.

    It can help to prepare yourself mentally for what you may be offered. Alcoholic beverages, breadsticks and chips, and desserts are all foods that you probably do not need, but that are likely to be offered. Plan to politely refuse.

  • Make sure there is something you can eat.
  • Chicken breast, fish, beans, and shrimp are often available, and usually you can find a vegetable, especially at a restaurant. If the host is not planning to serve foods you can eat, you have some options.

    • Ask the host to serve something you can eat. Often, this involves little effort, such as setting aside some plain lettuce before dressing the salad.
    • Bring something to share with everyone. This could be a cheese and vegetable platter, or some nuts and fruit. That way, you can be sure to have something you can eat.
    • Bring something for yourself, such as a Protein Bar or Protein Chips. You can nibble on them instead of on high-carb foods.
  • Command respect.
  • If you start by defending yourself and your choices, other people may start asking questions. Instead, try to show your confidence. It is okay not to explain your choices. Most people don’t explain their dietary choices at social events; why should you volunteer an explanation? If you feel the need to say something, it is always okay to say that you are not hungry or that it is not what your doctor told you to eat, and leave it there.

  • Stay away if necessary.
  • Sometimes, the best choice is to skip the event. This is rarely the case, but it can occasionally be the smartest choice if you know that there are people who have already given you trouble over your bariatric surgery or your bariatric surgery diet. Remember that you always have the choice whether or not to attend an event.

  • Know the lay of the land.
  • If you have dumping syndrome or you have had surgery relatively recently, be sure you know where the bathroom is. You may need it in a hurry and do not want to have to spend valuable time looking for it when you need it.

  • Choose a treat.
  • If you are in a position after your post-op bariatric diet and you can tolerate it, you might want to choose a small treat for the occasion so that you do not end up with multiple larger treats. It might be a glass of wine if you drink, or a half of a cookie, or half of a breadstick, or a spoonful of pasta salad, for example. Looking forward to your small treat can keep you on track the rest of the day and during the event.

  • Embrace the opportunity.
  • Chances are that you have worked very, very hard to make healthy lifestyle changes. Why not embrace the opportunity to use them in social situations? You can be very proud of yourself when you go to a party or restaurant and find that you are able to make good decisions.

  • Stick to the plan before and after, if not during.
  • A social event does not have to throw you off. Stick to your diet before and after it, if not during it as well. If something goes wrong, forgive yourself and get right back at it. 

  • Do something besides eating.
  • If you have any say in the planning stages, ask to do something besides focusing on eating. Your group could go on a hike, visit a museum, or take an art class, for example, instead of eating high-calorie food together.

    Otherwise, just try to shift the focus away from eating. If you are at a gathering, stay away from the food table as much as possible. If you are at a restaurant, get the excess food away from you. Ask your server not to bring trigger foods, such as breadsticks or chips, and have half of your meal packed up immediately to take home. 

  • Have fun.
  • Remember, weight loss surgery is about living. Feel good enjoying your social life, even if it doesn’t revolve around eating junk food like maybe it used to. Use your new lifestyle and healthy choices as an opportunity to be more engaged with activities and people aside from eating. You may find that social situations are way more fun and meaningful now than ever!

    Social situations are a great part of life, and with some preparation, they can be even better after weight loss surgery as you feel healthier and more confident. When you set them up so that they are healthier for you, you can enjoy them more and feel even better about your choice to get bariatric surgery. The BariatricPal Store has all kinds of foods you can take to social situations to stay nourished and be part of the event, so stop by today!

    Navigating social situationsPost op