Why do bad foods go down the best?
Does your pouch prefer junk food?
Popcorn. Crackers. Cheese Nips.
These are foods you know you aren’t supposed to be eating after weight-loss surgery. You don’t need a class from a dietitian to know that! But why is it that these foods go down so easily after your weight loss surgery?
This is not a fun conversation as a bariatric dietitian, but it is a common one. My patient tells me the only food that seems to sit well are the foods I’m telling her not to eat.
The good news is that a few simple tips and she can see even better results plus spare herself from the slippery slope of other carby foods de-railing her completely.
Here are a few common scenarios I hear from post-ops:
All three of these scenarios are SO common. Truthfully, each of them are very much validated. I get it. But I also have good news. There are options and exploring them are well worth it in the long run.
Why the culprits go down easier
It’s true. High starch foods DO go down more easily. Let me explain why.
All foods start “mechanical” digestion in the mouth when you chew.
With carbohydrates (crackers, chips) the enzyme digestion process STARTS in your mouth with your saliva (salivary amylase).
If you set a saltine cracker on your tongue and left it there, it would start to taste sweet instead of salty. This is because the salivary amylase is breaking down the carbohydrates into sugar. The enzyme digestion process has begun.
Note: This doesn’t happen with protein. More on that in a moment.
This means, by the time a cracker or pretzel or popcorn reaches your stomach pouch, it’s been digested pretty darn well beforehand. It is much softer and therefore hits the stomach softer but also absorbs and transits faster.
Back to protein. While some enzyme digestion of protein starts in the mouth, it primarily gets digested by hydrochloric acid and proteases in the stomach.
When a solid protein like chicken reaches your stomach pouch, it’s only just started to be digested. Your stomach is harder at work on a protein.
Which means if you have eaten a teensie bit too fast or too large of a bite, you are going to notice it with a protein. It hasn’t been soften up before it reaches that tight little stomach pouch. (By the way bite size is the common issue. I recommend bites the size of a black bean.)
If you go too fast on some popcorn, no problem. If you go too fast on turkey chili, feels like a problem. This is also why protein is so great for weight-loss. It takes longer to digest so you aren’t hungry for a longer amount of time.
The tactic to defeating the culprits
I know I’m a broken record but you really want to take smaller bites and eat slowly.
This practice is not going to mean starches don’t sound good or will continue to feel better on your stomach.
What it DOES mean is that you can tolerate the protein and feel comfortable after your meal, even if it isn’t AS comfortable as Sun Chips. At least this gives you a shot at making the right choice. You still have to MAKE the choice and that is something no one can do for you.
As someone’s Mom might say, “just because something goes well and feels good doesn’t mean it’s a good idea!”
No, your body isn’t telling you something. No, you aren’t deficient in something that you have to eat because it feels good. Don’t trust those feelings.
Starches feel good because they are soft and mushy and are easier to tolerate. You do still have to make good choices! Listen to your body for cues of fullness and get to know what your body is telling you for true hunger and true satiety (feeling satisfied after a meal) but don’t trust it to tell you want to eat. You have to use your noggin’ for that part.
A note on finding crunch
Oh yes! For some it’s not as much about it going down easier than protein but rather about finding crunch and flavor.
This is where it takes getting creative. Raw veggies like bell pepper or snap peas with Laughing Cow Cheese. Pickle spears. Cucumbers dipped with salsa.
Need help getting back on track?
Join as a member and watch my Getting Back on Track course! Join our closed members group for community support and feedback. Find out more about member benefits today!
Steph Wagner, MS RDN