A food funeral before your bariatric surgery , or mourning the loss of certain foods from your diet, is something a lot of people do before their surgery. It might feel like a positive mindset act, like a ritual to say goodbye to your old food favorites. But it’s probably not something you should do, and it doesn’t come from a positive place: A food funeral is based around fear that you will never eat the foods you like again. This fear may be based on a perception that the surgery is a punishment and the food funeral is something like your last night of freedom before going to jail.
If that’s how you’re thinking, you need to adjust how you are looking at your post-bariatric surgery life. This surgery and its results are actually your path to a freer, healthier life—and you can still enjoy those foods after surgery. There are no food restrictions once you are through the six-to-eight-week recovery phase. There are, of course, some things that will be different around what and how you can eat. Your favorite foods may no longer taste as good; your new stomach may not accept the food you eat and dump it out; and the amount of the food you are able to eat will be much smaller. Yet no one is telling you you can’t at least try any food.
Although you are free to eat the foods you love after surgery, you shouldn’t take that as license to eat as you did before surgery. If you are doing all the things that are asked of you so you can lose the excess body fat, having an indulgence infrequently throughout the year won’t derail your overall goals.
Unexpected things can mess up your plans
There are also some practical reasons to avoid a pre-bariatric surgery food funeral. If your doctor has you on a diet to reduce your fatty liver, then binging or overeating some foods just before your surgery can derail that diet, and that can make your surgery a little more complicated for the surgeon. And there’s a chance that your surgery could be postponed. Hundreds of people at the beginning of 2020 saw their surgeries postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you had been on your “last meal binge” or in a “it doesn’t matter” stage and then learned your surgery would not happen for a few months or more, you’d have more work to do once you do get the surgery.
Instead of waving a mournful good-bye to some foods, spend your energy on starting the difficult job of changing your relationship with food. Instead of diving head-first into bad eating decisions with a food funeral just before surgery, instead look for a professional who can help guide you to making better, healthier decisions around food choices that you actually like and can live with long-term. And prepare yourself for the unexpected: When your taste buds change, you may find it’s not as hard as you expected to make better food choices.
How two of my clients dealt with the loss of their favorite foods
Two of my clients had moments of disappointment post-surgery where they found they couldn’t eat the one food they loved. One client loved Snickers bars and told me that pre-surgery, she would eat them a few times a week. Another loved pizza; it was her go-to meal at least once a week. A few months after surgery, each tried her favorite food. It did not go well. The Snickers lover ate only a few bites of her bar, then experienced her first dumping syndrome. The pizza lover found that her pie no longer tasted right; she thinks it was the oil or the dough. Both confided in me that they were a bit disappointed and a little depressed that they couldn’t enjoy their favorite foods anymore. Yet both also said they were actually quite happy about it as well. They knew that the weekly Snickers bars or pizza wasn’t a good choice. And they would never trade their weight loss and new freedom from obesity just to go back to those foods.
You can still eat your favorite foods after bariatric surgery, you just may not want to
About six months after they told me their stories, I asked each of them again how they felt about the loss of their once favorite foods. My client who loved Snickers said she hadn’t even thought about it since, and after I brought it up she admitted that she had no desire to eat one. That the first thing that came to her was the memory of dumping that came after eating the first bar and how awful she felt.
The client who loved pizza found a different and more healthy way to eat it; she ate only the toppings and a small pinch of the crust. And even with this new way of eating pizza, she found that having it just a few times a year was more than enough for her.
While I don’t know if either one of these clients had a food funeral before their bariatric surgery, I use these two stories to highlight that the loss of a favorite food wasn’t that devastating. In fact, given the changes surgery brought, both were happy with those formerly favorite foods being a less significant part of their overall food choices. This will happen to you, too. I say it again and again: This surgery is the start of a new life with new habits and new choices. Don’t fear it or mourn the loss of things that are not worth your time to mourn over. Instead, take the time to build the path where you want to go.
Geof has been working with bariatric surgery clients for over a decade. His goal with Coaching For Bariatric Success is to give you the tools to make your weight loss successful for the long term.