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Saturday, January 08, 2005

Getting back on track

Originally published Jan. 8, 2005, in the Tracy Press.

As the first week of the new year comes to a close, I have to say I spent it like most people — making up for the sins of the holidays.

What many refer to as a New Year’s resolution is a means to an end for me. I need to lose about 30 pounds to be cleared for gastric-bypass surgery through my insurer. I was given that weight goal at my pre-operative orientation in mid- October. Between that day and my visit with the program’s dietician in early December, I had lost nine pounds. The dietician seemed impressed, especially considering that I met with her the week after Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, the week of Christmas brought a setback. It’s never the day of the holiday that gets me. With plenty of people to visit with, I find myself too distracted to overeat. What seems to be my downfall is the time preceding a holiday, when I’m too scatterbrained to pay attention to what I’m putting in my mouth. And I tend to lose my resolve at work.

Holidays are a tough time in most offices — everyone is doing extra work to make up for the shorter workweeks or to fill in for those on vacation, not to mention dealing with the seemingly endless supply of treats dropped off by clients or brought in by co-workers.

After giving in to a truffle, it became easier to say yes to fudge, cookies and gourmet coffee drinks. And the easier it was to say yes, the harder it was to say no. And that’s why I spent Christmas night realizing that the jeans that had been so loose the week before now protested every time I tried to lift the zipper.

I spent much of last week thinking about how I was going to get back on track. It felt like I had all the time in the world — until I pulled out my 2005 calendar and realized I had a little more than a week before my next weigh-in.

As you read this column, I will be on my way to San Francisco to meet with the bariatric program director at the hospital where I’m expected to have surgery.
The director has the power to schedule my surgery for two weeks — or even two years — from when we meet. Showing up with a 10-pound gain is not the way to convey that I’m serious about having surgery.

I’ve had to kick my butt into high gear. I know fad diets don’t work, so I haven’t spent the week fasting or eating nothing but cabbage soup.

I’ve gone back to the preoperative eating plan prescribed by the bariatric team in charge of my case.

Yes, not only do I have to lose weight before surgery, but I’m expected to do it a certain way. The hospital’s way consists of eating 1,200 calories a day in the form of three balanced meals.
Calories aren’t the only thing I have to watch. The bariatric doctors want me to begin living life as if I already have had the surgery. Doing so is meant to prevent me from having transition difficulties after surgery, because not following the dietary rules could kill me.

Within my 1,200 calories a day, I need to consume between 75 and 90 grams of protein, up to 40 grams of fat and no more than 133 grams of carbohydrates.

Though this plan is low in carbs, it’s not a low-carb diet in the traditional sense, because fat and calories are also limited. It’s a low-calorie, low-carb, high-protein and moderate-fat plan.
For the first year after surgery, I will eat anywhere from 500 to 900 calories a day.

Cutting my consumption down to 1,200 now will be a good way to get my body used to reduced nutrients.

The anatomical limitations I’ll have after surgery will prevent me from digesting starchy foods very well, and cutting carbs is better done now than later.

As I’ve explained before, protein will be my main concern after surgery, and it’s best that I focus my energy on lean sources now so I’ll have an easier time later. Not eating red meat or poultry makes it more of challenge, but I’m working on it.

I’m also expected to replace one meal a day with a sugar-free protein supplement that I’m allowed to mix with either milk or water.

Other rules meant to prepare me for surgery include no carbonated beverages, no caffeine and no alcohol.
I’ll tell you a little more about what I can and can’t eat next week. But for now, I need to head to the gym — more on that later, too.

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