holiday overeating
Turkey and dressing. Pumpkin pie, Christmas cookies, and eggnog. If you’ve had weight loss surgery, do you have a plan for how you will handle these holiday foods?

A lot depends on where you are in your post-op journey, but a lot also depends on your commitment to avoiding binging and overeating. While not everyone who has weight loss surgery has problems with these issues, it is a challenge for some because of long-held habits. 

Holidays foods can be triggering, and they can be anxiety-inducing. This is normal, and you shouldn’t feel badly about it. It helps a lot to understand more about what’s happening in your body after weight loss surgery, and it helps to know what to expect. 

Will You Overeat During the Holidays?

First, the answer to this question really is up to you. And it’s a question to ask yourself even if you have not had weight loss surgery. Going into the season with the right attitude and mindset makes a huge difference. 

Avoiding overeating may not be a huge issue if you’ve had weight loss surgery in the past year or so. During this period of time, your body just won’t let you consume as much food without causing you to feel sick. You learn your lesson pretty quickly, and people are better able to stick with what they know they should do. The challenge will be more for those who have not yet had weight loss surgery or for those who are a few years out from it. 

Appetite Suppression

Many people have the idea that they will not be hungry at all after weight loss surgery. While this is true for some, it’s not true for everyone. You will likely still experience hunger, but it will probably be less than what you experienced before. Appetites are typically suppressed rather than eliminated completely. 

The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery says that bariatric surgery increases the production of certain gut hormones that interact with the brain to reduce hunger, decrease appetite, and enhance satiety (feelings of fullness). Because of these factors, bariatric surgery typically helps produce long-term weight-loss.

Right after surgery, the combination of swollen tissues and the difference in the amount of ghrelin being produced does often pretty much eliminate hunger and cravings. However, this isn’t permanent. Tissues return to normal, and the reduced ghrelin becomes the new normal that your body adjusts to over time. Many lifestyle factors will also lead to feeling hungrier than you were immediately after surgery, but your appetite will likely still be suppressed. Your hunger levels will eventually fall in line with your new food consumption patterns.

Remember that there is a big difference between hunger and cravings. Cravings are more likely during the holiday season. Even after surgery, you may still experience cravings for trigger foods. For example, you may not be hungry at all, but you see Christmas cookies at a party, and you want to eat several. This is a craving, not hunger. 

Managing cravings and hunger after weight-loss surgery is very important. We start preparing you for this before your surgery with our pre-surgery diet plans, and you will also have a post-surgery diet plan. With a plan, strong willpower, and motivation, managing hunger and cravings during the holidays is possible. 

Here are some tips that help many of our patients during the festive time of year!

Protein, Protein, Protein

Eating enough protein is crucial after weight loss surgery and anytime you are trying to keep your body feeling full. It’s a requirement for a healthy metabolism, strong muscles, and high energy levels. 

After weight loss surgery, the number of calories you can eat per sitting and per day will be greatly limited. When you do eat, you need to make the best choices and get maximum nutrient value out of every bite. When it comes to protein, this will likely mean looking at your meal a little differently. While you will have your own customized diet plan, your goal will probably be 60 to 80 grams of protein daily. 

Focusing on protein first typically helps a lot, so head for those holiday foods first. Foods like ham and turkey are often good options. Next, you will want to fill your plate with vegetables. If there are foods you love that you want to try, intentionally save a couple of bites for those. 

Eat Slowly, and Always Make It a Meal

Snacking, grazing, or otherwise eating constantly is often a recipe for disaster. A common approach to holiday buffets, cookie exchanges, and potlucks is to try a little bit of everything. After weight loss surgery, this just isn’t possible or a good idea. You will overeat if you try even one bite of all the selections available. Find your healthy options, put them on your plate, and sit down to eat.

Also keep in mind that many of us eat much faster than we should, and our bodies do not register fullness until it’s too late. Eat slowly and chew thoroughly. Your body will be able to catch up and let you know when to stop eating. 

Drink Water Strategically

Drinking water 45 minutes before and after a meal can also help with hunger, especially because we often mistake thirst for hunger. Weight fluctuations during the holidays may be due to eating a higher amount of salt or carbs which can make you more bloated than usual. Drink extra water to help flush out the extra sodium. 

For those who have had weight loss surgery, you also know that you should not eat and drink at the same time. Since you can only eat three or four bites at a time, you should focus on these bites so you get the nutrients you need. You don’t want to fill your now smaller stomach up with fluids. Plan on drinking later, once your food is digested. This is also important for avoiding dumping syndrome, which you can read more about here.

Focus on Maintenance, Not Weight Loss

Don’t stress yourself out about losing weight during this time. When you let go of this idea, you will hopefully feel more relaxed and be able to handle all of the holiday treats and sweets in a better way. Also remember that one day of splurging will not ruin everything. Commit to making better decisions the next day and move on. 

Contact Birmingham Minimally Invasive Surgery for More Advice

Because you will likely be eating foods you don’t normally eat during the holiday season, your body may feel a little off sometimes. Eating slowly, drinking water appropriately, and sticking to your schedule as much as possible will help. If you are concerned about overeating or bingeing during this time of year, contact us, and we will connect you with the right resources that can help! 

Learn more about weight loss options at Birmingham Minimally Invasive Surgery.

The caring group of professionals at Birmingham Minimally Invasive Surgery will help you get started on your weight loss journey and stay with you every step along the way. Dr. Long and his team specialize in all types of bariatric surgery, including gastric sleeve surgery, gastric bypass, and the LAP-BAND. Visit us today at or give us a call to set up a consultation at 205-833-6907.