In the comments on my last blog post, reader “DFW” asked what I eat…and I promised that my very next blog post would give some juicy details in that area, so I’m here to deliver.
First, I have to give a little shout out to my nutritionist Amy…who is a total badass with super powers in patience. I swear, this woman has answered more insanely anal questions from me than should be allowed – but she’s weathered the Hot Mess storm like a champ. She’s instructed me not to pay attention to anything but my protein requirement of 80 – 90 grams of protein a day, so that’s what I focus on. Having a tiny tummy means it’s impossible for me to get that much protein from actual food each day without a protein supplement. Generally speaking, an ounce of chicken or meat contains about 7 grams of protein.
Since I have to eat so often and because I’m a bit of a geek, I renamed all my meals after Hobbit eating times. No judging. What the hell, right? Whatever makes it fun. Hobbits eat like they’ve got a hollow leg. Their meal times are Breakfast, Second Breakfast, Elevensies, Luncheon, Afternoon Tea, Dinner, and Supper.
Let’s start with breakfast.
I’ll be honest. I hate protein shakes. Even the most palatable shakes I’ve found are still a challenge for me, but I’ve found that if I get one down first thing in the morning the rest of the day is a breeze. So breakfast for me is one Premier Protein Shake. Chocolate. I have the Vanilla in my refrigerator but I haven’t been brave enough to try it. I have no trouble getting liquids down quickly, so I chug through my protein shake first thing in the morning while I’m waking up and watching the news. That’s 30 grams of protein before I ever leave the house. Then I chase it down with a sugar free peppermint to get the protein funk out of my mouth. Blech.
Before long, it’s time for Second Breakfast. Fortunately, I don’t have room for the crispy bacon, sausages, and potatoes that a Hobbit would eat for Second Breakfast. My Second Breakfast is much more reserved: one container of Kroger Carbmaster Yogurt. It’s quite tasty and they have unique flavors like Spice Cake and Pumpkin Pie, although I much prefer the Banana Cream Pie and Key Lime varieties. 9 more grams of protein down the hatch.
Next is Elevensies. 1 – 2 ounces of chicken is my usual choice here. That’s 14 more grams of protein towards my daily goal. I would love to alternate that with ground beef or ground turkey at some time, but I’ve learned from experience that they’re both too dry to be worth the effort. I could probably get more down if I liked any kind of dipping sauce with either of these options, but I prefer them sauce-free. At best, I can get down an ounce of either…and that’s not enough to be effective. I need to be sure that I can hit that protein goal every day – so chicken is my BFF.
For Luncheon, I usually go for another yogurt or piece of cheese. Sometimes I’ll eat a little bit of grapefruit, which isn’t a protein food but I have a bunch in my refrigerator and I don’t want it to go to waste. It’s packed in water, not sugary juice, and the fiber is good for me. I also occasionally enjoy a few reduced fat Triscuits and a wedge of Laughing Cow Light Cheese. The Garlic & Onion flavor rocks!
Afternoon Tea is usually more of the same: yogurt or cheese. I burned myself out on cottage cheese the week I graduated to soft foods after surgery and it’s like curdled white death to me now, so I stay clear of it. I’ve tried the Premier Protein bars, but they’re insanely high in calories for the same 30 grams of protein I get in one of their shakes. And they make me gassy.
It’s nice to have things to crunch on, but my post-surgery life requires that I eat protein first at every meal…and my tummy is so tiny that I can’t get much in after that. If I’m craving something crunchy or salty, I’ll eat my protein first and then I’ll eat 3 of HMH’s tortilla chips. Yep…just 3 tortilla chips. A far cry from the half bag I used to be able to mow through. I’m grateful.
Dinner is usually more chicken. Or carne asada. HMH’s steak tacos are amazingly awesome, but I don’t have room for the tortilla anymore so I just eat the carne asada…sometimes with some blue cheese crumbles dumped on top. Yum!!!
By the time Supper rolls around, I check my food log to see what my protein total is and then I make my decision based on how much more I need. Usually another yogurt will do…or some leftover chicken. I’ve recently discovered Atkins Caramel Chocolate Peanut Nougat bars. Incredibly awesome! They taste like a Baby Ruth candy bar. They’re too high in calories (180 per bar) to be an everyday snack or meal replacement, but if I’m craving something sweet this hits the spot 100% and gives me 10 grams of protein. If I’m way behind on my protein at the end of the day, I’ll choke down another protein shake (followed, of course, by another sugar free mint).
I average 80 – 90 grams of protein a day and 800 calories total. I have timers set on my phone to remind me to eat because I never get hungry.
“Head hunger” is another thing, however…
I still want to eat. I get the urge to graze mindlessly when I watch football – especially if the Cowboys are playing. It’s hard to be a Cowboys fan and not stress eat. Thank God I’m out of my misery for another season.
If I find myself in a situation where there’s tempting food around, I follow my surgeon’s advice. If I really want a taste of whatever it is, I cut myself a very tiny portion (about two small bites). I save whatever it is until it’s time for my next meal. I eat my protein first…and then I enjoy the little tidbit of whatever it is. I have yet to feel deprived following these rules.
There are so many times when I find myself wanting to eat. I’m never hungry now, as this surgery removes the portion of the stomach that secretes the hunger hormone (hence the reminders I’ve had to set on my phone). My head doesn’t know that, though. My head wants me to eat potato chips…and pizza…and ice cream. My head wants all those things. Technically speaking, I could eat them if I wanted to. I’m not restricted anymore. I simply choose not to. Those foods are gateway foods for me…and I don’t need to poke at my food demons right now. I didn’t put myself through a bunch of pain and drama in order to go right back to snuggling up with my food demons.
Right now, food is only a tool. I get nutrition from it and that’s all. Although I choose foods that taste good to me, I don’t necessarily enjoy them on the same level that I used to. I have to eat slowly. My food is often cold before I’m done and I have to go heat it back up again. I have to chew a million times before I swallow. I have to wait a minute or two before I take another bite. It’s a slow, calculated dance when I eat.
If I don’t eat slow, chew thoroughly, and wait a moment between bites then my stomach fills up super fast…and I feel massive indigestion-type pain…and then I throw up. Try something for me the next time you’re eating something that requires chewing. Take a bite, chew it well, and swallow. Now pay attention to it as it travels down your esophagus. Pay attention to how slow it moves down to your stomach. It’s an eye opener. When I think about how fast I shoveled in my food before surgery, I’m amazed. As soon as I’d swallow, I was loading up my fork again and putting it in my mouth. Eye opening.
I spent years practicing “mindless eating”. The slow, deliberate way I’m forced to eat now takes some of the “fun” out of eating for me – but I know that’s just because this change is still so new to me. In time, this will become my new normal. And what was fun about my old way of life anyway? Mindlessly eating until my stomach hurt. Lumbering around on sore feet. Endless guilt from eating crap I knew I shouldn’t be eating. I don’t miss any of that – so while I may still feel a little clunky about my new way of life, I couldn’t be more thrilled…because I can’t sabotage myself anymore. My food demons may still lurk about, but the self-sabotaging demon is dead and buried.
May she rest in peace.
Atkins Advantage Caramel Bars, Chocolate Peanut Nougat, 5 – 1.6 Ounce Bars (Pack of 3)