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When you have lap band surgery, it is for life!  The lap band will change the way you eat and digest, FOREVER!  It doesn’t go away once you have finished losing weight.  In some ways this is great and other ways it is a pain in the…stomach!  In the past two years I have actually managed to gain about thirty pounds back (more on this in another post).  In this post I will go through some my challenges with eating at restaurants with a lap band (some of these experiences are not to pleasant).  This is a great article if you are interested in getting a lap band ( for more information on lap band you might enjoy this book,The Big Book on Lap Band ).

My lap band surgery was almost eight years ago!  It took me about two years to understand my ability to digest. There were significant mistakes!  There are still mistakes!  There is still pain!  What is the first thing you do when you enter a restaurant? Do you scope out the dining area and find the best place to sit?  Enjoy the decor the restaurant has to offer?  Glance through the menu to estimate your budget? No me,  I immediately determining where the bathroom is located.  Sounds weird, I know.  However, you never know when you might have to expel a stuck piece of food or a buildup of extra stomach fluid.  If this happens, it is a mad dash to the restroom.  Although, I do this a lot less now,  I still have to run to the bathroom for, well let’s just call it “pain relief”, but now it only happens occasionally.   Not a pretty sight, but this is my life now! 

When I am on my way to the restaurant, even before we walk through the door searching for the restroom sign, I have to think about my body and how it will react to food on this specific day and time.  I have what I call my good days and I have bad days.  On my good days I can eat a steak!  Yet, I have many more days that I can barely eat a bowl of soup.  Pain!  Yes, physical pain is a part of my life now! I hate pain!  This is why I created my own internal checklist.  I say internal, because you can’t see this checklist and no one knows I have this checklist, except me.

Here is my mental checklist:

  • Do I feel full?  Hungry? Full, but hungry?
    • When I feel full it could be for many reasons, but the number one reason is I already ate and I am still digesting my last meal.  With the lap band, it will take a lot longer for food to digest, you feel full longer, and in return eat less causing weight loss.  If I feel full, I will not be able to eat much.  The worst is when I feel full, but I am hungry!  When I feel like this I inevitably order a large entrée and then I am in pain and running to the already located restroom. However, if I don’t feel full, I can usually tolerate more food and a larger entrée. Just to be honest… I am always hungry!  This is just one of the feelings I have grown accustomed to with my lap band.  I can feel full, but am always hungry!
  • When was the last time I had a bowel movement?
    • Yes, bowel movements play a role in how much pain I have.  If I eat and have a large amount in my colon, it is quite painful.  
  • Can I feel the port?  
    • If I can feel the port, internally, it usually means I will not be able to eat well.  I am not sure why I can feel my port, but if I can, I usually will not be able to eat much.
  • Have I had enough liquids to drink?
    • Dehydration can cause inflammation of the esophagus, which in turn reduces the amount and size of what I can eat.
  • What is my mood?  
    • When I am happy, I seem able to eat pain-free.  When I am depressed, angry, stressed or have anxiety I tend to have more pain when I eat.

After I check my mental list, I generally have a good idea of what food my body will tolerate.  

VS

I have, what I consider, food envy.  I search the menu, searching for an entrée I will never order.  I will never order a juicy hamburger, a rack of ribs, or a large salad.  I look around the dining room, watching people eat.  Wondering what it would be like to eat normal again.  There is nothing as beautiful as someone taking a huge bite of a big juicy hamburger.  Well, to me it is!  Let’s get back on track…So, what do I order?  I order soup…I eat a lot of soup!  Soup is, usually (again, there are no definite with eating and lap band), a good choice.  No matter how I feel, soup usually goes down well, as long as it doesn’t have many chunks of vegetables or meat.  I tend to stay away from restaurants that do not have soup. However, when I am at a restaurant to do a review, I always try to order something off the menu, and this is difficult at times!

Bad habits are formed through out the years, to make life more bearable.  For people with lap band, we have what we call slider foods. These are called slider foods for a reason!  They are easily digested, even though they have little to no nutritional value.   They literally, slide through the small opening in your stomach!  These foods include chips, all the fried appetizers (fried mushrooms, cheese curds, onion rings), cookies, pie, and some cakes.  I have also discovered that red wine also helps with the digestion.  I can’t tell you why, but with a glass of wind, most foods go down easier (milk also helps, but why chose the healthier version of the two?).  If I am really hungry and not full I know that these will make me feel full, so I order these foods a lot…thus my weight gain in the past two year!

Finally, when I am full, I am done!  It can be with one bite, two bites, or the entire plate.  It all depends on my checklist and the way I eat!  If I am stressed, anxious, or irritated it limits the amount of food I need to feel full.  I am do not fully understand the “why”, but I understand the pain.  If I eat too fast, take large bites, or not chew enough, I will inevitably be running to the restroom.  If that happens, I may or may not continue eating.  I, HATE when the waitress or waiter sees my plate full and continually ask, “Is everything okay?”, “Would you like something else?”, “Do you need a box?”.  Oh, I know, they are just doing their job, but for me it is a sign of failure.  I failed to eat, I will be even more hungry and I will probably go home and eat some slider food, that I shouldn’t eat, to feel satisfied.  There is no such thing as permanent weight loss for some of us (insert sad face).

I make these experiences a triumph by making the food the least important part of my dining experience.  Going to local, independently owned, restaurants gives me the most enjoyment in dining.  In general, the decor is more inviting and makes you feel more comfortable.  The food is made from fresh, local,  ingredients and have more flavor.  When you can only eat a small amount, the flavor is really important!  In addition, locally owned business are more likely to be able to change a menu item to meet your dietary needs, giving you a more palatable meal.  The patrons are from the area and are more than willing to share information about the area and you get the inside scoop on fun adventures! Not to mention the feeling of delight in helping local businesses.   

 

Being a restaurant reviewer with lap band has its challenges, but I love food and love eating at locally owned restaurants.  My lap band will not keep me from the happiness I feel after a well made, freshly prepared, meal at a local restaurant!  I look forward to sharing my triumphs and challenges at local restaurants throughout the world! Please join my blog at Witte’s World Blog

We all have food challenges!  What are your food challenges?  How do you make these challenges triumphs?  

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