Home > Uncategorized > Learning to eat again

Learning to eat again

August 31, 2017

So, I’m learning to eat again. Like a newborn child perhaps, but worse, since I have all sorts of memories of how much I can eat and what I like to eat that are misleading. A Bayesian prior that I can’t easily shake.


For example, once I was cleared to eat ground meat, I made myself a pot of beef chili, which is something I’ve always loved to eat. I knew I could only eat a bit of it at a time, but I figured that was fine, since I’d share it with other people. But the truth is, I couldn’t eat it at all. I tried one tiny bowl of it and it felt like a million tons in my stomach.

That’s been the way it is for me, with pretty much all meat, including chicken. I can’t seem to eat meat and feel good afterwards.

By contrast, I can eat fish. To be more precise, sashimi. I’ve really enjoyed salmon sashimi. And tofu. I’ve been pretty much addicted to tofu. Anything Thai, and the lighter the sauce the better.


Traveling while learning to eat sucks. I went away with my kids for a few days to West Springfield, MA. Talk about a food desert. The best restaurant we went to was Bertucci’s, followed by IHOP, followed by Friendly’s. Not an exaggeration. And since I’m not eating pasta or doughy bread, Bertucci’s was tough. And since I don’t want to eat sweet things, IHOP was basically impossible. And since I don’t digest fried things, Friendly’s was awful.

Out of desperation, I google searched “good healthy food near me” and it came up with two results: Dunkin Donuts and a martini bar.

Basically I lived off of the cheese I brought with me for the trip. I now kind of understand why rich people pay so much to vacation in fancy places with healthy food. I would have paid good money for avocado toast.

As a side note, I’ve never been more aware of how most of America eats. The food available in places like this is unhealthy, addictive, and omnipresent. Not to mention very, very cheap. Which is to say, there is a systemic problem we will have to face sooner or later when it comes to health.

Throwing the Rulebook Out the Window

I think I mentioned before that the instructions I’ve received from the surgeon’s office – specifically, from the nutritionist – have been hard to follow, in part because they’re extra strict to make allowances for the fact that they assume practically everyone cheats. That’s not a theory, I asked. And since I’m actually trying to be compliant, that makes it kind of ridiculous.

For example, the instructions tell you to eat meat with mayonnaise so that it will go down easier. But they also tell you not to ever eat something with more than 25% fat in a meal. That’s hard to do, so the conclusion is to mix up your meat with diet mayonnaise to force it down.

I mean, yuck. Who wants to force down chunks of chicken or beef with diet mayonnaise? I’d rather never eat meat in the first place.

More generally, though, I once again think the entire causal relationship has been misunderstood.

It’s easy enough to do as a nutritionist: if you notice that people who eat high fat foods don’t lose as much weight as people who eat lean foods, it’s natural to tell everyone to eat lean foods. But that doesn’t mean such advice will be heeded or will work.

My perspective is that I’ve thrown the dice on this surgery, and it has changed my hormones, and my stomach biome, and my tastes will change, and I might end up being one of those people who both desire and consume lean foods. And if I’m lucky, and I end up wanting to eat lean foods, this surgery will have been a success. But I cannot make it a success with sheer force of will.

You see, I also like my cheese, and sometimes my entire “meal” (still the size of a snack) consists of eating cheese, and I’m sure it’s more than 25% fat, but I’m not planning to replace it with diet cheese. Instead, I’m happy to report, other meals all I want is fruit, or salad, and they’ll have to balance stuff out.

Long story short, I’m ending up relatively noncompliant, after all. The only things I’m being super careful about are my vitamin patches and my protein intake, which seem important.

I don’t know how this will all end up, but I do know that I value delicious and satisfying food, and I’d rather be listening to my body and eating good food than ignoring my body and eating plastic.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Daniel Mangan
    August 31, 2017 at 10:11 am

    Sorry to hear your disappointment with the restaurants in W. Springfield. Next time you’re in town, check out the Panera Bread restaurant in the big shopping plaza down the road from Bertucci’s. Good clean food–especially like their soup selections.


  2. August 31, 2017 at 10:22 am

    Yikes. If Springfield (technically a city [maybe “West Springfield” isn’t just the part west of the river like I’m assuming?]) is a food desert, I’m not sure what you’d call where I live. My town doesn’t have a grocery store or restaurant (including fast food). Neither does the town next to me. I can get to fast food in about 20 minutes, and a grocery store and “real” restaurant (a brewing company and a diner) in 30. I’m pretty sure by land area (obviously not population), most of the country is in my type of situation.


  3. August 31, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    There is a website called Happy Cow that lists vegan and vegetarian restaurants in cities around the world. Hopefully, this will help you find some healthier restaurants in the cities and places you visit.


    Liked by 1 person

  4. deaneyang
    August 31, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    If you want variations on tofu, go to M2M. They have dried tofu (which has a bit of Chinese spices such as anise in it) and, I believe, tofu skins. They’re all good sauteed with some veggies or even just scallions. Or you can just eat them uncooked with a little bit of soy sauce and sesame oil.

    What my wife also likes to make is the following: Slice silken tofu into large cubes and put into a shallow dish. Drizzle with some soy sauce and sesame oil. Sprinkle some chopped ginger and scallions on it. Really simple and delicious.

    As for western Massachusetts, you can find some decent places to eat in Northampton, including the Northampton Brewery. If you go all the way to Great Barrington, there are good places there, too. With our kids going to summer camp and our older kid going to Hampshire, we spent way too much time up there and probably found every decent restaurant in the whole area. There are indeed not that many.


  5. Ashton Laurent
    September 1, 2017 at 12:32 am

    It’s going to be hard to find restaurants that can give you what you feel comfortable eating. Also, surgeons and even nutritionists don’t always tell you what to expect after surgery. With the kind of diet you have to follow, you can expect some gastrointestinal problems that you might not expect – with a very liquid diet, you might find that you are going completely liquid!! Be sure you have plenty of baby wipes for this. Otherwise, you will get chafed. BTW, I heard part of your interview today on the Leonard Lopate show and plan to listen to the podcast so I can hear the rest.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kim
    September 1, 2017 at 5:56 am

    In the same plaza as Panera in W. Springfield is a little gem called Bueno y Sano. It’s a burrito spot where everything is done to order and can be done anyway you like – even as a salad. There are a few in MA and VT. I’m sure even if you said you wanted chicken in a bowl with some avocado, they would do that for you. Sorry Google (and the locals) didn’t come through for you.


  7. dana
    September 3, 2017 at 10:51 am

    I’m six months post surgery and I’ve gotten to the point where food is only midly interesting. I had dinner with friends recently and they all ordered dishes that looked amazing and I thought to myself- wow, that looks so good. At the same time, I didn’t want it. It was enough to appreciate how good it looked and maybe try a taste. It makes me wonder if this is how “normal” people feel. The idea that I could appreciate good food without wanting to shovel it in until the point of being stuffed… really? Wow. I agree on the restaurant situation. I have new eyes that see how in trouble we are as a country when this is what we eat! I also find it weird that your doctor has those guidelines. Mine has me build around protein- getting at least 60g per day- and the rest should come from low carb (no refined carb) veggies and fruits. Fat is a-ok. I travel with yogurt (I like Siggis and Fage full fat), quest bars, premier protein shakes, good jerky, cheese, nuts of all kinds, chicken or tuna salad, etc. I also like mixing protein powder with yogurt or iced coffee to try to hit 60g without feeling like I am eating all day. KetoKrate (Stitchfix for fat and protein??) has helped me find some decent go-to travel food that isn’t slim jims. Hang in there- the “learning how to eat again” part has been my most valuable part of the experience.


    • dana
      September 3, 2017 at 12:16 pm

      Oh, and you may be surprised at the sleeve friendly choices at gas stations. Royal Farms, Sheetz and Wawa are especially well stocked with cheese, nuts, hard boiled eggs, protein bars and protein shakes. Wawa will make you a hoagie bowl, which is essentially a salad with meat, cheese, egg, tuna, whatever. When my family went on vacations and road trips this summer, they ate at TGIFridays and pizza joints while I became a gas station foodie.


      • September 3, 2017 at 12:21 pm

        Great to know, thanks.

        What about airports? Any tips?


        • dana
          September 3, 2017 at 2:28 pm

          Airports are pretty good! PHL, SEA, LAX, SFO, LAS, BOS, CLT and most other medium and large airports have a ton of little corner stores with yogurt, fruit, cheese, salads, almond butter, etc. Almost all airport sit-down and quick serve (ipad ordering seems to be all the rage now) have fish/chicken/beef plus veg dishes that are sleeve friendly. If all else fails, Hudson News usually has a huge assortment of nuts, water and the occasional bottle of Muscle Milk. I fly American, and they have a few for-purchase cheese plates that work in a pinch. Pack some stuff you know you can handle, though.


  8. September 4, 2017 at 11:35 am

    On tasty, healthy meals, “Run Fast Eat Slow” by Shalane Flanagan and Elsey Kopecky has some super amazing, nutritious meals, snacks, and etc. Love their recipes– esp the superhero muffins and salmon cakes!


  9. norcalbiostat
    September 5, 2017 at 12:37 am

    Love it! Wishing for avacado toast indeed. It’s very hard to eat good while traveling. My husband is on a pretty strict keto diet, that has nearly eliminated all eating out except sushi/sashimi. Good luck and glad you are listening to your body! Keep that crap fake food out.


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