The expression, “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” is particularly relevant to the bariatric population in the most normal of circumstances. But in times of crisis, having a plan in place is more crucial than ever especially when it comes to bariatric nutrition during times of crisis.
When many things are out of your control, there are a few key steps that you can take to make sure that you keep an eye on your nutrition during times of crisis.
Think ahead: Take an inventory of what food items you have. It can help you be smart in planning what items you need to purchase to best complement what you have on hand. There are even multiple apps that help you build recipes using ingredients you already have. This can be vital in a crisis when certain staples are in short supply.
Be flexible: Compromise on certain standards. Now, you might be thinking, “Why would Bec recommend this?” Well, in a world where things are so uncertain, we might have to realign our priorities. Overall good nutrition is better than taking a dive off the deep end of convenience food and poor food choices. When it might cause too much stress to try to stay on the perfect bariatric diet, it’s ok to take a step back, compromise on some foods for the meantime, and make a plan to get back on track after the crisis has resolved.
Food substitutes: Get creative with food substitutes. Flaxseed meal is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and can replace eggs in certain baked goods. Can’t get your hands on your favorite Fairlife milk? Look for unsweetened almond milk and add protein powder or unsweetened soy milk. There are nearly limitless substitutes out there for us to utilize when we can’t get our hands on the good stuff.
Eat at home: Dine inas much as possible. This one might seem like a no brainer, but for those of us who are used to splurging on dining out, we’ll need to find a few quick and simple recipes that we enjoy and stock up on the items needed. Rather than try to recreate your favorite meal from a restaurant and end up disappointed, pick a few meals you know that you can make and that you like. Even those who proclaim that they can’t cook know at least two to three basic meals that they can prepare.
Even if you are farther out from your surgery where you may not need to rely on protein supplements (shakes, bars, powders, etc.) to reach your protein goals each day, protein intake remains crucially important during a crisis. Protein powder is an important staple item that has a long shelf life and can be utilized in a variety of ways beyond protein shakes.
Items such as low-sugar or sugar-free pudding and yogurt can be enhanced just by adding protein powder directly into the final product. Other items like pancakes, muffins, waffles, can all be made with the addition of protein powder.
Now, “What about the carbohydrate content?” you might be asking. When items such as eggs are scarce, we may not be able to make a low-carb option and may have to settle for a slightly higher carbohydrate diet than what we are used to (see above about compromise). However, this does not give us the excuse to binge on unhealthy foods “just because.”
There are decades of research supporting the need for bariatric patients to take vitamin and mineral supplements for life. Empower yourself and your health to understand what each of the vitamins and minerals provides to your body.
During a crisis, when we may not be able to consume the normal nutrients from an overall healthy diet, the importance of supplementation increases. However, we may not have access to our usual bariatric-specific supplements. Turning to a regular multivitamin is better than not supplementing at all, but as soon as you are able to resume your usual supplementation regimen, it is important to do so. The consequences of nutrient deficiencies are not worth the risk.
Don’t forget to focus on the other aspects of your life that contribute to your overall health.
We may not be able to get to the gym or complete our usual workout regimen during a crisis, but that is not an excuse not to do some form of physical activity throughout the day. Depending on any physical limitations you might have, there are thousands of different movements that your body can do. Check out your favorite class online or on an app. Consider in some crises if there is no internet, where might you turn for ideas? The more variety of activities you do in your day to day life, the more resources you’ll have to rely on in a crisis.
Emotional eating includes eating out of boredom and out of stress. Find ways to help you destress, even if it’s as simple as doodling on a scratch piece of paper. It doesn’t have to be going out for a spa day (although who doesn’t love a good spa day?), and it doesn’t necessarily have to be something you do alone.
If you’re experiencing boredom, search for small tasks to do around the house. Fall back on an old hobby you used to enjoy. Pick up a new hobby like adult coloring books (my favorite are the ones with pictures of cats). Teach your pet a new trick. Break out of the repetitive to help avoid slipping back into boredom.
I’ll admit that getting a good night’s sleep is difficult for me on a regular basis, as I have chronic insomnia. When people say they can’t sleep because of stress, I understand all too well what it’s like to be sleep-deprived. I am no sleep expert, but I do know that getting regular, quality rest is vital to your overall health. Find what works for you: do you need a fan? An eye mask? A CPAP machine? A different pillow? (A new pillow made a huge difference for me.) Or perhaps a better bedtime routine? Sleep hygiene is a huge topic unto itself, so make sure you check in on your sleep habits during times of stress.