Monthly Archives: May 2014

It’s Not About Limits, It’s About Needs

Like many gastric bypass patients, I had a challenge reintroducing foods to my new stomach. I threw up a lot. Not all the time. Not every meal. But enough that it was easy to see that the following three issues would usually result in me losing what I had just eaten: It happened if I ate too much, if I ate too fast, or if I ate certain foods.


My new stomach had a hair-trigger. One ounce of one food or another might sit just fine in my stomach, but 1.1 ounces was over the line, and everything came up. It also reacted poorly if I fed it too fast. Once it reached a certain point, and without much warning, it rejected everything I had eaten. If I took 20 minutes to eat a salad, I would be OK. Eat it in 18 minutes, and I would see it again under less pleasant circumstances. Sometimes it was the type of food I ate. Bread, meats, starches, tomatoes and fried foods all gave my stomach fits.


People would see this happening and say, with the best of intentions, “You’ll just have to learn your limits.” It sounds like good advice. It sounds logical. But it’s only good advice if your goal is to find and then eat at the limits of your new stomach – to eat up to the edge of throwing up.


After much reflection on this subject, it occurred to me that a better goal is to learn to give your body the fuel and nutrients it needs to perform for you. In doing this, you will likely need nowhere near the ‘limit’ of your new stomach.


In fact, knowing your ‘limit’ isn’t really useful at all. Back when I weighed 404 pounds, I used to know my limit: six Big Macs! Knowing that limit didn’t help me at all.


I don’t need to know my limits to know and manage my needs. These days I manage what I eat – how I fuel my body – by planning for 50 to 80 grams of protein every day. Additionally, I plan and carry out a diet that provides 1000 mg of Calcium, 2000 IU’s of vitamin D3, 2000 mcg of vitamin B-12, and 30 grams of dietary fiber, while limiting my intake of saturated fats, sugars and sodium.


If there are any limits that I track, they are caffeine and alcohol, as these are not substances that my body needs, and can quickly cause my stomach – in fact my whole digestive system – to revolt in the most unpleasant way.   However, I do enjoy these things, so it is very important to manage my intake of them. In my case I know I can drink two or three caffeinated beverages a day with little likelihood of having any stomach trouble. I don’t drink carbonated beverages, so my caffeine comes mostly from coffee. A couple of cups of coffee spread throughout the day are fine for me. I can enjoy a couple of glasses of beer or wine over the course of an evening without any troubles, though I cannot tolerate any distilled alcohol (not even my old favorites such as a Gin & Tonic or a Southern Comfort Manhattan). It’s all about planning and managing myself.


I have found a great level of success in reintroducing foods into my system, not by learning my new stomach limits, but by learning to give my body the fuel and nutrition it needs to work as I now ask it to. And because I feed it what it needs, it has responded by allowing me to once again ride my bicycle, snow ski, run 5ks, take part in kickboxing, study Tai Chi, take aerobics and weight lifting classes, ride a jet ski, and sit in restaurant booths and movie theater seats.


Don’t set out to learn your limits after gastric bypass. Instead, learn what combination of foods will give your body what it needs to work as you’d like it to, then manage your daily eating such that you meet those needs.


Rather than “Learn your limits,” I would like to propose a better motto for the gastric bypass patient: “Learn how to give your body what it needs.”

Starting a Regular Workout Routine is Difficult

Starting a regular workout routine is difficult. I find it easier to exercise in a regularly scheduled class than on my own but the thought of being in a class full of fit and trim people all pumped up and in shape is daunting. Here are a couple of my tips for dealing with this. While there may be plenty of beginner classes full of people just as exercised challenged as you at one of the bigger health clubs, you might have more luck looking for a class at a local YMCA or a neighborhood community/continuing education center. Get the name of the instructor and ask to speak with him/her before the classes start. Explain your situation – that you’ve recently begun a new life, a new journey to health and fitness. Discuss your fears, your concerns, and your exact condition. You’ll be surprised just how responsive a good fitness instructor is to your specific needs. They’ll recommend the proper class for your level. If it would be less embarrassing for you, ask them to give you exercise alternatives in private conversation and not in front of everyone during class. Make your instructor your ally. As long as you’re not trying to get a private lesson, or free individual training sessions from them, they should be happy to help you ease comfortably into a new life of regular workouts and exercise.


Tell me about your efforts at starting a new life of regular exercise… what has and hasn’t worked for you. Share your thoughts with the rest of us.

Using Tai Chi to Help Manage Your Body After Gastric Bypass

Gastric bypass is a tool to aid the patient in learning to manage his or her body – the food we put into it and the physical demands we make of it – all oriented toward the goal of successfully managing our weight, and our health and happiness. I believe my success with weight loss and ongoing weight management is directly tied to the concept of learning to become the manager of myself – of putting my body in the exact positions it needs to gain the nutrition it demands to run my body and brain.

One resource that I have found very useful and would highly recommend is the study of tai chi. Often described as meditation in motion, tai chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that today is practiced as a non-competitive, self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and stretching. Tai chi utilizes gentle, flowing movements performed in a slow, focused way, accompanied by deep breathing. Each posture flows into the next without pause, ensuring that your body is in constant motion. 1

Tai chi is low impact and puts minimal stress on muscles and joints, making it generally safe for all ages and fitness levels. It is an ideal form of exercise for those of us who haven’t ever exercised or who, because of their weight and physical condition, cannot now take part in other forms of exercise.

In addition to the physical benefits derived from the movement of Tai Chi, I have found that the discipline of learning to put my body into exact and specific positions of Tai Chi has provided me with a skill set that I easily translate to managing my diet and nutritional needs.

I think the lesson is this: When you learn to master one aspect of yourself, such as placing yourself in Tai Chi positions, you learn a lot about managing other aspects of your life as well – all to your greater good.



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