June 14, 2023
Food choices that can block weight loss: What has the most calories? An ounce of M&M’s? Or an ounce of peanuts? If you thought “of course M&M’s”, you are wrong. Peanuts contain about 160 calories and M&M’s about 140 calories. Now, if I asked you then which of these two is the better choice for your overall health, I have no doubt you would say peanuts (or at least I hope you would). Peanuts contain 7 grams of protein per serving, as well as over 30 essential vitamins and minerals and are a good source of fiber and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Wow, that’s a lot of good stuff! As for those M&M’s, well, they really taste amazing.
Generally considered heart healthy
One of the most common missteps I see in the post-bariatric surgery patient is confusion between foods that are generally considered heart-healthy and their impact on weight loss. At this point, 99% of us know that fried Twinkies are high in calories and considered “unhealthy” for the heart, so there’s no need to teach it over and over again. The bariatric surgery patient who has fallen back into their daily Frappuccino habit and whose weight loss has stalled would be highly unlikely to question the reason for their blockage. It’s pretty obvious that those liquid calories add up fast.
But the stalled patient who adopts heart-healthy eating behaviors and avoids liquid calories and deep-fried twinkies might have valid questions as to why the pounds stopped dropping.
When exploring food choices that can delay weight loss, we must be careful not to insult a person’s intelligence by pointing out obvious foods that may be the cause, such as: pizza, wings, chips, sodas, donuts, pastries, candy bars, etc. Let’s face it, these foods can be tempting and hard to refuse if the patient hasn’t adopted a system to manage their ability to keep these foods in moderation.
Less Obvious Food Choices That Can Block Weight Loss
Now let’s turn our attention to less obvious foods that may be causing this obnoxious dropout. Slightly sneakier foods in our diet. The foods we were told about are good for us and therefore less dangerous for our health. The problem is, sometimes we can’t tell heart-healthy foods apart from the calories they contain. Over the years, I’ve seen countless patients with long-term stalls admit to consuming all the nuts they want each day without worrying about the calories they contain. Or brag about using “healthy” oils such as olive or avocado instead of canola or vegetable oils. The truth is that almost all oils have the same amount of calories (120) per tablespoon and if a bariatric surgery patient is going to use them, they should not be used without having some idea of the amount, whether measured or used. by an experienced eyeball.
Other foods that I have often seen patients eat freely and without regard to the calories they contain are avocados, granola, hummus, butter or margarine, salad dressings and peanut butter. A medium avocado contains about 240 calories. A tablespoon of butter is about 102 calories and a tablespoon of ranch dressing is 75 calories.
I am in no way saying that you should avoid these foods. When a stall is real, the first thing I recommend is to take a look at your total daily calorie intake, whatever food it is. You should already be working with your doctor and dietitian on the approximate number of calories per day you should consume to see weight loss. As you gain experience in understanding the caloric content of foods, you won’t have to count calories every day for the rest of your life. Let your smaller stomach and your understanding of your own satiety guide you without the calories in your head all day.
Calorie obsession is real, and it can cause destructive behaviors and obsessive thoughts that we want to make sure we avoid after bariatric surgery. Remember not to devalue the calorie just because it’s in a nut versus a cookie.
Michael Murphy, RD, is the lead dietitian and nutrition consultant at AZ Weight Loss Clinic.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Murphy, RD, is a Registered Dietitian with over 18 years of experience working with bariatric surgery patients. He is the lead dietitian and nutrition consultant at AZ Weight Loss Clinic. Her mission is to reshape the eating habits and behaviors of her bariatric surgery patients to ensure lifelong success after bariatric surgery.