Cibophobia is the phobia where sufferers fear food. Cibophobics are generally afraid of undercooked or overcooked foods, unsanitary food preparation, and food served past the expiration date. This isn’t quite the same but is pretty close to an eating disorder that I see in bariatric patients. The first year after weight loss surgery is a year of carefully following a nutritionist’s diet and eating guidelines. Once the patient moves into the second year they generally become more lax. It’s at that point that the fear of eating raising its ugly head.
Do you recognize some of these signs of bariatric fear of eating? You are uncomfortable in a restaurant or dining out at a friend’s house. You avoid your favorite foods for fear of overeating. You limit yourself to a “safe” diet with a limited variety of food and food that is not common, on-the-shelf items. These are just a few of the common behaviors that I have observed in longer term post-op bariatric patients.
Reading the above scenarios do ring true to a certain extent. It’s only natural to fear slipping back into your pre-op routine and watching the weight gradually reappear. It’s at the one year point that most people see their weight loss dwindle to a trickle or stop. A single digit weight gain or loss puts many a post-op patient into distress.
One year post-op is the time that we become more complacent with our weight loss and new lives. One casualty of this complacency is becoming more lax in diet, exercise, and following bariatric post-op living principles we learned from our surgeons. We challenge the tools that the surgery gave us. I can tell you that I know my Lapband well and can play it like a fine violin. After a year, I knew how to cheat it and eat around the band.
You need to understand that obesity is a disease. Your surgery did not make this disease go away. Your surgery was the tool that helped your weight go away. It is only you that can make the disease go into remission (It never goes away.). The good eating habits, proper diet guidelines, everyday exercise routines, and healthily living guidelines you learned are what really made you a success to this point. Believe me, you need to monitor these and battle weight gain every day.
Fear of food happens when your new life is confronted with those old friends from your old life. For me, it’s that juicy half pound cheeseburger, the Panera Cinnamon Crunch Bagel, bag of Hershey Kisses, and anything on the Bucca di Beppo menu. You most likely have your own trigger foods. We fear them because after our year of dietary education we know that they were instrumental in leading down the road to obesity.
How do you personally confront this fear? I take it head-on. If friends are going to Panera, Bucca di Beppo or Five Guys, I go along. They may not be my choice of a restaurant today, but I know they are many peoples’ choice. I have learned I need to learn how to order and eat in these establishments. I have found that there are good menu choices in almost all restaurants. I now make careful choices and usually take half of my meal home.
Don’t let the fear of eating take you hostage. Make a commitment to eat a healthy diet that follows the bariatric dining guidelines. If you are like me, you will cheat now and then. Keeping the cheating to a minimum is the task you need to master. You might eat a few Hershey Kisses once in a blue moon. If you are buying bags of them on a regular basis then you definitely need to rewind, recommit to your bariatric diet, and follow the rules.
Taking this fear and turning it into a lesson is a key to your ongoing success. If you fall off the wagon, get back on and keep on driving forward. Use the lessons from your past to keep you on track. Enjoy life and be happy. Happiness involves friends and socializing. This means that you will be put into awkward dining situations where menus are loaded with cheesy, deep fried, frosted and drenched in butter selections. Remember your first year post-op lessons and make the right choices. Let that fear feed your success.