Category: <span>Diet</span>

I picked up the term Empty Calories a few years ago when I was trying to lose weight by going to a slimming club. It was used to describe foods that are typically high in sugar and fat, but have little or no nutritional value.

When comparing foods and deciding what to eat, I find it important not just to look at the number of calories in isolation, but also check on what vitamins, minerals, protein, sugar, and fibre are in the food.

There are certain foods, like cakes, chocolate, ice-cream, sweets, crips, sugary drinks, and especially alcoholic drinks that are all high in calories, but have very little in the way of nutritional benefits. And these are the type of foods that I refer to as having ’empty calories’.

Given the choice between an avocado and a chocolate bar, it should be obvious that an avocado is much better for you. They have a similar number of calories, but the nutritional benefits of eating the avocado instead of the chocolate bar are much higher!

A bottle of wine typically contains around 635 calories, and a pint of beer is around 240 calories, and neither of them contain much in the way of nutrition. And as such they are some of the worst examples of empty calories!

Diet Surgery

I came across this Comeragh protein water drink at the checkouts in Aldi a few days ago.

I haven’t seen any other protein water drinks for sale in supermarkets, and so I was excited to try it. It says that the 500ml bottle contains 10g of protein, is just 50 calories, and is priced at €1.49 a bottle. The protein comes from peas, and so the drink is suitable for vegans.

There seemed to be two flavours available – Orange, and Lime & Lemon – but I’ve only tried the second one. It certainly tastes of lemon and lime, but there’s some other flavour in it that I can’t quite place – maybe it’s the taste of peas?!

I’d say that some people might not like the taste, so I’d recommend trying it out before buying a whole load of them.

Here’s the information from the Aldi website about the two different flavours:

Orange flavoured Aldi Comeragh Protein Water

As a bariatric patient, I have found it challenging to get enough protein in my diet – particularly as I’m not a fan of the milky protein shakes and drinks that are more widely available. I’ve tried using the protein isolate drinks, and they’re OK. But mostly I rely on things like Filfil bars to get extra protein.

I’ve written before about being a bit obsessed about my protein intake. I’m not so bad these days, as I’ve stopped tracking my food intake in a bid to ‘normalise’ my diet going forward. But I still like the idea of being able to supplement the protein into my diet.

Diet Surgery

I met with my bariatric dietician today to check how I’m doing. And thankfully it was mostly good news.

My blood tests came back fine, and my diet is good. I’m eating enough protein, and getting enough vitamins and minerals. I’m also pretty much on track with my weight loss.

Since surgery I’ve lost nearly 37 kg (nearly 6 stone), which amounts to about a 22% loss overall. The bariatric team expect people who have had a gastric bypass to lose 25-30% of they body weight overall, so I’ll hopefully continue to lose some more over the coming months.

My weight loss has definitely slowed down recently, and some weeks I’ve even gaining weight, but the overall direction is still down!

Building muscle

We talked about the amount of exercise I’m doing – which is mainly restricted to walking and cycling – and it was suggested that I try to incorporate some resistance and weight training to help build muscle.

My hospital has a partnership with a company called Medfit, who offer personalised physio-led exercise programmes. I think it would be good for me to go to a specialist physio, as I’ve had some bad advice in the past from personal trainers in the gym which have led to me injuring myself.

Hopefully if I can start building some muscle – particularly in my upper body – then it will help boost my metabolism and maybe even help tone up some of my loosening skin!

Regular bowel movements

We also talked about my bowel movements. At the moment I’m having one about every other day, or maybe 3 times a week, and apparently it should be a bit more regular.

I already have a reasonable amount of fibre in my diet, but we’re going to try incorporating some linseed, which apparently will help move things along!

Diet Surgery

One of the things they tell you ahead of having bariatric surgery is that you should not have carbonated drinks afterwards the surgery.

For me, this was potentially a big problem, because I was addicated to drinking Pepsi Max. I used to spend up to 150 euros a month buying the smaller 500ml or 750ml bottles from local convience stores. On a good day I’d have 2 bottles, and on a bad day I’d have 4 or even 5 – so I’d guess I was consuming between 1 and 3 litres of the stuff every day!

On a normal workday I’d stop at a local shop on the way into the office and buy four 500ml bottles. They used to sell them as part of a promotion as 2 bottles for 3 euros, so I was spending 6 euros at a time just on Pepsi Max. I’d drink two of them staight away when I got into the office, have another one at lunch, and often the fourth during the afternoon.

I had so many people telling me that it was bad for me, especially at the quantities I was drinking, but I loved the taste and the rush of bubbles. And I guess I was looking for the caffeine hit at well. A 500ml bottle has around 65mg of caffeine in it, one of the highest caffeine contents of all the colas.

Carbonated drinks and weight loss surgery

Bariatric surgeons tell patients not to drink any carbonated drinks after surgery. The gas they release can be very uncomfortable in the new smaller stomach pouch, and they say that the increased pressure in the stomach can possibly stretch out the pouch.

I’ll also never forget that my surgeon said to me “it’ll feel like you’re having a heart attack”!

There’s also some evidence that diet sodas – even though they are calorie free themselves – can cause people to gain weight. The artificial sweeteners in them actually make people feel more hungry for other sweet (often sugary) foods.

My road to quitting Pepsi Max

The COVID-19 pandemic helped in a way. I was working from home, and under the watchful eye of my lovely wife, who did not like me drinking Pepsi Max. On my morning commute along the landing from the bedroom to the box-room I wasn’t passing any convenience stores, so I didn’t have the opportunity to buy any soft drinks.

I would still buy the odd bottle now and again when I went out of the house, but my consumption levels had already dropped dramatically.

Then I got my date for surgery, and the preparation for my procedure suddenly became real. For the 2 weeks before surgery I was on the liver-shrinking diet, and was only having 800 calories a day. And although the Pepsi Max was zero calories, I decided not to drink any of it during this two week period. I wanted to cut out all caffeine ahead going into hospital, so that I wouldn’t have to contend with the caffeine withdrawal at the same time as recovering from surgery!

After surgery

For the first 3 months after surgery, I was so focused on following the high-protein diet, and trying to get enough water into me, that I didn’t even consider having any sodas. If I was ever in a convience store and wanted a drink I would get a Vit Hit – a mixture of fruit juice, water and tea, with added vitamins.

And then one day I bought myself a bottle of Pepsi Max and brought it home. I wanted to find out whether I still loved the taste. I wanted to know if I would once again get the rush in my nose and throat from drinking it ice-cold.

And you know what? I didn’t enjoy it, at all. It didn’t taste anywhere near as good as I remembered, and it ended up being quite difficult to drink because the carbonated gas kept filling up my stomach and made it quite uncomfortable.

So I haven’t bought any more since then. And so far, I don’t miss it.

Diet Surgery

It’s just under 4 months since I had my gastric bypass, and as such my Christmas dinner was somewhat different and much smaller than in previous years!

I still enjoyed the traditional turkey and ham dinner, but it was a smaller portion served on a side plate. The turkey came in the form of a boned, rolled and stuffed turkey crown from my local butcher. It cooked much more quickly than a whole bird, and one slice was the ideal portion size.

There was no starter, but I did manage a mince pie and some icecream for desert a couple of hours after the main course, and later still a few bits of cheese and crackers.

It was perhaps the richest and most abundant food I’ve had since the weight loss surgery, and I was actually surprised at how much I was able to eat. And I think it helped that I was able to pace myself, and eat when I wanted – rather than having well-meaning family members trying to constantly load up my plate.

Diet Surgery

It’s only two weeks until Christmas, but this year it’s going to be very different. This year I’ll be 4 months post-surgery from my gastric bypass.

Every other Christmas in the past has involved me eating my own body weight in turkey, potatoes, christmas pudding, and chocolate! There would be a lots of rich and calorific food consumed, both at home and in restaurants and pubs at meals out and parties.

Christmas, like a lot of other celebrations, is inextricably linked to food, and often lots of it! Plates are usually piled high, and meals are often rich and decadent. And usually there’s a fair amount of drink flowing as well.

Christmas food

This year my Christmas dinner will be served on a side plate. There’s no point piling food up on a dinner plate, because there’s no way I’ll be able to eat that much, and it’ll be a waste of food. The portion sizes after my gastric bypass are considerably smaller than I’m used to, and I’m physically unable to eat large portions. Indeed, if I did attempt to overeat it would make me really uncomfortable or sick.

I’m also going to have to resist the urge to graze on food and treats during the day, because if I eat between meals then I’ll not be able to eat anything at the dinner. I’m also not going to be able to eat lots of fatty or sugary foods, as I know they’ll make me ill.

And so food this Christmas is going to be a different proposition for me.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m still going to enjoy my turkey dinner – but I need to get my head around the fact that I won’t be eating to excess. And I won’t have my face stuck in a tub of Quality Street for a week!

I guess I just need to get used to a Christmas that isn’t dominated by food.

Christmas drink

As for drink I’m undecided whether I’ll have any over Christmas.

The advice from bariatric surgeons seems to be that patients avoid all alcohol for the first 6 months after surgery. And for the last 4 months I’ve not touched a drop, and I haven’t really missed it.

I suppose the only reason why I’m considering it is to be social, and because (like food) drink is so heavily associated with Christmas celebrations. I don’t want to get drunk – I’m too old to be dealing with hangovers – but maybe one or two glasses might be ok?

But then again, I’m not meant to drink any fluids while I’m eating, so the glass of wine with dinner isn’t going to be a thing.

Argh! It’s no wonder I’m undecided.

COVID Christmas

In these COVID-19 pandemic times, Christmas this year is going to be very different for most people. We’re not meeting up with family and friends, we’re not having office Christmas parties, and (thankfully) there are no occasions when someone is trying to shove a plate of mince pies in my face.

Some people are also not going to have a happy Christmas at all, as they deal with grief from the loss of a loved one, or the hardship that comes from losing work, or with physical or mental health issues.

So although my Christmas will be very different this year, I still feel very lucky. I’m still in work, my friends and family are all well, and I was able to have surgery that will help me live a healthier, longer, and more fulfilled life. And so I feel very blessed!

Diet Surgery