The results suggest that in order to change eating habits to lose weight people should consider the experiences they’ve had with their favorite foods—so that eating remains linked with quality of life.
“Eating habits are difficult to change because they are inextricably linked with wellness, identity, and bodily experience,” says Line Hillersdal, a PhD student at the University of Copenhagen.
“My research shows that it if we want to improve our chances of attaining permanent weight loss and simultaneously maintaining quality of life, it may be necessary to establish a link to our previous unhealthy lifestyles.”
Food After Surgery
Gastric bypass surgery changes eating habits dramatically: after surgery, people need to eat smaller amounts at regular intervals. They also need to limit foods rich in fat, sugar, and fiber because those foods can cause stomach discomfort.
“For many obesity patients, the post-surgery diet is contrary to everything they used to like about eating—the very experience of eating as well as the social aspect of it changes—and for some it feels like an encroachment,” says Hillersdal.
“Many gastric bypass patients associate fullness with eating food in large quantities or food that, on paper, is unhealthy. The gastric bypass operation cannot change that.
“Because of this it can be problematic when dietitians advise them to eat more vegetables or, if they want to indulge themselves, have a small piece of dark chocolate. The patients I have interviewed say that they do buy dark chocolate, but that it just lies uneaten in the cupboard because they do not associate dark chocolate with a pleasurable eating experience.”
Gastric bypass patients tackle the limitations imposed on their eating possibilities very differently: some are capable of changing their eating habits while others become depressed, get eating disorders and begin to put on weight again.
But some find little loopholes that enable them to change diet and still manage to find pleasure in eating.
“Several of the patients used the term ‘a heavenly mouthful’ to describe the experience of having a condensed version of something they used to love eating and that does not fit into their new healthy lifestyle—such as, for example, buttered toast.
“This allows them to have the desired taste experience without eating too much unhealthy food.”
Even though the obese patients’ struggle to lose weight and change diet may seem exceptional and extreme, Hillersdal argues that their experiences with gastric bypass surgery can teach us important lessons about changing diet and eating habits.
“The chances of achieving permanent weight loss increase if the person who wants to lose weight can maintain a link to what he or she feels is a pleasurable eating experience.”