When it comes to foods that cause weight regain, for surgical weight loss patients popcorn is one of the worst offenders. By all accounts it is a high fiber "healthy" snack. However, for many gastric patients popcorn becomes the king of slider foods leading to digestive upset, dumping syndrome and ultimately weight gain. Many bariatric centers advise patients to eliminate popcorn from their diets first because it is a starchy carbohydrate snack food and secondly because eating it returns the patient to the habit of mindless snacking that contributed to morbid obesity prior to surgery.
When a gastric bypass, gastric banding or gastric sleeve weight loss surgery patient is compelled to eat popcorn they should follow these eating guidelines that are provided by most weight loss surgery centers. Applying these guidelines is not radical or gimmicky, it is following the rules we agreed to when we signed on for gastric surgery.
- Measure a 1-cup serving for your meal or snack. Do not butter, salt or season the popcorn. Air popped is preferred.
- Cease liquid consumption 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after enjoying your 1 cup serving of popcorn.
- Do not consume liquid while having your 1-cup serving of popcorn.
- Do not exceed the 1-cup serving of popcorn.
- If you chose to eat anything else with your popcorn meal / snack you must decrease the volume of popcorn by the volume of other food you will be consuming so that total volume of food is 1 cup.
Nutritional per serving: 1 cup lightly buttered popcorn is 82 calories; 1g Protein; 6g Fat; 6g Carbohydrate. It is 1/2 starch / bread exchange and 1 fat exchange.
Many patients that eat popcorn following these guidelines report an unpleasant experience: Their pouch feels tight and stuck because the popcorn just sits there. Without liquids to wash it through (and make it a slider food) and with our limited gastric enzymes and digestive juices, it takes a very long time for "dry" popcorn to digest in the pouch. Additionally we experience a dry mouth, bad breath and thirst. This is your pouch doing its job: You are supposed to feel uncomfortable when you follow the guidelines and eat something that appears on most "avoid these foods" lists provided by bariatric centers. Thank your pouch for doing a fine job and accept the message it is telling you.
If we ignore the guidelines and eat popcorn while drinking a beverage often our portion size goes unmeasured and we cross over to grazing-style eating. This is a problem with popcorn because popcorn is a high glycemic food and it elevates our blood sugar. If the beverages consumed with it also raises our glycemic load we are in danger of dumping syndrome. More commonly we find people sustaining "low grade dumping" where their blood sugar is elevated to the point of dizziness or "offness" but not enough to manifest the signs of full-blown dumping. Soon this state of "offness" begins to feel normal and it can only be sustained by nibbling or grazing on similar simple carbohydrates such as pretzels and crackers.
I have had my hand in the popcorn tub several times since weight loss surgery. It is so delicious and so tempting and seemingly such a smart healthy choice. I understand. But, sadly, I have answered well into the hundreds of emails, phone calls, and consultations with patients who are struggling with a weight gain that started innocently enough with a hand in the healthy snacking bowl full of popcorn.