Sugar is not my friend

March 2018 and I had gastric sleeve surgery. I’ve lost 32 kg or approximately 5 stone.

Initially, 3 major things happen with sleeve surgery.

  1. You lose 60% to 80% of your stomach
  2. You can’t eat more than one cup of food at a sitting
  3. You lose the hunger hormone (Ghrelin) and (apparently) the hormone that helps you to crave sugar (this only lasts for up to 18 months)

After surgery, you spend some time getting used to the new condition. You spend up to 2 weeks on liquids. 2 weeks on pureed food. 2 weeks on soft food. Then you can move on to real food – 1 cup at a time.

I’m on a three month ‘sabbatical’ in Ireland. Leading up to the trip I had concerns about how to enjoy an extended time on holiday without eating. Because a huge part of holidaying is enjoying the food. Perhaps, somebody else cooks it.  The day seems punctuated by food stops. There is different food to try. In Ireland, it might be delicious sausages, black and white pudding, scones (with jam and cream) soda bread – lots of bread – and potatoes!

For a sugar girl, there is also a huge range of new and delicious bakeries! There is a tourist store called Butlers, who are mainly about chocolate, but it is their toffees that call to me.

Two or three months before leaving for Ireland, my sugar need returned. It calls to me. I eat mindlessly. I think to myself, ‘I didn’t enjoy that’. Regularly, I’ll buy what it is that I want and eat a small amount and throw the rest away. A waste of money and world resources (that were required to produce the sugar product) and an addition to landfill. But personally, it is better in the rubbish, then inside me.

It is easy for some to say ‘just don’t eat it’, ‘don’t buy it’. I lost my weight all on my own. Just do it. Well, all I have to say to you is ‘blah, blah, di, blah, blah’! Put some real words into that, whatever floats your boat, that mean ‘piss off’!

Sugar is the devil for me. And I’m actually intelligent enough to know that I don’t need to eat it. My surgeon confirmed that ‘it is a disease’. Both the sugar craving AND the inclination to put on weight. It could have been alcohol, cigarettes, drugs or sex. Take your pick. Mine is sugar.

I have been eating sugar. So far, I’m not putting on weight. The size 10 jeans are still loose. It isn’t just about weight gain for me though. There is a connection between sugar intake and inflammation and my joints struggle.

We have guidelines for eating after gastric sleeve surgery.

  1. Fluids. Last drink 30 minutes before eating. Don’t drink for 60 minutes after eating. I use this rule to ensure that when I eat the proper food – breakfast, lunch and dinner – I don’t lose the nutritional benefit. Because you see, the stomach is small. You can only eat small amounts. So make them nutrient dense (protein first).
  2. Because the stomach is small, the food isn’t going to be there for long before it is time to evacuate to the intestines. If you drink while the food is in the stomach, you a) dilute the nutritional benefit and b) wash the food out of the stomach before your body has had time to absorb the nutrients.
  3. Nutrients. Your body will struggle to absorb enough nutrition. So choose well. Give it time to be absorbed. Take multi-vitamins forever!!!
  4. Sugar. Don’t eat it. Most people will suffer (and not just about putting weight back on). Most likely your body won’t like it and you’ll suffer ‘dumping syndrome’. What is that?

Dumping syndrome is the reaction of your body to either:

a)  Food having progressed too fast from your stomach into your intestines; or

b) You had a meal heavy in sugars/starch.

Dumping syndrome can result in bloating, lower abdominal cramps, diarrhea, lightheadedness or fainting.  Pretty uncomfortable, but your body’s way of yelling “WHAT THE HELL!”

I’ve been either amazingly lucky, or pretty well behaved, because I just haven’t had much trouble. I have had some occasional lower abdominal pain – and I’ve been able to immediately say ‘I pushed that meal a little. It was a little big.” If I eat a little too much sugar I feel hot and bothered. Waving a piece of paper in front of my face. Just like in menopause! 🙂

But really, I just haven’t had much trouble. I’ve breezed through it. I haven’t felt too deprived. Eric and I share most meals out. And at home, my meals fit very easily on a side plate.

I’m travelling on my own. I’m eating out. There is no such thing as a small meal at restaurants. Even entrees can be pretty big. Even though I know better, I feel guilty or wrong if I Order a meal without a drink. I can’t drink and eat for the nutritional reasons mentioned above. But I also can’t eat and drink, because I don’t have enough room! One or the other!

There are so many good sweet options all around me. I’m buying something every single day. The Gourmet Tart Co is too close to me and sells nice homemade biscuits, small (luckily) chocolate eclairs, scones. They also luckily sell beautiful wraps and reheat meals, like chicken pasta or beef bourguignon.

Butlers – fuck off!

Marmalades (small bakery) – actually, the only two times I bought their delicious looking desserts, I discovered they aren’t sweet enough. But their coffee is the nicest so far. YAY coffee!

Cocktails – my special treat when Eric and I go out (which is rare) – has to go back into the box of ‘very special treat’. Not, you’re on holiday for three months, so you can have cocktails whenever you go somewhere 😀

Six small meals, with a focus on protein, supported by vegetables.

There is no room in there for sugar. But I’m finding the room. I don’t eat all that I buy. I drink my water or berocca all around that sugar, to hurry it out of my system. I hope that’s doing the trick.

So, I’m owning up. This continues to be my struggle.

I don’t need any lectures, or helpful advice. Because I’ve been here for a long long time. I know that I should avoid sugar, but it is everywhere. And I’m not good at saying ‘no’. Even though, most of the time, I don’t even enjoy it!!

SUGAR I made myself at a baking class


There’s this thing in Australia called Long Service Leave. Typically at about 10 years, your employer lets you take 3 months paid leave.

I don’t get long service leave, because although I’ve been working with my husband for 20+ years, I haven’t been paid for that entire time, so technically I’m not an employee of 10 years standing.

But since my gorgeous husband (team Eric and Trish) work hard we’ve been able a couple of times now, to take extended leave. The last time was 2013 when we were based in Spain for 3 months, and added the Greek Islands and Morocco with a side trip to the UK and Ireland.

So, 2019. After one week in Dublin to catch up with some cousins and aunties, I moved into Galway. As I write I’m 2 weeks today into Galway. I spent a lot of that two weeks worrying about justifying the cost involved and should I be achieving something during this break. Specifically, something that is measurable, visible and productive.

The answer is NO! According to me and my husband, that is. Others may have a different opinion.

Because I’m effectively a tourist in Galway, there’s the risk that I’ll only get to do and be a tourist. Tourist tours, into a site via the entrance and out via the gift shop 🙂 Only engaging with the people of Galway as a customer. Another woman who has bought a Claddagh ring this year (I have bought one). 

So I was thinking, how can I find a community group where I could do some sort of volunteering, or at the very least engage in conversation with people about more than the weather, the colour or flavour choices in the shops, or what I want to eat for dinner.

I visited the library and looked for a community notice board. And unbelievably, I found a flyer for the Treasured Ladies Club. This is just an opportunity for women to meet over coffee with the potential to meet up with company for various days out during the year. And they have been so welcoming in the two visits I’ve had with them.

These lovely ladies are generally older than me, and mainly retired. Not all though. A lot of them have travelled. One of the ladies still working is a Project Manager who has been everywhere! Some of them have visited Australia, some of them have grown children living in Australia. Some of them have even been to Perth (my home town) which I found unusual because most people say they’ve been to Melbourne and Sydney, but not Perth.

Just in this last 2 weeks, someone is in Greece, someone is in France and somebody is going to France next week. So this is is a group of people with something to bring to the table, to add to the conversation, with open minds.

How lovely!

As a lady of middle-age, born in Dublin but having spent all of her adult life in Australia, this is an opportunity to just ‘be’ in Ireland. I want to listen to the Irish speak, watch their news, deal with their weather, explore their surrounds and engage with as many as I can.

I remain a shy introvert. But therein lies the challenge for me. Reaching out.

Talk soon.