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Game Day Without the Food Coma

Chiara after weight-loss surgery in Eagles football shirt

Chiara Gravell had a sleeve gastrectomy at Penn Medicine, with weight-loss surgeon Noel Williams, MD, in 2011. Since then, she’s lost more than 150 pounds, and has gone from being obese to completing triathlons. In this blog, she talks about her love of football, and the habits she’s changed to stay in the weight-loss game. 

The love of the game

It is my favorite time of year, September through February. Some people call it Fall, some people the “holiday” season. I call it FOOTBALL! 

In my teenage years I fell in love with football watching the Bears games with my Dad on Sundays. I could sit and watch TV for three whole hours without being bugged while eating football snacks (usually potato chips and sandwiches). It was “Totally Awesome!”

As time progressed, my football Sundays became more elaborate. Lots of friends, and family and a lot more food! Wings, nachos, 5-foot long subs, chili, burgers, chips, dip, etc. I would watch at least two out of the three Sunday games and eat. Then there was football on Thursday and Monday nights. I was eating food that had thousands of calories and little to no national value and not getting any exercise. 

That was then….

Life after surgery

One of my biggest fears about weight-loss surgery was, “How am I going to handle football?” Well two years out from sleeve gastrectomy surgery, I still love football. I still watch it on a regular basis but with some significant modifications to the type and quantity of food I eat during the game. 

Right after surgery I could only drink my protein shakes and didn’t want anything more. I progressed to low-fat string cheese or shrimp with cocktail sauce. This worked as I could pick at it throughout the game. 

The following Fall, I had started to really exercise, and began to participate in distance races. On football Sundays, I needed to train for 90 minutes to two hours. Again my fears kicked in, how am I going to do all of these races (which are also on Sundays) and watch FOOTBALL? 

The answer was so simple. I had heard it a thousand times, from diet programs, the nutritionists at the Penn Medicine Weight Loss Center, my Mother, and others. The answer was plan, plan, and plan!! “If you fail to plan you are planning to fail,” is a mantra in my life.

Now I get up early and do a long work out (anywhere from 1 ½ hours to 2 hours) then come back home ready for FOOTBALL. Also all of the races are in the morning, so I can be back and in front of the TV by 1 pm for the first game.

The food on football Sundays also has changed. I eat vegetables, lots of them, with low-fat dip like Greek yogurt that tastes like ranch dressing.) I also don’t eat all day. I have my lunch and dinner watching football but that is it. I don’t “snack” unless it is raw veggies. My husband, who does most of the cooking in our house, started making vegetarian chili for football. If there are chips with the chili, they are organic, gluten free, and veggie based versus the traditional flour based.

The last thing I added was more movement. You would think a race or two hours of working out would let me “deserve” an eight-hour stint in front of the TV on the couch. Nope! I walk around the house during commercials. I walk outside during commercials. I take out the trash, or clean the kitty litter, do the dishes, sweep the floor, whatever… if there is a commercial I am up and moving! 

So now I can BEAR DOWN and let the EAGLES FLY all day every Sunday! I can enjoy the games, the company of friends and family. I don’t have to gain weight, by eating myself into an eight-hour food coma on the couch.

Are you a football fan like Chiara? How has game day changed for you? What tips would you offer others?

About this Blog

Learn about bariatric surgery and get the support you need to continue on your weight-loss journey. We offer workouts, recipes and tips from Bariatric Surgery program team members, and stories from patients like you.

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