DULUTH, Ga. – When obese patients opt for bariatric procedures such as gastric bypass surgery, gastric banding surgery or a sleeve gastrectomy, then the last thing they want to be told is they can’t ever eat their favorite foods again. But obviously something in their diet must change.
Bariatric patients almost by definition have a craving for food beyond what is considered normal. That is where Chef Dave Fouts with the Gwinnett Medical Center Surgical Weight Management Department can help.
Chef Dave has made a career of devising recipes that help patients who have been through surgery to help lose crippling weight. You see, he not only understands the food, he understands the food problem.
As a trained chef and a former bariatric patient who once topped out at 425 pounds, he knows that the real journey for the critically obese is to keep the weight off.
“When I went through my surgery, I quickly saw that in working with a dietician, who was scientific and told you it would require a 1,400-calorie diet, but nothing about how to put that in place,” Chef Dave said. “So here you have these patients who are already scared, and the biggest fear they have is what can they eat after the surgery.”
Chef Dave says what he does is translate the caloric intake the patient needs and “translate it into real food.” That is, he helps people find foods that taste like the things they have been forced to give up, and yet still are nutritionally sound.
“The recipes that I provide are 15 minutes in the kitchen made from scratch. I also provide education classes for it and online videos. We have a whole database of recipes that are designed for surgical weight-loss patients,” he said.
Chef Dave works in concert with Deborah Proulx, manager of the GMC Center for Surgical Weight Management to see that the patients can adopt a healthy diet that they not only will stick with, but will enjoy and not be tempted to “back-slide” into old unhealthy ways.
“Our patients all try other means of weight-loss before they even consider surgery. For most patients, they have considered or researched surgery for more than a year. So it is truly their last choice option,” said Proulx.
But the surgery is only part of the patient’s treatment. The patients must change their lifestyle to get more exercise and change their eating habits, Proulx said.
“Here in Georgia, fried food is part of the culture here. That is why we have brought in Chef Dave – to help patients to learn to cook food that is healthy and tastes good as well. Surgery is just a small part of what we do at our center,” Proulx said.
Post-operative care at Gwinnett Medical does not end when the stitches come out. Maintenance of weight-loss is the goal. The follow-up includes support groups and sessions with a behavioral health therapist to help keep patients on track to maintain their weight-loss and to deal with other issues associated with dramatic weight-loss.
The therapist teaches life-coaching classes such as “Body Image” and “Food Addiction.”
“Many of our patients have struggled with weight their whole life. They have to learn to adapt to their thinner body. People react differently to the ‘new’ person they have become. We have classes on dating after weight-loss, cooking classes that are all free to the patient,” Proulx said.
A big part of the after-care is the relationship the center has with their in-house chef.
Fouts had his bariatric surgery 12 years ago, and he has maintained his current weight of 165 pounds all that time. He says he is the world’s only bariatric chef and lectures all over the country under his Chef Dave trademark.
“Doctors know when they see a trademarked Chef Dave recipe, dieticians and surgeons know they can trust them,” he said. “The one misconception is that the recipes are just for weight-loss patients. The whole family can eat these meals.”
Chef Dave also can offer regional recipes that are tailored to those regional tastes. For instance, Southerners love fried pork chops, fried chicken and fried okra. He shows how patients can use substitutes such as a batter made of low-fat milk a light breading that is baked and still get the flavor they want. They get the crunch without the calories.
“You have to learn to eat well, because if you don’t, you will regain the weight. And that is the simple truth,” Chef Dave said.