Addiction Transfer After Bariatric Surgery

Weight loss surgery involves a wide array of both physical and psychological changes to your body. Giving up the one thing you relied on for many years for comfort or during boredom or social events is suddenly not there anymore. Food WAS your addiction for countless years. It got you through stressful times, celebratory times, and times of boredom, yet you also need food to sustain life. Food addiction is therefore one of life’s hardest addictions to face because you cannot simply give up eating. One needs to learn how to have a healthy relationship with food because you cannot just give up eating much like a smoker can completely stop smoking cigarettes. In the obese population it is safe to say that most people use food to fill a void. If you’re used to eating food that is high in sugar, fat, and salt prior to surgery then you’re used to consuming foods that are highly addictive. These foods trigger the release of endorphins that activate pleasure centers throughout your body. So it’s quite natural, to want more of them since endorphins make us feel good!

So what happens when food is no longer your crutch? This is where addiction transfer comes into play. Addiction transfer is the phenomenon when people give up one addiction and transfer that addiction to something else like alcohol, drugs, smoking, excessive shopping or gambling. Virtually any behavior exhibited in excess can interfere with the goals of bariatric surgery.

Weight loss procedures are not magic, nor are they are a cure for the chronic disease of morbid obesity. Weight loss surgery will act as a tool to help control your appetite and reduce your portion sizes, however, it will not impact the psychological relationship one has with food. Remember that an alcoholic is always an alcoholic- even when they have remained sober for many years. The psychological components of what has contributed to obesity is just as important to tackle.

So what can you do if you are facing problems with addiction after surgery?

  1. Attend support groups to get the medical and nutritional help you need. Schedules can be found at all practice locations.
  2. Participate in self-help support groups designed to assist your recovery from addiction, such as 12-step programs (Overeaters Anonymous) or substance abuse treatment programs (Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous).
  3. Seek counseling from an expert that understands the mental, behavioral, and emotional transformations that need to take place after bariatric surgery. Our mental health staff is ready to help you if needed.
  4. Learn how to identify the needs you attempted to meet through addictive beahvior, and develop different strategies to meet those needs. Keep a journal to log these feelings.
  5. Discover new hobbies and routinely practice the things most pleasurable and meaningful to you that support your long-term health and weight loss goals. Having a strong support system at home is important.
  6. Find a certain form of exercise that you enjoy doing. Exercise is the healthiest way to activate the releasing endorphins of the brain.

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