Emotional Challenges After Weight Loss Surgery

By Jessica Basso, RN, BSN

Bariatric surgery has become very popular over the years to help individuals weight struggles healthier. With Bariatric surgery, many lifestyle changes need to take place in order for success to be achieved. Not only physically do changes occur but also emotionally, so let’s talk about some of the emotional challenges that may arise with WLS:

  1. Relationship Changes. Personal and family relationships may undergo significant changes as a result of dramatic weight loss. The families and friends of weight loss surgery patients are heavily impacted by the behavior changes required in order for bariatric surgery to succeed. Food shopping, mealtime and even relaxing in front of the TV can bring on emotions that are difficult following surgery. Formerly comfortable patterns must shift to accommodate healthier habits. Change is often difficult for everyone. Family loyalties, friendships, and marital bonds are tested and sometimes become stronger or may even become worse.
  2. Anxiety. Losing weight can open many doors to new activities and social situations. It’s normal to feel anxious about these new opportunities and talking out your feelings can help you adjust. However, if anxiety becomes overwhelming, it may be best to seek therapy or counseling.
  3. Insecurity. Your mind has gotten used to an overweight body image and it will take time to adjust to your new normal. Even as you near your goal weight, it may be difficult to let go of a negative perception. Talking to others who have gone through similar transformations, like those in your support groups, can help.
  4. Depression. Most people experience depression at some point in life, but high expectations, strict dietary changes and sagging skin left after weight loss, make depression especially common in patients of weight loss surgery. Know these emotions are normal and there are steps which can be taken to overcome them. Some may need a psychologist or medication to cope with depression so if depression does occur it’s important to seek help.
  5. Loss. You may feel a sense of loss after bariatric surgery. Food was a very important and central part of your life. You likely spent hours planning, acquiring and thinking about food. This food obsession can consume your life. You may have used food to comfort yourself in times of anger or sadness, used it as a reward, or to relieve stress.
  6. Addiction Transfer. Alcohol use, drug use or even gambling are other issues that may come up after bariatric surgery. The concept of “addiction swapping” occurs when alcohol or drug use takes the place of food. Being forewarned is being forearmed. If you notice addiction swapping occurring its important to seek help.

These are just a few of the emotional aspects that one may experience following surgery. It’s important to stay positive and focused after WLS. Surgery is not an easy way out and life struggles will occur but it’s important to have the proper tools and education on how to deal with the emotional obstacles that may develop after surgery.

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