Managing Psychological Changes After Weight Loss Surgery
For patients who are severely obese, weight-loss surgery can be a life-saving instrument. Choosing to undergo bariatric surgery isn’t a magic solution, though. Patients will experience drastic physical changes that will have a significant impact on everything from diet to psychological outlook. Protecting yourself from a failed surgery will mean paying attention to both your physical and mental health as you progress post-op.
Finding a New “Best Friend”
For many bariatric patients, learning a new outlook on food will become a necessity. Patients will become ill and uncomfortable when they overindulge. Being unable to turn toward food for comfort and celebration will force a change in eating habits and focus. Post-surgery patients will feel a sense of loss as they’re no longer able to rely on the comfort and pleasure food once brought. Replacing food with another interest will be essential to overcoming this challenge. Otherwise, continuing to stretch the new anatomy, little by little, will result in a failed surgery. Group and individual therapy can help patients learn new coping skills to get them through this phase in the psychological recovery process for post-weight loss surgery patients.
This stage is dangerous because patients may transfer the friendship of food for a relationship with alcohol, gambling, sex, drugs, or another unhealthy activity. Patients should be aware of the risks and monitor their self-thoughts and participate in therapy. Find a new, healthy activity to focus on and bring pleasure and satisfaction to your self-image.
Dealing with Past Trauma
Weight loss patients have often pushed down trauma, bullying, family conflict, and self-esteem issues by eating to cover their feelings. Rather than deal with anxiety, depression, and insecurities, these patients have relied upon an addiction to food to mask these unpleasant and difficult emotions.
Once they have the weight loss surgery, dealing with these emotions without the crutch of food may bring about real emotional difficulty. Patients shouldn’t hesitate to seek help from a qualified physician to deal with these difficult issues. Whether the issue is trauma or a medical condition like depression or anxiety, professional help can push patients passed this stage and into a healthy and happy future.
Tying Self Worth to Weight-Loss
Yet another psychological hazard that patients who’ve had weight-loss surgery may experience is the pairing of self-worth to weight loss and physical appearance. With the elusive success that they’ve desired for so long becoming true, patients are in danger of replacing a reliance on food with the feelings of gratification received from weight loss. When challenges and plateaus come, which they will, patients could be in danger of feeling insecure and worthless. With therapy and a healthy focus, patients can avoid this hazard. Weight loss should be the goal, but it should never be tied to self-worth or the only focus of one’s life.
The attention patients are likely to receive following weight-loss surgery can also become a source of validation and self-esteem. When this happens, self-worth becomes too closely connected to the opinions and attentions of others, and for some patients, this connection will mean a change of lifestyle that will be unhealthy. In fact, divorce can frequently follow weight-loss surgery as patients and their spouses either disagree about the surgery or the two spouses fail to adjust to the changes together. Further, when the weight loss stops and acquaintances becomes used to the new you, the attention will stop as well. A healthy well being must come from knowing self-worth irrespective of physical attributes.
Commitment to More Positive Changes
After bariatric surgery, a commitment to both physical and mental health are key to success. Whether you approach therapy in a group or individual setting, in-person or via teleconference, therapeutic treatment will help avoid many of the major pitfalls possible following weight-loss surgery.
Other ways to protect your mental wellbeing include carefully following medical guidance, journaling, realistic goal setting, healthy retrospection, and using visual documentation like photos, old clothes, and measurements to reassure you of your success even on those days you feel like it’s all for nothing.
Psychological changes after weight loss surgery are as sure as the physical changes that will come. Adjusting to those changes in a healthy way will make all the difference. Patients shouldn’t be afraid to reach out for help before, during, and after the weight loss surgery journey. Knowing that the challenges will occur is one way that patients can be prepared to self-monitor and seek help when they come.