It’s Not About the Food
Most bariatric patients have heard bariatric surgery referred to as a safe and effective “tool.” The procedure assists individuals in shedding the excess weight they have been battling for years, sometimes decades, that has been holding them back from enjoying life to its fullest. What happens, though, when the outside changes and the “inside” remains behind, held back, and weighed down by depression, anxiety, and/or the day-to-day stressors and triggers that many faces in their everyday lives? While a valuable tool in obtaining weight loss, it is not uncommon for some patients to experience an onset of depression or changes in their closest relationships after surgery. In addition, the procedure does not address the myriad issues surrounding emotional eating as a coping skill that many experience daily.
It is unfortunate, though not uncommon, that the focus of bariatric centers is on food and post-surgery weight plateaus rather than the psychological effects of the procedure and/or the barriers that may have pre-existed the procedure that interferes with long-term weight loss and overall physical and emotional health.
Mental health is a huge part of one’s total well-being, in general. The importance of emotional self-care and a healthy mind are sometimes set aside when undergoing bariatric surgery. More focus is placed on the physical changes that the body is undergoing, and less attention is given to what is happening on the “inside.”
Post bariatric surgery counseling is an effective medium to assist in personal growth and address a number of concerns that may arise after this weight loss surgery. It is also a means to identify pre-surgery issues that give rise to emotional eating as well as identify and address the origins of other barriers to living a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle.
Studies have shown that individuals who engage in post-surgery counseling tend to maintain longer-term weight loss than those who choose to forego treatment. Working with a therapist is a proven method in effectively adjusting to the sometimes rapid weight-loss journey, adapting to this new lifestyle, and staying focused on the road ahead. By looking in the rearview mirror with the guidance of a professional counselor, the future is oftentimes visualized that much clearer, and the journey that much more enjoyable.
Finding a compassionate counselor who understands bariatric patients is tantamount to long-term success. Many times, an individual who has undergone this life-changing surgery does not feel understood by friends, family, or even their spouse. Counseling provides a safe, comfortable space to discuss the ongoing changing relationship with food as well as relationships with friends, family, co-workers, and the world in general. Individuals can feel free to candidly discuss their changing bodies and any issues they have with body image, such as post-weight-loss loose skin, that they may otherwise be unable to share with anyone in their social circles. Meeting with an empathetic counselor and having the opportunity to speak openly in a non-judgmental setting not only increases self-awareness and self-esteem but is an effective way to address psychological and self-image issues that may arise during weight loss and may have contributed (or continue to contribute) to excessive weight gain.
Bariatric surgery is only part of the equation and subsequent solution to the multifaceted themes of distorted body image, weight gain/loss, and food issues. In order for this life-changing tool to be most effective in reaching its goal of long-lasting physical well-being, one’s emotional and mental health must not be ignored. Find an empathetic counselor to walk beside you in your journey and point out the roadblocks and pathways to your success.
Remember, it’s not about the food; it’s about the “inside.”