addiction switch

addiction switch for emotional eaters post surgery

As well as seeing yo-yo dieters who have battled for years with a cycle of weight-loss and  inevitable weight-gain I also regularly see clients who have undergone abdominal surgery in their quest to lose weight. 


The people who come to me tell me that they initially lost several stone (14lbs / 6.3kg), some losing eventually over half their bodyweight and for a time they either achieved their much dreamt of goal-weight or got very close to it. That’s of course before they regained the weight they had lost along  with gaining a whole lot more weight.


As surgical interventions have developed over the years I have seen clients who have had bariatric surgery to either bypass part of their stomach to reduce the amount of food that their body can properly digest; had their stomach restricted with a band to reduce the amount of food they are physically able to eat; or had a balloon inserted and inflated in their stomach to again inhibit how much food they can swallow.


Saying that obtaining bariatric surgery in the UK on the NHS (National Health Service) is difficult is a huge under-statement. Prospective patients have to match a particularly exacting set of criteria and the number of operations available are often limited due to budget cuts and the like. Some clients I see have paid large amounts of money to have their procedure undertaken privately overseas. 


All of these surgeries are life changing and along with a great number of success stories for patients that have had their lives saved by these procedures there are those people who this dramatic type of intervention doesn’t work for. 


For most bariatric patients, whatever their individual circumstances, the operation is the holy grail that they’ve had to wait and strive to get and yet for these clients it hasn’t proved to be the enduring solution they had hoped for.


Weight gain post-bariatric surgery can make people feel particularly ashamed and guilty and they blame themselves for the failure of their procedure to limit their eating. Another symptom experienced by some post-bariatric patients is addiction switch where their previous over-eating is replaced with drinking too much alcohol or even the development of a Class A drug addiction.


So what’s going on here? 


Food provided emotional eaters with a way to self-soothe or comfort themselves that was more compelling than their desire to be slim and some post-bariatric surgery patients work hard to find ways to over-ride the physical limitations on their eating imposed by their surgery. 


Addiction switching comes into play as an alternative way to zone out from traumatic memories or events in a person’s past when they can no longer rely on food to swallow down their uncomfortable emotions.


Obesity has never been about being greedy or about a lack of will power. It can however be a survival strategy developed to cope with extreme emotional trauma and it seems that not resolving those reasons for over-eating are the missing piece of the weight loss jigsaw for many.


For emotional eaters bariatric surgery can provide the mechanics of weight loss but doesn’t erase the triggers that caused their overeating in the first place. For those triggers to be resolved and released successfully attention needs to shift from a person’s stomach to their stomach.


Get in contact if you think you may be struggling with emotional eating either pre-bariatric surgery or experiencing self-sabotaging behaviour after your surgery. You can book a free 30 minute discovery call with the link at the top of the page.