Bariatric patients: Has Alcohol replaced food?

Bariatric surgery is an effective treatment for severe obesity, but it can have unintended negative psycho-social consequences, including an increased risk of alcohol use disorder or even Class A drug use.

The medical profession believes a greater understanding of the psychosocial effects of bariatric surgery will probably improve treatment outcomes. However, I think that successful long-term results without addiction switching would be enhanced by exploring and resolving the psychosocial reasons for prospective patients with excessive food consumption leading to their morbid obesity.

The UK National Health Service (NHS ) has strict criteria for people who want bariatric surgery.

These include:

1. A body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more, or a BMI of between 35 and 40 together with an obesity-related condition that might improve with weight loss (such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure.)

2. Prospective candidates must have exhausted all other weight loss methods, such as dieting and exercise, but have struggled to lose weight or keep it off.

3. Patient has to agree to long-term follow-up after surgery – such as making healthy lifestyle changes and attending regular medical check-ups.

The three-point guide-lines sound straightforward enough in theory. Point 2 demands that prospects have tried and exhausted all other weight loss methods which are not unusual for people who have struggled all their life with yo-yo dieting. However what is not immediately apparent is that bariatric surgery is subjected to the same postcode lottery as many other surgical procedures with a health service struggling to meet the needs of its raging populace.
Hence, I see more post-surgery bariatric clients who had their surgery overseas as private patients.

Why do they seek out a therapist after their surgery?

Two main issues continue to challenge some post-bariatric patients.

The first focus on self-image. Once a once obese person has lost a great deal of their excess weight, which can happen rapidly after bariatric surgery, it is challenging for them to believe and fully absorb the concept that they are slim.

Their subconscious mind maintains an image of themselves as much larger and heavier. For instance, people who have lost a great deal of weight often dream they are still morbidly obese, or on waking in the morning feeling the same familiar negative feelings they had about themselves they felt before their body changed.

They are also often impervious to compliments from friends and family as although the transformation has taken place physically, and they look considerably different, it has not taken place for them emotionally in a way that they can believe and fully accept.

It is vital to correct their misconception of themselves as otherwise, the newly lighter, and fitter person will not feel the emotional benefits from the changes in their physique and so will not be invested emotionally in doing their utmost to support their healthier body.

My therapy work addresses this unique type of body-dysmorphia and through a series of techniques allows them to change and update how their subconscious mind views their new self. The desired result is that the physical self and the subconscious mind are aligned with the new reality and when that is authentically in place a person can thrive in their healthier body.

The second focus of my work is to address the addiction switch from food to alcohol or recreational drugs that international specialists in bariatric surgery are seeing in a percentage of their patients.

My therapy work here explores the emotional drivers of over-eating or disordered eating that led to them becoming morbidly obese in the first place. The medical profession is increasingly recognising that the psychological reasons for eating when not hungry are as essential to resolving as the physiological reasons.

To erase the emotional triggers to binge eating and sugar cravings along with ending the need to over-eat without causing any sense of deprivation or denial is the missing piece to stop addiction switching from food to other substances for some post-bariatric surgery patients.

If you struggle with your cravings for sugar or the need to eat overeat when you are no longer hungry, and you feel ready to reset your relationship with food you can book an obligation free discovery call with me via the link on this page.




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