Weight Loss Surgery and Addiction Transfer

Weight Loss Surgery and Addiction Transfer

Alex Brecher

Successful weight loss after weight loss surgery can be your ticket to better health and a more satisfying lifestyle. However, weight loss surgery sometimes comes at a cost. Many patients experience addiction transfer as they trade an addiction to food for a less healthy addiction. 

Food as an Addiction

Many severely obese individuals who become weight loss surgery patients have an addiction to food that led to weight gain. Ingredients such as added sugar and sodium can make food addictive. Plus, the act of eating may contribute to a dependency on eating to cope with life. 

After weight loss surgery, eating as a habit or in response to life events is not an option. So, some patients turn to other addictive behaviors.

Recognizing Addictive Behaviors

If your surgery is ahead of you, you can start to think about why and how you use food. Is it a mood booster? Do you hope eating will solve your problems? If surgery is behind you, you can still think back to when you had your old habits of eating.

After surgery, start to notice the occasions that make you crave food. Also pay attention to times when you feel bored, stressed, lonely, or anxious. Any of those may have been times when you used to turn to food.

How do you handle these occasions now? Some bariatric surgery patients notice that they turn to other behaviors besides eating. Examples include alcohol addiction, drug abuse, and engaging in dangerous behaviors.

Unhealthy Addiction Transfer

Weight loss surgery can be great at what it is supposed to do. It can help you change your eating habits and lose weight. However, it does not address any possible psychological issues that may have led to an addiction to eating. Your personality may naturally tend towards addictive behaviors. These can be unhealthy.

Treating Addiction

A mental health professional may help provide strategies to overcome or handle addictions. Many groups are available to support people who have unhealthy addictions. They include the following.

Drug therapies can also be used. Ask your medical provider about which trials are ongoing and which therapies may be worth pursuing.

Healthier Replacement Behaviors

Ideally, you can treat the problem. For example, if you are bored, go play a fun game. If you are lonely, phone a friend. 

Even so, you may develop an addiction to replace your food addiction. That can be okay, as long as you are aware of it and you choose a healthier behavior to replace it. For example, many weight loss surgery patients start to love and even depend on exercise. It can make you happy and stave off anxiety and stress.

Weight loss surgery can save your life or give you back a good quality of life. However, it can come at a cost for some patients who replace their eating addiction with another addictive behavior. With some awareness and help from a medical provider or professional organization, you can make the best of addiction transfer after bariatric surgery.

AddictionAddiction transferFood addictionWeight loss surgery