Addressing Emotional Eating Before Weight Loss Surgery

Over the past few months, I’ve discussed one of the most common questions I receive from patients who are beginning their weight loss surgery journey: Why does the process take so long?

The answer is actually more complicated than they think at first, but ultimately they understand its importance in maximizing their chance for success. In my previous blog entries, I discussed the time constraints related to insurance, learning to eat right, and learning how to exercise safely and effectively. In this column, I will discuss the portion of the weight loss journey that is most difficult to address: Emotional eating.

“A common misconception is that the operation will fix all of the problems obese patients have. It is our job to quickly dispel that myth.”

The final piece of the weight loss puzzle relates to the emotional issues related to over-eating. A common misconception is that the operation will fix all of the problems obese patients have. It is our job to quickly dispel that myth, and from there help our patients prepare emotionally for their upcoming operation. It is truly a lifestyle change our patients are undergoing, and making sure our patients understand what changes will occur after surgery is vitally important.

Along the weight loss journey, we have all our patients undergo psychological screening with a licensed therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. The goal of this screening is to ensure patients understand that they are making a lifestyle change before surgery, and that the operation itself will limit what food and how much food they can consume. The therapist will also ensure that patients are capable of making the decisions necessary to be successful with a weight loss operation. Our program also holds regular support group meetings for our patients, where a lot of common emotional problems related to obesity are addressed.

In summary, we realize that patients are very excited to get started with their weight loss journey. That excitement often translates into “I want my surgery today!” However, the reality is that preparing patients for their journey properly, with a comprehensive approach to nutrition, exercise and emotional well-being, is needed to maximize our patients’ chances for successful long-term weight loss.

By no means are those needs met in the short period of time before surgery, but building the foundation for a lifestyle change starts before the operation, and that foundation-building takes a little time. Fortunately, patients often feel that their pre-operative wait passes very quickly.

What questions do you have about weight loss surgery? Let me know in the comments below.

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Daniel McCullough, MD, has been a bariatric surgeon for the past 10 years. Prior to joining ProMedica Physicians in July 2016, Dr. McCullough practiced in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. He completed a Bariatric Surgery fellowship at The University of Virginia, residency in General Surgery at The University of Toledo Medical Center, and medical school at the Medical College of Ohio (UTCOM). He is a native of Toledo, Ohio.

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