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Mental Health Services Can Change Your Relationship with Food

By Ayotunde Adeyeri, MD, FASMBS

A successful weight loss transformation certainly encompasses changes in the body, but what about the mind? This month, we will dig deep and uncover some of the reasons why emotional issues with food can interfere and even limit weight loss and weight maintenance.

Many people diagnosed with obesity have underlying emotional issues attached to food. When you commit to changing your lifestyle, mental health plays a key role in this transformation. This fact is true for men and women. Many people eat for the wrong reasons. This behavior can evolve into an eating disorder or ‘disordered eating.’

The intrinsic value of mental health services

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Bariatric surgery treatment prioritizes mental health by requiring a mandatory pre-surgical psychiatric evaluation to screen for mental health issues, including eating disorders, which could jeopardize future long-term weight loss—and weight management—after surgical weight loss.

A bariatric operation alone will not instantaneously cure existing mental health issues related to food. Sometimes, patients will conceal disordered eating symptoms for fear of being excluded from surgery. As a result, this could prevent the patient from receiving essential mental health services to overcome these negative and often self-destructive behaviors. Even when an eating disorder is diagnosed during the pre-op examination, mental health therapy is unlikely to be completed before a patient is cleared for surgery.

The most common eating disorder

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Binge Eating Disorder (BED), one of the most common eating disorders, is characterized by eating a large amount of food in a small time frame, often triggered by emotional issues, not hunger. These psychological triggers, which can be brought on by depression, loneliness, anxiety, stress, lack of control or behavioral impulsivity, don’t disappear just because you are losing weight. Certainly, not all people diagnosed with BED are obese, nor is obesity an eating disorder (it is a chronic disease). But BED is one of the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorders for people seeking weight loss surgery.

It is essential for bariatric post-op patients with potential eating disorders to receive targeted therapy and coping skills to overcome this condition, including during the weight loss phase. Even if you did not report food-related mental health challenges before your surgery, I encourage you to speak with your bariatric doctor or nurse navigator to request mental health treatment immediately, regardless of your pre- or post-op status.


Safe and effective bariatric weight loss services in New Jersey

Sterling Surgicare, with offices in Old Bridge and Holmdel, New Jersey, provide every weight loss patient with multidisciplinary treatment modalities, including psychotherapy, nutritional counseling, and clinical care. By indoctrinating all of these assets into your weight loss arsenal, you will be mentally and physically prepared and able to maintain your weight for life. Read our Patient Reviews: