Bariatric Surgery

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Bariatric surgery, which includes gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, gastric band and duodenal switch, is a safe and effective way for those encumbered by the burden of obesity to lose the excess weight.  In addition to producing the desired visible outcome, the procedure has been proven to normalize metabolism and subsequently improve one’s overall physical health.  Oftentimes, the struggle to lose extra weight spans several years; yet, despite one’s best efforts, sustained results remain elusive.  For some, medical intervention may be the best — sometimes, the only — solution. 

But, what happens in the absence of inner exploration once external transformation begins to take shape?  When the “inside” remains burdened by depression, anxiety, and/or the usual stressors and triggers of everyday life?  While a viable method for weight loss, bariatric surgery does not eliminate the complexities of compulsive eating as a coping mechanism.  Those who have an unhealthy relationship with food pre-surgery may continue to struggle with disordered eating afterward.  In addition, some patients may experience the onset of mental health issues after the procedure, or a deepening of existing issues, as well as unexpected and unwelcome shifts in their closest relationships.  It is in this arena that bariatric counseling becomes an essential and powerful tool.

Far too often, inner self-care is overlooked by those in the medical field, overshadowed by the physical.  A healthy mindset is critical to long-term success, and it is essential to give as much attention to the bariatric patient’s internal landscape as to their outward appearance both before and after surgery.  Research has demonstrated that individuals who engage in bariatric counseling are more likely to sustain and maintain healthy weight loss than their counterparts who forgo support.  It is highly effective in identifying the issues contributing to emotional/disordered/compulsive eating and assists in developing healthy coping skills for uncomfortable emotions. 

Finding a compassionate counselor who understands the unique challenges faced by bariatric patients is crucial for long-term success.  Collaborative therapy is incredibly beneficial when adjusting to rapid weight loss, adapting to a new lifestyle, and remaining focused on the path ahead.  Counseling provides a safe, supportive space in which to discuss evolving routines and relationships with food, family, friends, coworkers, and the world in general.  The setting allows for open dialogue concerning physical changes (such as post-weight-loss loose skin), as well as changes in body image, which many are hesitant to share with those in their immediate social circles.  The opportunity to speak candidly in a non-judgmental environment not only promotes self-awareness and self-esteem but also facilitates healing by openly and honestly addressing psychological and self-image challenges that often arise during rapid weight loss and may have contributed (or continue to contribute) to excessive weight gain. 

Disregard for the psychological repercussions of bariatric surgery can impede healthy weight loss and management to the detriment of one’s physical and emotional well-being.  In analyzing the multifaceted problem of distorted body image + weight fluctuations + disordered eating, bariatric surgery is just one part of the equation.  A compassionate counselor is another part.  You are the most important part.  If you have questions and concerns associated with the inner work necessary to make weight loss surgery successful in the long term, seek the guidance of a bariatric counselor either before or after your procedure. 

Once an understanding is gained that it’s not about the food but, rather, what’s happening on the “inside,” an empathetic counselor can assist in applying the appropriate therapeutic modalities for your individual situation and help clear the path on your weight loss journey to success.

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