How Weight Loss Surgery Takes an Emotional Toll

Making the choice to undergo weight loss surgery requires emotional transparency and self-reflection. Before even meeting with your weight loss surgeon for a consultation it is important to spend some time thinking about your goals, the things in your life that you want to change—and perhaps just as importantly, the things in your life that you want to stay the same.

Proactively Managing Relationships

As much as we try to convince ourselves otherwise, being overweight can become part of your identity. When we have struggled with weight gain since we were a child, being overweight may be all that we know. Suddenly reaching your weight loss goal and experiencing life in a different way can be jarring—and not only for yourself. Your loved ones—friends and family—are going to be impacted by your decision to undergo weight loss surgery.

It’s important to be mindful of the emotional impact that weight loss surgery can have on friends and family by considering healthy initiatives like:

  • Increasing communication with loved ones about what your goals are and how this program will help you long-term.
  • Setting up ways to spend time with loved ones that are free from unhealthy habits. Consider switching a lunch date to a walk in the park, for example.
  • Make sure that you aren’t expecting loved ones to change their habits just because you are. Communicate with your loved ones to let them know your goals, and make it clear that these are initiatives you are doing for yourself, and they can work with you or they can choose not to, but you love them all the same.
  • Recognizing that often negative responses from family and friends may still come from a well-intended perspective. But they respond negatively, not because they don’t care but rather because they are poorly informed or carry untrue assumptions which drive invalid concerns.

When someone close to you changes all of their lifestyle habits it can take a big toll on your relationship. Making a proactive effort to communicate and connect with those whom your change in habits might impact can really help to maintain your support network as you lose weight.

Improving Coping Mechanisms after Weight Loss Surgery

One of the most common methods for coping with stress is turning to food. “Comfort foods,” as they are commonly known, boost your dopamine and serotonin levels briefly and in doing so offer a short burst of a positive mood. However, this burst can quickly become addictive, and many people will cover their anxiety, fears, and disappointments with their favorite foods rather than cope with them directly in a more healthy and manageable way.

Over 40% of adults with obesity also struggle with depression. Many who struggle with anxiety go underdiagnosed because they don’t seek out treatment. If you are struggling with depression or anxiety, it is imperative that you meet with a mental health counselor before undergoing weight loss surgery to set up a plan for long-term success. Using food to stabilize your mood is a dangerous habit and is something that will not be possible after having weight loss surgery.

As an alternative to comfort eating, consider substituting healthier coping strategies like:

  • Journaling
  • Artistic expression
  • Meditation
  • Reading
  • Exercise

Shifting from using eating as a way to cope with stress to using exercise can have a huge impact on your ability to lose weight. Consider setting up a time that you can go for a walk or jog daily, perhaps before dinner. If your work is a place where you experience high levels of stress and often overeat at lunch or in the afternoon, as a result, try building in a 20-30 minute walk as part of your midday lunch break. Making small changes in your behavior can significantly support your mental health during the weight loss process.

Managing Emotional Side Effects

Undergoing weight loss surgery can occasionally have side effects, some of which can be emotional. Bariatric surgery’s side effects shouldn’t get in the way of your motivation to lose weight. It is true that there are some who experience chemical imbalances after gastric bypass, but by working closely with a mental health counselor and communicating regularly with your friends and family about your goals and biggest needs you can make sure that your relationships remain strong. Perceived personality changes after bariatric surgery can sometimes occur, but remember that it isn’t so much a new personality, but instead, a rather different more fulfilled version of yourself that has always been there, waiting for a chance to shine.

Bariatric surgery can have a huge emotional impact on you as well as on your loved ones, and it is essential to be aware of this impact before you undergo any level of procedure for medical weight loss. For more information about how to get started with weight loss surgery, contact our office for a consultation.

Dr. Joshua Long headshot

This page was medically reviewed by Dr. Joshua Long, MD, MBA, FACS, FASMBS. Dr. Long is a double-board-certified bariatric surgeon and bariatric medical director for Parker Adventist Hospital.
Full Bio: Dr. Joshua Long, MD, MBA, FACS, FASMBS
Page Updated: January 3rd, 2023

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