Screen_Shot_2024-05-02_at_9.jpegAccording to the American Psychological Association, 27% of adults admit they turn to food to manage stress. Of those, 34% say that this behavior has become a habit. This is known as emotional eating.

Emotional eating is a coping mechanism used to deal with and numb difficult emotions such as stress, anxiety, sadness, or even boredom. For those considering or who have undergone bariatric surgery, recognizing and effectively managing emotional eating is crucial for long-term success.

Bariatric surgery is a powerful tool for weight loss, but it's only one part of the journey towards a healthier lifestyle. In order to achieve long-term success, it's important to address emotional eating and develop strategies for overcoming it. This involves understanding the root causes of emotional eating and finding healthier coping mechanisms to replace it.

If you're on this journey, you're not alone. At Atlanta Bariatrics, we understand the challenges and importance of overcoming emotional eating, and we're here to support you.Schedule a consultation with our experienced team to discuss your options. Together, we can create a personalized plan to help you overcome emotional eating, encouraging healthy eating habits and effective weight management for a healthier, happier life.

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Understanding Emotional Eating

The first step in managing emotional eating is understanding why it happens. As mentioned earlier, emotional eating is often used as a coping mechanism to deal with difficult emotions, so it's important to recognize these triggers and find healthier ways to handle them. Some common triggers for emotional eating include:

  • Stress or anxiety
  • Boredom
  • Loneliness or feeling isolated
  • Depression or sadness
  • Low self-esteem or body image issues
  • Social pressure

Unlike physical hunger, which gradually builds and can be satisfied by any type of food, emotional hunger is sudden and specific. It often leads to craving high-calorie, comfort foods like ice cream, chocolate, or chips. It's important to be mindful of these triggers and recognize them as emotional hunger rather than physical hunger.

It's also important to consider the role of food in your life. For many, food is associated with comfort and pleasure, making it a go-to for emotional support. However, relying solely on food to cope can negatively affect your physical and mental health. Between gaining excess weight and potentially developing conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes, emotional eating can have serious consequences.

The Role of Your Diet Before & After Bariatric Surgery

For people with a body mass index (BMI) over 40, or those with a BMI over 30 with obesity-related health issues, bariatric surgery procedures can be life-changing. Each commonly performed bariatric surgery has its unique approach, but they generally work by either restricting the amount of food the stomach can hold, reducing the absorption of nutrients, or a combination of both. Ultimately, this helps patients achieve significant weight loss and improve their overall health.

However, bariatric surgery is not a quick fix. It requires commitment and lifestyle changes, including following a specific diet plan before and after the procedure. During the pre-surgery stage, you'll work with a registereddietitian to discuss a diet that will prepare your body for surgery, prevent complications, and help you adjust to your new stomach size afterward.

After surgery, because your stomach is smaller, you'll feel full with much less food than before. This means it's essential to follow the new dietary plan from your dietitian, which will focus on nutrient-rich foods. It's also important to avoid emotional eating during this time; if you eat the wrong things, or eat too much too fast, it can cause discomfort, nausea, vomiting, and other complications.

How To Overcome Emotional Eating Before Surgery

Before considering weight loss surgery, it's helpful to get to know yourself and your eating habits a little better. Understanding what triggers your emotional eating is the first step. This might sound tough, but you can do it with some patience and attention. Here's how:

  1. Keep a Food Diary: Write down what you eat, how much, and how you feel when you eat. Over time, you might see patterns. Maybe you reach for cookies when you're lonely or snack on chips when you're bored.
  2. Ask, 'Am I really hungry?': Before eating, pause and ask yourself if you're eating because you're truly hungry or if it's because of your feelings. Hunger comes on gradually, but emotional eating pops up suddenly.

If you find you're eating because of your emotions, try these alternatives:

  • Take a Walk: Walking can help you reduce stress, boost your mood, and reduce cravings.
  • Drink Some Water: It's common to confuse thirst with hunger. Drinking water can help you feel full and reduce cravings.
  • Call a Friend: Instead of turning to food for comfort, reach out to a friend or family member for support. Talking about your feelings can help relieve stress and anxiety.
  • Try Relaxation Techniques: Deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help manage stress without turning to food.

Developing a healthy relationship with food before surgery can really make a difference. When you eat for the right reasons and learn to handle emotions without food, it can help you stick to your new eating habits after surgery. This leads to better results and a happier, healthier you.

Post-Surgery Tips for Managing Your Diet

After bariatric surgery, it's important to follow your dietitian's recommendations for a successful recovery and long-term weight management. Here are some tips to help you manage emotional eating after surgery:

  • Focus on High-Quality Foods: Your body will need nutrient-rich foods to heal properly after surgery. Once you're cleared to eat solid foods, focus on lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy to meet your nutritional needs.
  • Eat Slowly: Eating slowly not only allows you to savor your food, but it also helps prevent overeating and discomfort. Take small bites and chew thoroughly before swallowing.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body's signals of fullness or hunger (if you are unsure of your hunger or fullness cues, talk to  your dietitian). Stop eating when you feel satisfied, even if there is food left on your plate.
  • Avoid Trigger Foods: Keep unhealthy snacks or trigger foods out of the house to prevent temptation.
  • Seek Support: Lean on family, friends, and support groups for encouragement and accountability. They can help you stay on track and provide emotional support when needed.

Focus on creating a lifestyle that prioritizes balanced nutrition, physical activity, and positive coping mechanisms for emotions. This will not only help you get to and maintain a healthy weight but also help you improve your mental health and find healthier ways to manage emotions.

Take The Next Step With Atlanta Bariatrics

Addressing emotional eating is a big piece of the puzzle for a successful outcome after metabolic and bariatric surgery. If you're considering gastric bypass or another surgery to help you lose weight, it's important to understand the role of your diet before and after surgery.

At Atlanta Bariatrics, our team is dedicated to providing compassionate care and personalized treatment plans tailored to each patient's unique needs. Contact our team today to learn more and take the next step toward achieving your weight loss goals!

Ready to feel happier and healthier? Call (770) 232-9252 today to schedule your first consultation with the weight loss surgeons and specialists at  Atlanta Bariatrics. We can’t wait to help you take the first step!

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