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Food Addiction – It’s not a Myth

In today’s society there’s no doubt that we’re facing a new type of addiction that has since been underestimated in its reach and scope. Food addiction has slowly taken over many lives, and as more and more of the population become dependent on sugar and fats, especially in fast and processed foods, it’s no wonder the obesity rate has steadily risen over the years. Obesity is no joke — we are now fighting a full-blown epidemic that threatens over 35% of the adult population according to the CDC.1

Bariatric surgery, while it does help with the physical problems of obesity, doesn’t exclusively help with the psychological issues that may have long-plagued an obese person. As such, weight loss surgery patients should take advantage of the counseling services available to them either through their surgeon’s specific program or though private or community programs. Managing psychological issues can be the difference between short- and long-term success in weight loss and weight-related disease management.

Once a patient has undergone bariatric surgery, they will usually be forced to eat less and will have to eat healthier foods. Superficially, that may “cure” their food addiction. However, addictions are diseases of the extreme, and while the food addiction may be resolved through surgery, without proper mental health counseling, the underlying issue may be replaced by another extreme behavior or addiction – this is often referred to as addiction substitution.

For example, body image issues are a serious problem in post-surgical life. Relatively minor body image problems manifest when a patient doesn’t fully appreciate the progress they have made in losing weight, and as a result, take a critical eye to their weight loss journey. This critical eye can manifest itself in multiple self-destructive behaviors, one of which is the insidious and increasingly rampant problem of anorexia, an eating disorder characterized by restricting calories, or not eating, in an effort to attain a certain body image.

When body image problems begin to take over the mind, anorexia can quickly fill the void that eating less left behind. Whereas before surgery the patient went to extremes in eating food, now they have gone to extremes in not eating food. This almost invariably leads to significant health problems and can lead to drug or alcohol abuse after surgery.

Food addiction is very real and should be addressed with professional help to ensure that post-operative patient care runs as smoothly as possible.

1“Adult Obesity Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 Aug. 2012. Web. 14 Oct. 2012.

Learn more about:

Addiction Substitution
Anorexia after Bariatric Surgery
Bulimia Nervosa
Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

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