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Anorexia after Bariatric Surgery:

Anorexia is becoming increasingly common after weight loss surgery. Anorexics see themselves as fat and often starve themselves of food and nutrients to “control” the issue. Anorexia can spawn from several factors, a few of which are discussed below.

  • Individuals that suffer from an addiction to one degree or another are drawn to extremes. This means that, many times, an obese patient who has lost weight will replace their addiction to food with an addiction to getting thin. This may sound odd, but most people, to some degree or other, have felt a sense of euphoria after achieving weight loss. For most, that weight loss may be a few pounds…for bariatric patients, the number could be in the tens or hundreds. This sense of euphoria is addictive and the brain knows that to receive more of it, the body has to lose more weight. Unchecked, this can lead to full blown anorexia and all the serious problems associated with it.
  • The second prime example of anorexic tendencies is when the weight loss surgery patient does not appreciate their body image, constantly believing that they have made no progress, when in actuality they are progressing just fine. This form of depression and anxiety can cause weight loss surgery patients to see themselves as fat, when in actual fact they are not. This obsessive behavior can easily lead to anorexia. Body image issues are common in weight loss surgery patients because they have spent years suffering from obesity and the social pressures associated with the disease.  The gradual transition to a normal weight may not be readily apparent to them.
  • Finally, deep-rooted mental health issues that may have caused the obesity, or may have been there before the patient became obese, will not go away with weight loss surgery alone. These underlying problems can ultimately cause weight gain or extreme weight loss – either way, they need to be addressed.

Anorexia is insidious, hard to spot in its early stages, and ultimately dangerous. Patients should strongly consider therapy, whether formal (through a mental health counselor) or informally (through a support group), to appreciate the progress they are making and to recognize and avoid anorexic tendencies. Opening up to others about deep-seated problems that may hinder healthy weight loss can allow a patient to reinvent themselves in a healthy way, not just physically but psychologically as well.

Learn more about:

Addiction Substitution
Food Addiction

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