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Hi, my name is Melissa and I used to be (possibly still am) addicted to food. The topic of eating addiction seems to polarise people. There’s the, oh don’t be silly you couldn’t be addicted to food camp and the people who get it and agree that they are or have been before. I think for many bariatric patients there are parts of this you can identify with and elements of your behaviour around food you recognise as not being completely healthy.
Most of us have a vice, the thing we obsess over that we turn to when we need comfort, when we’re stressed, tired or any other reason we feel we need a bit of a release. Some people drink, smoke or exercise. For some reason we tend to do things that aren’t good for us or do healthy things to the extreme to help us cope with the hard stuff.
Bariatric surgery does not take away food addiction, let’s just get that out there right away. For the first six months or so after my surgery I thought it had and that I was away laughing. I had gastric bypass surgery because it would give me the physical limits I needed to help me maintain my weight long term but of course there are times we get so overwhelmed we do things we know are not good for us.
I think before anyone goes down the weight loss surgery route you need to become very aware of your relationship with food and what drives it. You will not be able to continue on in your relationship with food in a way close to what it was beforehand and that can be really hard and confronting when things get tough. You need to start looking at what things drive you to emotionally eat or what things trigger your eating habits that could be likened to food addiction.
Where I think bariatric surgery is helpful is it helps you to recognise your behaviours for what they are and it can be a good step to overcoming food addiction. After surgery you are starting at a totally new point, a ground zero if you like. Your eating habits change radically in the first three months after surgery and it’s a chance to leave your old habits completely. As you get to know your new body, you become more in tune with it because you are relearning all of the signals and feelings it has to offer in relation to food.
If you recognise addictive tendancies around food before surgery you need to take note of what they are and start thinking of other ways to deal with stress and the other things that set it off. I know now when I am tired that eating is not going to make a smudge of differece to how I’m feeling and eating is pointless. Knowing this helps me to recognise the, “I need to eat,” signals that my body tries to send me as not being true hunger and keeps me away from things I shouldn’t be eating
I know that if we have a morning tea at work if I have one bit of anything I will then want more and keep going back every time I walk past so now I know not to have that first bite. I got a bit reliant on lollies again lately, with everything that’s been going on with my mum having cancer and everything else in life I was getting a bit overwhelmed and started relying on them again for a bit of stress relief. Once I reflected on it and recognised it for what it was I knew I had to ban myself from buying them for a while to get over my fixation on them. Even though I know better sometimes I still can’t see any other way to get past it and I will eat something I shouldn’t but now I at least have physical limitations to stop me going too far.
It’s strategies like not having the thing I can’t leave alone in the house that help me manage my behaviour. Knowing the things that do help are important and sometimes you need to remind yourself of them to make sure you don’t lose sight of how far you’ve come.
While I don’t think bariatric surgery is a cure for eating addiction I do think it is a great way to help you recognise exactly how the interaction between your emotions and your eating habits and it gives you a set of firmly defined parameters to work between. Have you noticed some of these almost addictive behaviours around food come back in at any point after your weight loss surgery? How do you deal with them, comment below I’d love to see what works for you.