Obesity Surgery Curbs Weight, But Not Addictive Tendencies

Though weight loss surgery can be an effective way of curbing food addiction, many surgery patients discover that other vices can surface. Here’s what you need to know about “transfer addiction.”

Bariatric surgery can help obesity can become a thing of one’s past. But the learning curve never ends. National Association of Weight Loss Surgery (NAWLS) Director Katie Jay wants to help patients avoid choices and change tendencies that can play a negative role after their operation.

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Her new organization offers workshops, women’s retreats and literature, plus an online membership site. Among other objectives, it spreads awareness of “transfer addictions,” and their treatment. Jay, a former weight-loss surgery patient, said an estimated 70 percent of surgery candidates are food addicts.

The surgery, by its function, does finally limit how much a food addict can eat. But an estimated 7 percent, she added, develop new transfer addictions that replace the comfort patients once took in food.

“What happens is, some people call it ‘a hole in their soul,’ but there’s something there,” she said. “And we use food to manage our mood and all kinds of things. After surgery, you lose that coping skill, and some people need something to replace that. “

Commonly, people replace the food with sex, shopping or alcohol. They are prone to indulge their new, attractive bodies. But sex addiction can bring serious mental and social problems of its own. And since gastric bypass surgery changes the way the body processes alcohol, a person can get rapidly intoxicated from a small amount.

“For some people, that’s very compelling,” Jay said. Jay’s surgery was five years ago. In her own case, the excitement of weight loss was thrilling at first but became a challenge later. Her experience and insight led her to write a booklet, The 21 Most Common Mistakes Weight Loss Patients Make.

“People do struggle, but there’s a lot of hope for them,” she said. “There are things people can do.”
To find out more, visit www.nawls.com.

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