The Psychology of Weight Loss Surgery: An Interview with Dr. Stephen Ritz, Ph.D.

In this special report from the annual meeting of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, Dr. Stephen Ritz explains what patients can expect from the psychological evaluation prior to weight loss surgery. He also discusses the psychological impact of bariatric surgery, and how to navigate this new terrain.

Dr. Stephen Ritz is a licensed psychologist, based in Decatur, Georgia, whose practice is dedicated to educating and counseling pre- and post-operative bariatric patients, as well as those considering bariatric surgery. Ritz believes every patient should undergo a psychological evaluation prior to their procedure, and “understand exactly what weight loss surgery has in store for them.”

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“Surgeons and psychologists should sit down with patients and make certain that patients understand exactly what is in store for them,” says Dr. Ritz. He speaks to patients in depth about whether or not they are good candidates for bariatric surgery, stressing that weight loss surgery is much more than changing the amount of food the stomach can hold – it is really a psychological issue.

“Many patients assume that weight loss surgery is a great quick fix for obesity. They need to realize that is a complete lifestyle alteration – not just physical, but 100 percent psychological as well,” explains Dr. Ritz. “It is crucial to encourage patients to plug into support groups with other bariatric patients.”

Many patients who are not actively involved with their surgeon during recovery increase their risk of relapse. When patients believe they have “failed”, often times they can develop an eating disorder. Grazing, binge-eating, starvation — these are all typical disorders you might see post-op bariatric patients acquire. Usually these patients are trying to create a sense of fullness, but sometimes they are oblivious to their actions. That is why post-op involvement is crucial.

Dr. Ritz is a strong proponent of patient support programs, noting that participation in regular support group meetings has been shown to improve patients’ long-term outcomes.

“These people will continue to succeed, because it is harder to get discouraged when you are surrounded by supportive people who can empathize,” he says.

2 Responses

  1. Margarita Sanchez

    Thank you for mentioning the support group that should help and one should seek after surgery. I am 5 yrs post up and started gaining weight again. I know what my problem is. Like before I ate to feel good or destress. I am scare to death to look like I did before. I hear that people around me who have had surgery, are gaining weight once more. I need to be in the same room with folks who continue to do the right things. Excercise, eat small amounts, stop eathing the round snacks. One of the reasons that I look forward to your emails and announcements. It’s a life long struggle and no easy way to avoid it. thank you Margarita – El Paso, TX

  2. m.shahrour

    what about the sense of heumer charchterising many of the obese persons,do they loose it after weight loss?can i know the predictors of succes in WLS?I MEAN what are the pre operative questions to be asked to execlude pts.will be much harmed psychologicaly post operative? thank you