Tidbit Tuesday: Emotional Eating

Often times, no matter what stage of the weight loss journey you are in, you will be faced with emotional eating.  Having weight loss surgery unfortunately does not change the brain and emotional struggles patients faced before surgery.   Please know that emotional struggles are completely normal and will stabilize over time.  However, for those who find themselves battling feelings of hopelessness and frustration, additional professional help is both necessary and available. We want you to call our office as soon as possible so we can help you.

Some of the common causes of emotional eating include:

Social pressures and situations 

Let’s face it – food is almost always part of social gatherings.It can become stressful to have to eat differently than family and friends, which can leave you feeling isolated.Having an encouraging network of friends and family who support your healthy living can prove invaluable, especially when they make positive changes to their own routines and habits.


Depletion of serotonin

The chemical transmitter that helps to balance mood and anxiety, known as serotonin, often becomes depleted in bariatric patients. This is because 80-90% of the body’s serotonin is found in the intestinal tract, which has been altered from weight loss surgery. Over time, high-protein requirements and malabsorption of nutrition can result in serotonin deficiencies, which will effect a person’s mood, as well as their appetite and ability to sleep. But there are things to help – exercise and exposure to sunlight help build serotonin levels. By staying active, enjoying the great outdoors and remaining socially engaged should help.


Internal pressures

People are their own worst enemies and by setting unrealistic goals can feel defeated. Some of the unrealistic expectations we impose on ourselves are met with barriers such as slower weight loss than you anticipated. Choosing to eat healthier food and exercising is more difficult than you thought it would be or your weight loss may have unexpected results and not resolve the issues you thought it would. Be gentle with yourself and remember your journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Keep going at a pace that you know you can sustain long-term.


Medication malabsorption

Depending on which procedure you had, it has limited or eliminated portions of the digestive tract which is where the majority of our body receives nutrition.  Medication is no different and that means prescriptions you took prior to weight loss surgery may no longer be as effective as before.  Your doctor may need to adjust dosages in order for you to receive the full effect of the medication and/or vitamins and minerals. 

Overcoming emotional eating is not an easy thing to do.  Surgery helps to control portion sizes but it does not change why you are eating.  It is very important to find your triggers (stress, boredom, celebrations) and work on ways to refrain from food when it is an emotional trigger and not true hunger. 

Some things to try instead of eating in times of emotional triggers:

  • Turn on some music.
  • Take a walk or some other form of exercise.
  • Write in a journal.
  • Aromatherapy. 
  • Create art or do a craft project.
  • Reach out to your support group (family, friends).
  • Remove the temptation(s) from your home. 

Please call our office at 785-232-0444 if you have any questions. 


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