When I first looked into having weight loss surgery (WLS), one of the most common negative comments I heard was, “Gee, I hope you don’t become a raging alcoholic like So & So...” You see, several women in our small town had become just that, (alcoholics), after having WLS. These women had been prominent, community members before WLS, then lost everything (family, home, jobs, etc.) to alcohol addiction after. While I am not a doctor, I did do some research (because I wanted the surgery, but did not want to be a “raging alcoholic!”) and found the following facts:
~64% of the US population was overweight in 2015
~35% of the US population was considered obese in 2015.
~7.6% of WLS patients develop alcohol abuse within the first year post-op.
~9.6% of WLS patients develop alcohol abuse within the second year post-op.
~200,000 people had WLS in the US in 2015
So here is a little math: 9.6% of 200,000 (people who had WLS in 2015) is a little over 19,000 Americans that developed alcohol abuse issues who did not have this issue before having WLS. And, according to the references below, the post WLS patient is TWICE as likely to develop alcoholism! But why?
There are still studies being conducted on this issue. The general idea is that the problem may be two-fold:
Physiological – Alcoholic beverages stay in your smaller stomach for a shorter amount of time and goes faster to the intestines where it is absorbed. So essentially, you get drunker faster after having WLS.
2. Psychological – If food was your addiction before WLS, and now you can no longer use overeating as an emotional buffer, if you do not find a healthy outlet, you are more susceptible to “Addiction Transfer” (i.e. trading your food addiction for gambling, alcohol, drugs, etc.)
Bariatric programs vary in the psychological preparation they give to patients prior to surgery and the requirements can vary from state to state and country to country. I only can tell you my experience. I had a few classes on mental health and was given a psychiatric evaluation.
I can tell you that I was totally not prepared for the onslaught of what it was like to feel my emotions without the option to buffer with food. I was blessed enough to have an awesome counselor who recommended several additional self-help resources. This is how I eventually found causal coaching which has been a total game changer for me.
Through these sources, I have been able to learn that emotions are meant to be felt, my body can completely handle emotions, and that they are just sensations in my body. When I feel a negative emotion and am tempted to overeat, the technique below almost always helps even if I have to do it a couple of times in a row.
The next time you feel negative emotions and want to overeat or lose your stuff, excuse yourself and try this technique:
Recognize the emotion (ex. Boredom, dissatisfaction, fear, shame, disappointment).
Concentrate on what sensations it is causing in my body (ex. Feels like a drop in pit of my tummy, makes my chest feel tight, & makes my temples throb like I might get a headache.)
Allow this sensation to flow through me like a wave and even try to amplify it (l let it flow through me while I think about the bodily sensations).
This puts you as an observer of what your body is doing.
Often, just doing this technique alone, gives me relief because I have experienced my emotions as opposed to avoiding them. When I avoid my emotions, they always resurface, often stronger. When I allow them, they flow in and out of me. I’m not saying the emotion never comes back, but the amazing result is that I just made it through a strong negative emotion without acting on it (overeating, overspending, or a tantrum).
So Old Leslie would have resisted my emotion, buffered with food where my end result would be ingesting food that I did not need, feeling bad about it, and ultimately gaining weight which I’m sure you know is a perpetuating cycle. New Leslie uses the technique above to allow emotions which results in a feeling of accomplishment, not overeating, and ultimately losing weight. I definitely recommend this perpetuating cycle! While this is an ongoing process for me and will be for you, the important thing to remember is that we are taking small steps in the right direction!
If you want to know more about this technique or other causal coaching techniques, check out my website and/or set up a free 15-minute mini coaching session with me on my website:
I can’t wait to talk to you! Have a great day & God bless!