What is your opinion on bariatric surgery? I have lost a lot of weight by eating less and exercising more, but it took me a long time and I still struggle at times.
I recently spent some time working at a bariatric center where they do procedures on adults and teenagers and it got me thinking about the issue.
Just wondering where you stand on the growing popularity of this weight loss solution.
— Maria (Last name withheld)
New York, NY
I certainly appreciate the need for surgical intervention with morbidly obese patients. In many instances, it’s a matter of preventing an untimely death as a result of an overworked system that can no longer handle the amount of effort and work it takes to sustain itself.
My concern, though, is for patients who do not simultaneously seek out help for their compulsive behaviors, thinking there is solely a physical component to their weight issues.
A few years ago, actually, reports surfaced of many post-bariatric-surgery patients developing a gamut of addictions following their bariatric surgeries — from gambling to alcohol and drugs. Depending on who you speak to within the field of bariatric surgery, anywhere from 5 to 30 percent of patients develop some sort of addiction shortly after receiving treatment.
One problem, as you may imagine, is that research on this issue is fairly limited since the procedure itself is fairly new.
That said, I can’t say I am at all surprised. Too often, we forget that, for the vast majority of individuals, compulsive eating has deep, emotional roots.
Bariatric surgery has its merits, but it must be part of a multi-prong approach that also examines psychological issues and foundations.
It frustrates me that so a large percentage of conventional medicine practice fails to acknowledge the mind-body connection. Detaching the emotional from the physical is, in my mind, an erroneous way to deal with medical concerns.
If someone binges almost uncontrollably out of emotional issues dealing with self-sabotage and self-hatred, bariatric surgery does not tackle the root of the problem.
The weight will be lost, but the emotional scarring that leads to the destructive behavior will simply be transferred somewhere else.