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Addressing Emotional Eating – Bariatric Edition

Emotional eating is a common challenge that many individuals face, including those who have undergone bariatric surgery. Bariatric patients often experience a significant transformation in their relationship with food after surgery, and addressing emotional eating becomes crucial for long-term success.


Let’s explore effective strategies to help manage emotional eating and maintain a healthy lifestyle post-weight-loss surgery.


Identify Triggers: The first step in addressing emotional eating is to identify the triggers that lead to overeating. Stress, boredom, loneliness, and certain situations or emotions can act as triggers. Keep a journal to track your eating patterns and identify the emotions or situations that precede overeating. Recognizing these triggers empowers you to develop alternative coping mechanisms.


Build a Support System: Having a strong support system is essential in the journey of overcoming emotional eating. Connect with other bariatric patients, join support groups, or seek professional counseling. Sharing experiences, struggles, and successes with individuals who understand can provide encouragement and guidance.


Practice Mindful Eating: Embrace the practice of mindful eating to develop a healthier relationship with food. Pay attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, eat slowly, and savor each bite. Focus on the taste, texture, and satisfaction that food brings. Mindful eating helps you become more aware of emotional triggers and make conscious choices rather than turning to food automatically.


Find Alternative Coping Mechanisms: Discover alternative coping mechanisms that don’t involve food. Engage in activities you enjoy, such as going for a walk, reading a book, practicing yoga, or engaging in a hobby. These activities can distract you from emotional eating triggers and provide healthier outlets for your emotions.


Seek Professional Help: If emotional eating persists or becomes overwhelming, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or psychologist. They can help you explore the underlying emotional issues and develop effective coping strategies. Therapy can be an invaluable resource in addressing emotional eating patterns.


Practice Self-Care: Prioritize self-care to nurture your emotional well-being. Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, such as taking a warm bath, practicing mindfulness or meditation, or engaging in creative pursuits. When you take care of your emotional needs, you’re less likely to turn to food for comfort.


Plan and Prepare Meals: Create a meal plan and stick to it. By planning and preparing your meals in advance, you are less likely to make impulsive food choices driven by emotions. Include a balance of lean protein, vegetables, and whole grains to ensure proper nutrition and satiety. Having a structured eating plan helps you stay on track and reduces the likelihood of emotional eating episodes.


Celebrate Non-Food Achievements: Reward yourself for non-food achievements. Instead of celebrating milestones with indulgent treats, find alternative ways to reward yourself, such as buying a new outfit, getting a massage, or treating yourself to a movie night. This shift in mindset helps break the association between emotions and food.


Addressing emotional eating is a crucial aspect of the bariatric journey. By identifying triggers, building a support system, practicing mindful eating, finding alternative coping mechanisms, seeking professional help when needed, practicing self-care, planning meals, and celebrating non-food achievements, bariatric patients can effectively manage emotional eating and maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Remember, it’s a journey, and each step you take toward addressing emotional eating brings you closer to long-term success.


Healthy Hugs,


Sheri Burke

About the Author: Sheri Burke is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Bariatric Surgery Coordinator at International Patient Facilitators in Tijuana and Cancun, Mexico. She has worked with bariatric surgery clients for over 10 years and especially enjoys providing nutritional guidance to pre and post bariatric clients.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two teens and cooking up a nutritional storm in the kitchen.

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