Weight Loss and Mental Health

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By Alex Concepcion  

Long-term weight loss is not just a physical challenge. Commitment, dedication, and overall mental health are essential during your weight-loss journey. Knowing what to expect and being prepared in advance are the keys to developing the positive mindset you will need for success.

Being ready for the first weeks after bariatric surgery 

Hormonal fluctuations are normal during the first few weeks after your procedure. Expecting a few mood swings will help you navigate those early days.

Hormonal changes aren’t the only possible cause of mood swings after weight-loss surgery, however. Adjusting to your post-surgery diet may also be impacting your brain chemistry. To obtain recommended nutrients, you will need to prioritize protein and eliminate sugars and refined carbohydrates

Many people use eating carb-heavy foods as an unconscious coping technique on stressful or difficult days. Refined carbs are called “comfort foods” for a reason. They make us feel better by stimulating spikes in our blood sugar and the production of serotonin in our brains. Just like alcohol or drugs, serotonin offers an escape from negative emotions. If this strategy has been a go-to for you in the past, maintaining a positive mindset without relying on sugars and carbs will probably require some adjustment.

Committing to lifestyle changes after weight-loss surgery

Your weight-loss journey involves long-term lifestyle changes. As you approach both eating and exercise in a mindful way, you will find old habits to break and new habits to cultivate. 

Relearning a lifetime of unhealthy eating habits isn’t easy. Instead of overeating, you will develop portion control. Instead of snacking when you are bored, you will establish new rules for when and when not to eat. Instead of eating carbs to boost your mood, you will discover new coping techniques. 

You will also make changes to several social rituals involving food. Sharing holiday meals with your family and dinners out with your friends will always be important. After your surgery, although, you will learn new ways to participate in these routines. If you prepare for these changes ahead of time, you can prevent negative emotions such as loneliness and depression from gaining a foothold. 

Regular exercise is essential to your long-term weight loss success. Physical activity does not only promote weight loss; exercise improves your overall mental outlook.

A relevant study in the journal Obesity followed bariatric patients as they attempted to schedule 200 minutes of exercise into their weekly routines. Patients who committed to the change lost an average of 13.2 more pounds than those who did not. Furthermore, physically-active patients experienced less depression and anxiety than those who did not exercise. Other research links increased cardiopulmonary fitness to reduced depression after weight loss surgery.

Being ready for a lifelong weight-loss journey

There is a name for the exciting months after your weight-loss surgery. It’s called the “honeymoon period.” During these weeks, you will lose weight effortlessly and may not even experience hunger. Patients who achieve long-term success take this time to establish mindful eating habits and exercise routines. 

When the honeymoon ends, life returns to normal. The excitement of those early weeks will wane, but your positive mindset and dedication must remain strong. Holidays will tempt you to overeat, and a busy schedule can cause you to skip exercise routines. Stress will lure you to cope with carbs. Only commitment, a long-term positive outlook, and a strong support system can enable you to overcome these obstacles.

Bariatric surgery is a powerful tool, but it is not a magic bullet. Your mindset ultimately determines the success or failure of your weight-loss journey. Remember, negative thoughts make commitment seem pointless, depression makes change feel difficult, and anxiety makes new things appear frightening. Developing a positive outlook is the key to your life-changing transformation.

Weight-loss surgery is only the first step. For more information about the role mental health plays in your lifelong weight-loss journey, reach out to the medical experts at Blossom Bariatrics

Opinions expressed by San Francisco contributors are their own.


Alexandra Atlanova

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