Prospective Lapband clients sometimes ask about the possibility of developing addictions in the process of losing weight. While at times this can be a concern for some people, in most cases clients find themselves easily distracted by all of the things they are now able to do. In general, they are quite busy enjoying their much improved quality of life, finding the food they once turned to holds less and less appeal.
For those who do have concerns about the transfer of addiction, however, it is important to discuss these concerns during the initial consultations prior to surgery. While those at risk are certainly still candidates for surgery, it will be an important part of your future care and success to plan ahead by utilizing the total client care team in supporting your successful and permanent weight loss. In particular, working with the psychotherapist during your aftercare will ensure that you have the tools necessary to manage and avoid the addictive transfer that would stand in the way of your new-found freedom!
Chance Against an Untreated Food Addiction
By Amy Teeple
Food addiction is now viewed by many scientists as a disorder as real as a drug or alcohol addiction. Although most people’s weight problems are not caused by an addiction, some people seem to gain weight because they are addicted to food.
Some people try to dismiss food addiction as a lack of willpower. While lack of willpower, poor exercise habits, metabolism, and genetics are the major causes of most weight issues, food addiction is real and has the same characteristics of other addictions.
Addiction or dependence can be defined as the compulsive reliance on a behavior or substance by an individual. Just as the need for a drink is part of an alcoholic’s life, the extraordinary need for control over food is a very real part of a food addict’s life.
Filling a Void
Like other addictions, food addiction can be triggered by depression, an individual’s desire to fill some type of emotional void, or the need to be able to have control over some part of his or her life.
Trading One Addiction for Another
Some people seem to free themselves from their addictions to food only to find themselves with new addictions. Addiction transfer is a phenomenon that has become associated with patients of bariatric surgery.
These patients understand that they can no longer turn to food after weight loss surgery, but they may be unaware that they have an addictive personality and unconsciously develop another addiction.
New Addictions – What’s Your Pleasure?
Conservative estimates state that 5 percent of bariatric surgery patients experience an addiction transfer, replacing their dependence on food with another addiction. These new addictions can manifest themselves in the form of:
- compulsive shopping?
- drug dependency?
- excessive gambling?
- increased or uncharacteristic promiscuity.
Many times patients who experience addiction transfer don’t realize it at first. What might have started as a “reward” for losing weight or just a new pastime can quickly turn into an addictive habit for people who have not addressed the underlying issues that triggered the original food addiction.
Whether a food addict transfers his or her addiction to another substance or behavior or just keeps the addiction to food is not the issue. In most cases, some form of addictive behavior will remain after bariatric surgery if the patient does not address the issues that led to the original addiction.
Unhappy, obese individuals may see weight loss surgery as an answer to their problems. They believe that their lives will become easier if they lose the weight. However, many psychologists believe that without therapy, the addictive behaviors could remain or even become more harmful. As the excitement of losing weight begins to wears off, the underlying unhappiness is still there, and an individual will still try to find some way to fill the void.
Not everyone can afford to see a private counselor, and even those who can afford it may not find the level of support and acceptance that they need from one-on-one counseling. Addiction can create feelings of worthlessness and isolation. Because of these reasons, support/recovery groups have become very powerful mechanisms for dealing with addictions.