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5 Ways to Address Emotional Eating after WLS

Have you ever eaten out of boredom, stress, anger, sadness?  You’re not alone. Around 35-50% of adults use food as a coping mechanism.  And after WLS, this doesn’t all of a sudden change despite not being able to eat like before.  Eating out of emotion makes a lot of sense, at least psychologically.  You may have heard that sugar in particular releases “feel-good” hormones and has addictive qualities similar to drugs.   When our brains are more or less addicted to using sugar as a way to deal with life’s challenges, it takes time, effort, and having the right tools in hand to change those habits.  There are many strategies you can use to work through emotional eating after wls, and below we share 5 of them.  

Find the Root Cause 

What are the things that trigger you?  Perhaps there is a lot going on at work or in your family. Maybe you notice that lack of sleep is a trigger.  Or could it be tied to something bigger like depressionADHD, or other chronic concerns that should be explored with your healthcare provider? Regardless of the reasons, identifying them is a good first step to address emotional eating after wls.  

Develop Healthy Coping Strategies 

There are many tactics to use to help address both the triggers and habits of emotional eating after bariatric surgery.  Many of these can be done regularly and in the moment of wanting to eat.  These include journaling, meditating, exercising, keeping a food diary, practicing mindful eating, and keeping certain foods out of the house.  Because emotional eating is often a knee-jerk reaction, look for ways to put a wrench in the gears to make your next move a conscious decision rather than a habitual reaction. 

Differentiate between Emotional and Physical Hunger 

Physical hunger after WLS can be tricky to nail down since some people don’t feel any hunger at all.  However, there are still some things to think about when determining if you are feeling physically or emotionally hungry.  Emotional hunger usually comes on very suddenly, involves craving something specific, doesn’t go away with eating, and often leads to a guilty feeling afterward.   Physical hunger comes on more gradually, can be satisfied with many different foods, and leaves you feeling satisfied after eating.

Eat Fewer Processed Foods

The more we eat our comfort foods, the more we want them.  Most of the time, these comfort foods are highly processed and purposefully engineered to make us want more.  The fewer of these foods you eat in general, the less you will crave them. This in turn may help to reduce emotional eating and/or help you choose better foods during those stressful times.   Read more about sugar and ways to reduce cravings here.

Work with a Professional

Last but certainly not least, reach out for help from professionals.  Whether it’s the things that provoke emotional eating or the behaviors around it, you don’t have to do it alone!  

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