When thinking about the effects of bariatric surgery, or weight loss surgery, many people focus on the physical benefits, such as improved health conditions, increased energy and reduced risk of diseases such as heart disease and cancer. But having bariatric surgery can also have a significant impact on your mental health. Whether you are considering bariatric surgery in the new year or have already had the procedure, paying attention to your mental health is an important part of the process.
How Weight Can Affect Mental Health
Many people who are obese experience mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. One study found that 17% of patients seeking bariatric surgery had binge eating disorder, which is characterized by eating a large amount of food in a short period and feeling like you have no control over what you’re eating.
Although obesity is a medical condition, being overweight can lead to poor body image and low self-esteem, often as a result of weight bias internalization. Weight bias refers to stereotypes and negative beliefs people hold about others based on their weight. When someone begins to believe these external messages, or internalize them, it can lead to worsening depression and negative thoughts, as well as behavioral changes such as binge eating and lack of exercise.
The Effects of Weight Loss Surgery on Mental Health
Weight loss surgery can have positive effects on mental health and overall well-being. Studies show that many people experience fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as improved self-esteem and self-confidence, in the months and years after surgery. Personal relationships can also improve as a result. Many people report an overall better quality of life.
However, not everyone experiences the same mental health boost after having bariatric surgery. Some people describe feeling a loss of self-identity, and some experience symptoms of anxiety and depression that can affect weight loss as well as quality of life.
How to Prioritize Your Mental Well-Being
If you are thinking about having weight loss surgery or have already had the procedure, remember that your mental health is an important consideration. It’s essential to care for your mental well-being along with your physical health.
Prior to surgery, your doctor may have you talk with a therapist to pinpoint any challenges you might be experiencing, as well as help you prepare for the psychological impact surgery can have.
If you feel depressed or anxious or experience other mental health challenges after having surgery, talk to your doctor. Continuing to see a therapist can help you work through these feelings and stay motivated in your weight loss journey.
You can also aim to prioritize your mental health every day in other ways, such as:
Eating healthfully: Following a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water can give you an energy boost and help you focus. If you have had weight loss surgery, be sure to follow your doctor’s guidance on how to eat after surgery.
Exercising regularly: Walking and other forms of exercise can boost your mood. Aim for 30 minutes per day, but remember that even small amounts can make a big difference.
Getting plenty of sleep: Lack of sleep can worsen depression symptoms. Stick to a regular sleep schedule and make sure you’re getting enough quality sleep each night.
Being grateful: Practicing gratitude can boost your mood and help you focus on what’s most important. Keep a journal where you can write down all the things in your life you are grateful for every day.
Reaching out to others: Connect with family and friends regularly and ask them for help when you need it.