The Dangers of Transfer Addiction after WLS - A Guide for Patients

Article By: Whittany Gibson, RDN

Whittany is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in bariatric nutrition counseling, providing education and support prior to and following weight loss surgery.

Weight loss surgery can be a life-saving procedure for those struggling with obesity, but it can also come with a few risks. One of the most serious risks is transfer addiction, which occurs when patients use unhealthy methods to supplement their weight loss after surgery. Let’s take a closer look at what it is, why transfer addiction occurs, and how to avoid it.

1) What is transfer addiction? Transfer addiction occurs when a WLS patient begins to substitute food with other activities or substances to fulfill emotional needs once met by eating. This can take many forms — overeating or undereating to maintain their weight loss goals; substituting food with nicotine, drugs, alcohol, exercise, shopping, or gambling; or using laxatives or diuretics as a form of compensatory behavior.

2) Why does this happen? The reasons for transfer addiction vary from person to person but are often rooted in unresolved emotional issues previously addressed through compulsive eating habits. For example, someone who has experienced trauma may have developed an emotional reliance on food as a form of comfort. This pattern may carry over into the post-surgery period despite the physical inability to eat large quantities of food. Therefore, patients need to address any underlying emotional issues before surgery to develop healthier coping mechanisms after the procedure.

3) How can I avoid transfer addiction? Protect yourself against transfer addiction after bariatric surgery by not only changing your physical behaviors but also changing your mental ones. Developing healthy coping mechanisms such as mindfulness meditation or therapy can help you manage difficult emotions without relying on external sources like food or drugs. Additionally, attending support groups and surrounding yourself with positive people who understand your struggles can provide much-needed encouragement during recovery and beyond. Lastly, don’t forget that bariatric surgery isn’t just about losing weight — it’s about learning how to live a healthier physical and mental lifestyle.

Transfer addiction is an important issue for anyone considering weight loss surgery since it can undermine some of the health benefits associated with the procedure if left unchecked. Thankfully, you can protect yourself against developing this dangerous habit by addressing underlying psychological issues before surgery and learning how to cope with difficult emotions without relying on outside sources like food or drugs afterward. With proper care and preparation, you can make sure that your bariatric journey ends up being successful both physically and emotionally!

BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

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