Overcoming Bariatric Challenges: Addiction Swapping

December 2, 2019

Food is used in many ways. Most people don’t realize how big an impact food has on our daily lives. It is a comfort when we are sad, holidays are celebrated with large meals, we have family gatherings, such as Sunday dinner. Eating is part of reward systems, we eat when we are bored, we have pot lucks at work, etc. Most people wouldn’t consider themselves addicted to food. But if you look at the effect food has on your life, you might discover more of a connection than you think.

Food addiction is real. And it is one of the hardest addictions to break. When we quit smoking, we avoid cigarettes. When we quit drinking, we avoid alcohol and even go to AA meetings. But we need food for sustenance. We cannot survive without it. So what happens when we take away the comfort portion you have relied on for so many years and ask you to only use it in moderation to survive? Or tell you there are certain foods you have to avoid after surgery? We open ourselves to the possibility of “Addiction Swapping.True addiction swapping happens in only about 5-10% of patients, but failure to recognize it can be devastating.

Addiction covers more than just drugs, alcohol and gambling. It could also present itself as eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, starvation, grazing, or even OSFED (Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder), known as night eating. The most important thing to remember is that if you feel you are losing sight of yourself and if you think you are swapping one addiction for another, talk to someone. Let us help you before the problem becomes an addiction. Early intervention is key. We have a great team here to help you through this journey, whether it’s our physician, our dietitian, or our wellness program coordinator. We are always here to help guide and support you. Bariatric surgery is a great tool to lose weight and change your life, but you need all the tools in the tool box!

Submitted by Jacquelyn Bartie, Scheduling & Financial Clearance Coordinator for Jefferson Health General and Bariatric Surgery