Bariatric surgery does not treat food addiction. This statement might be a revelation to some, but it’s also the title of a book by Dr. Connie Stapleton, Ph.D. According to Dr. Stapleton, “Food addiction is often undiagnosed and can sabotage even the best efforts to lose weight and keep it off. Food addiction is a disease separate from the disease of obesity. If food addiction is present and untreated, it will overtake efforts to treat the obesity, resulting in ongoing medical comorbidities, hopelessness, and frustration.1
Like food addiction, other eating disorders can be common among bariatric patients. A study that assessed rates of eating disorders among those with a BMI > 40 found that although women are as much as 3 times more likely than men to suffer from any eating disorder, men and women were equally likely to experience binge eating.2
What exactly is binge eating disorder? Beyond eating large quantities of food in a short period of time, clinical binge eating is accompanied by a sense of losing control and occurs at least once a week for at least 3 months.3 In conservative estimations, 10% of bariatric patients meet the criteria for binge eating disorder—compared to 1.2% in the whole population.3 This is one of the reasons pre-operative psychology evaluation is so important for bariatric patients.
Here are 5 factors to consider for those who have had bariatric surgery, are thinking about it, or are losing weight non-surgically:4
While bariatric surgery can treat obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, orthopedic concerns, and more, these physical conditions often take the spotlight, while eating disorders and mental health are ignored. Take care in addressing eating disorders after bariatric surgery. As Dr. Stapleton put it in her book, “weight loss surgery does not treat food addiction.”
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