Understanding Emotions After Bariatric Surgery: What to Expect

If you’re fresh out of bariatric surgery, it’s not uncommon to feel like your emotions are scrambled all over the place. The first few months post-surgery can feel like an emotional rollercoaster, a common experience for many patients. In this blog post, we will set expectations about the emotions you can expect after bariatric surgery and provide detailed insights into managing them effectively.

Why You May Feel Emotional After Bariatric Surgery

The initial months after bariatric surgery can trigger emotional instability due to several factors:

  1. Calorie Deficit: Before surgery, you likely followed a liver shrink diet to reduce the size of your liver, making the surgery safer. After surgery, your diet gradually advanced through various stages over six weeks or more until you could comfortably eat regular foods again. This results in almost two months of consuming fewer than 1000 calories per day. Being in a prolonged calorie deficit can lead to feelings of fatigue, irritability, and mood swings.
  2. Hormonal Changes: Bariatric surgery significantly reduces the size of your stomach and, in some cases, reroutes your intestines. These changes affect how your hormones regulate and communicate with your brain and gut. Rapid weight loss also causes fat cells to release estrogen, increasing its levels in your bloodstream. This hormonal fluctuation can lead to menstrual irregularities, increased fertility, and mood changes.
  3. Physical and Emotional Stress: Undergoing major surgery is a significant physical and emotional stressor. Your body needs time to heal and adapt to the changes, which can affect your emotional well-being. The combination of physical recovery and adjusting to a new lifestyle can be overwhelming.

Common Emotions After Bariatric Surgery

Your previously happy and bubbly personality might be replaced with a range of emotions:

  1. Depression and Sadness: It’s common to experience feelings of sadness or depression after surgery. The physical and hormonal changes, combined with the adjustment to a new diet and lifestyle, can contribute to these feelings. It’s essential to recognize that these emotions are typically temporary and will improve with time. However, ***If you begin having thoughts of wanting to hurt yourself and/or have had thoughts of committing suicide, you MUST seek psychiatric help immediately. This is NOT normal and should NOT be ignored.
  2. Regret: During the first few months after surgery, feelings of regret are also common. You might question your decision to undergo surgery, especially when faced with dietary restrictions and physical discomfort. This is a normal part of the adjustment process.
  3. Anxiety and Stress: The drastic changes in your eating habits and lifestyle can lead to anxiety and stress. You may worry about your ability to maintain the new diet, avoid complications, and achieve your weight loss goals.
  4. Grieving Food: Bariatric surgery forces a change in how you view food. What used to be an emotional crutch may now leave you feeling miserable after consuming even small amounts of sweets or high-calorie foods. This adjustment can feel like a breakup with food, leading to feelings of loss and frustration.

Managing Negative Emotions

While these emotions are common, there are ways to manage them effectively:

  1. Seek Support: Having a support system is crucial. Surround yourself with family, friends, and support groups who understand your journey. Consider joining a bariatric support group where you can share experiences and gain encouragement from others who have undergone similar procedures.
  2. Therapy and Counseling: Professional help from a therapist or counselor can provide valuable support. A bariatric psychologist can help you navigate the emotional challenges and develop coping strategies to manage your feelings effectively.
  3. Healthy Coping Mechanisms: Find healthy ways to cope with stress and emotions. Engage in activities you enjoy, such as reading, walking, or hobbies that bring you joy. Mindfulness practices, such as meditation and yoga, can also help reduce anxiety and improve emotional well-being.
  4. Stay Active: Physical activity can boost your mood and overall well-being. Start with gentle exercises, such as walking or swimming, and gradually increase the intensity as your body recovers. Exercise releases endorphins, which can help alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety.

When to Expect Emotional Stabilization

By the second or third month post-surgery, most patients begin to feel more emotionally stable. This improvement is often due to:

  1. Nutritional Stabilization: Consuming at least 60 grams of protein daily, drinking 64 ounces of water, and taking your bariatric vitamins every day help stabilize your physical health, which in turn supports emotional well-being.
  2. Routine Adjustment: As you adjust to your new dietary routine and lifestyle changes, you’ll become more comfortable with your post-surgery life. This adjustment period allows your body and mind to settle into a new normal.
  3. Supportive Care: Having support from a bariatric psychologist can significantly help in feeling emotionally balanced sooner. Professional guidance ensures that you have the necessary tools and strategies to manage your emotions effectively.

Long-Term Emotional Outlook

Most patients, around six months post-surgery, are thrilled with their results and have adjusted to their new lifestyle. They have navigated through the toughest part and are using their new tool effectively to live a healthier life. The initial emotional challenges often give way to a sense of accomplishment and improved self-esteem as you see the positive changes in your health and appearance.

In Summary

If you are preparing for or recently had bariatric surgery and are unsure of what emotions to expect, know that it’s common to feel emotionally unsteady in the first few months. This is usually due to an extended calorie deficit and the time needed for your body to stabilize your hormones. However, there is hope! Most patients emerge from this journey grateful for their new life and the opportunities it brings.

Need Support Building Up Your Protein Intake After Surgery?

If you’re in the early phases of recovery and struggling with your diet, we encourage you to download our FREE protein resource. This guide focuses on whole food protein sources and provides:

  • Identification of high-protein foods from nutrient-dense sources
  • Exact protein amounts per serving from various food groups
  • Easy “grab-and-go” high-protein snack ideas
  • A printable shopping list to make grocery shopping seamless

Download the protein resource today and take the first step towards a balanced and healthy post-bariatric surgery life.

emotions after bariatric surgery

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