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Enhancing the success of bariatric surgery

The decision to have weight-loss surgery is highly personal and it is not an easy option or a decision that people make lightly. It is essential to have a comprehensive understanding of the various types of weight-loss surgery and to have a surgeon and/or specialist nurse explain in detail the risks of any procedure as well as possible long-term side effects. A dietician can also provide useful insight into the practical impact side to life after surgery.

Prior to making the final decision it is also very useful to have a consultation with a psychologist with a knowledge of bariatric surgery and weight management. The consultation should include a detailed assessment of your history and current situation to understand the factors that have contributed to your particular difficulties with food and weight. It also offers a forum for you to reflect on the information you have received from bariatric clinics to support you while you make your own decision about proceeding with surgery. Weight-loss surgery can be an effective tool but it can be far less effective and even increase risk of complications if it relied on to force change in your behaviours around food. A psychologist can help you start to learn how to work with your body to enhance the outcomes of surgery before you have the procedure and certainly assist you in the months and even years afterwards to achieve lasting behavioural change.

Some people are surprised to find that achieving their weight-loss goals brings additional difficulties after surgery. There is some research that has found that there is a risk of developing addictions in other areas such as gambling and alcohol use if there is not support to address underlying psychological issues. It can be very confronting to achieve significant weight loss and some people need help to adjust their body-image and adapt to life in a smaller body. For some people mental health struggles can become more apparent when they lose weight and find that they benefit from psychological therapy to address these issues.

Psychological work to support weight-loss surgery is highly individual but can include the following:

A reflective space to explore the decision to have surgery and to plan ways to enhance your ability to achieve your goals.

A comprehensive assessment of your particular difficulties with food and introduction to research-based strategies to promote change.

Motivational enhancement strategies and a comprehensive relapse-prevention plan to help you commit to behavioural change and achieve your goals in the long-term.

Support to cope with the impact of losing a significant amount of weight.


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