It’s Not All In Your Mind … But Your Mind Helps
There are myriad reasons for which people become and remain obese, but one contributing factor that we see frequently is depression. Eating can stimulate pleasure-neurotransmitters like beta-endorphin, dopamine, and serotonin, and there isn’t anyone around who doesn’t enjoy a good dose of pleasure! Dopamine affects brain processes that control movement, emotional response, and your ability to experience pleasure and pain, so it’s an important component in the binge eating you may have been using to fight your depression.
Beta-endorphin, dopamine, and serotonin are some of the chemicals responsible for transmitting signals between the brain’s nerve cells. A special segment of these brain cells becomes activated when something good happens unexpectedly, such as the sudden availability of food.
Unfortunately, as with drugs, when associated with overeating or binge eating, these chemicals aren’t your friend. The pleasure overeating brings you doesn’t last nearly as long as its aftermath, which includes more depression, shame, and a need to start the cycle up again just to feel marginally okay.
Having bariatric surgery is not, alone, going to cure your depression. It’s not a magic pill that makes everything sad or difficult simply go away. You won’t suddenly wake up one day after bariatric surgery and feel that the sun will be shining forever more.
When you come to one of our centres to interview for bariatric surgery, you will be asked one fundamental question: how willing are you to follow post-operative directions? That is going to be the crux of your success-and your future mental and physical wellbeing.
When you go home after your surgery, your diet will be well-controlled. You’ve been eating less as you prepared your body for the bariatric surgery, and now your stomach won’t hold what it used to. But the cravings, the automatic reaching for food when you feel blue or sad or anxious-they’re not going to go away immediately. And that’s when you need to be clear about following your post-operative directions that include eating and lifestyle changes, because they’re what will help you ease out of depression in the long run.
The reality is that losing weight is going to make you feel better. Exercising is one of the best ways to release endorphins, which will help you feel happy and positive and will fight depression. Many people find that weight loss alone is enough to lift their depression. But that only works if the weight comes off and stays off, and if you’re able to change your life so that it accommodates healthy habits of exercise and moderate eating.
It’s not a magic pill, but bariatric surgery can be the beginning of a new depression-free life. And you won’t need the flood of binge eating to feel good anymore!