During those times when daily hassles make you feel super stressed out, do you automatically think, “I need a drink?”
Do you also sometimes, or maybe you’re not a drinker and do this instead, open your fridge and think, “I’ve had a long, rough day. I deserve a treat.”
If so, you’re not alone.
These may seem like innocuous behaviors. Our society has often celebrated the act of reaching for a glass of wine or sweet confection to relax and wind down. Moms have wine glasses plastered across social media, and it’s become accepted that some moms drink, as it helps them feel more at ease with their hectic lifestyles.
And let’s not get started on the term “comfort food.” Conduct a Google search for comfort food and you’ll find restaurants serving chicken and waffles, French fries, French toast, and Hamburgers.
If you need alcohol or food in order to relax, feel comfortable, and be more in tune with your emotions, that could pose a problem in the future.
If you are also a bariatric surgery patient, you really have to watch the number of drinks and comfort foods you consume.
Being successful with bariatrics depends on you having alternate means of coping that don’t involve drinking or eating.
If right now you feel like you have to live like a monk or nun to enjoy long-term weight loss as a bariatric surgery patient, that’s not the case at all.
Stick with us and you’ll soon learn that you can improve your quality of life and your coping skills by learning a few lifestyle tips that don’t involve the consumption of external vices.
Mental Health Issues Are Common in Bariatric Patients
It can’t be reiterated: If you tend to cope with a drink or food, you are in good company. Mental health issues are common in bariatric patients.
Having a mental health issue does not imply that you’re crazy or that something is wrong with you. Suffering from anxiety, for example, is a mental health problem, and people often turn to alcohol or food to curb it.
Not having adequate coping skills and turning to external sources can lead to and exacerbate mental health problems. This in turn can lead to all sorts of other issues, like extreme weight gain, which can make you feel even more anxious than before.
The key to bariatric surgery success is to ensure you have adequate means of coping to treat issues like anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Having these issues can cause you to become dependent on substances like alcohol, and even drugs, like marijuana.
Overeating on account of anxiety or depression is common as well. When you combine alcohol and overeating, you get poor health and a high BMI. Alcohol makes it easier to gain weight and harder to lose weight. Alcohol also contains empty calories, compounding the weight gain caused by the consumption of too many calories when you overeat.
The good news is that when you sit down with your bariatric surgeon during your initial consultation, all these things will be discussed. Seeing a mental health specialist can be and often is a part of all bariatric surgeon treatment plans. Your doctor is banking as much on your success as you are. The whole surgical center office staff, your friends and family, we all want you to succeed. Getting mental health can help you form new coping mechanisms, leading to long-term weight loss, and a finer quality of life.
Usually, at this point, the people considering bariatric surgery will ask if they can ever drink or treat themselves with food after undergoing a weight loss procedure.
Let’s explore those answers now.
Can You Drink Alcohol as a Bariatric Surgery Patient?
When you find yourself wondering if you can safely incorporate alcohol into a healthy lifestyle following surgery, the answer is yes, with some stipulations.
You No Longer Have the Same Metabolism
Studies in bariatric patients after a procedure like the gastric sleeve have shown that alcohol affects them much faster than before.
Blood alcohol peaks higher and quicker in bariatric surgery patients. The blood alcohol levels then take longer to return to normal, and it all has to do with your altered metabolism.
It’s difficult to lose weight as a person who has reached obesity or morbid obesity. Weight loss surgery flips a switch and makes it easier to take the excess pounds off. You must help along by living a healthy lifestyle, but your metabolism is forever altered. Your fat-burning furnace is raging, which is the good news. The bad news is that one or two drinks may put you on your behind if you are not careful.
The issue becomes compounded by the effects bariatric surgery has on your stomach. With surgeries like the gastric sleeve and gastric bypass, your stomach is made smaller, which forces you to consume smaller quantities of food.
With an altered metabolism and with less food to soak up the alcohol in your bloodstream, all it takes is one drink to take you above the point of legal intoxication. Not only do you have to worry about a loss of coordination, but you may get a DUI if you get behind the wheel after trying to drink like you could before your metabolism was changed.
You May Have Low Blood Sugar
Part of a healthy lifestyle that you are required to follow as a bariatric patient seeking long-term weight loss is to eat a high-protein, low carbohydrate diet. When you combine quick weight loss with low carb intake, you have a recipe for reduced sugar in your body. Blood sugar is also known as glycogen. Reduced levels of glycogen can cause dizziness, brain fog, and other symptoms.
Alcohol consumption depletes glycogen further, leading to the potential development of hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia can be dangerous, causing you to lose consciousness, and suffer brain and nerve damage. Extremely low blood sugar levels can also cause death if left untreated. The primary symptoms to look for are loss of coordination, slurred speech, confusion, and poor vision.
If you find yourself experiencing symptoms of hypoglycemia, drink diluted fruit juice or pop back a glucose tablet right away. This should raise your blood sugar levels to healthier levels. A snack with complex carbohydrates and protein can help sustain your blood sugar levels for a longer period.
If you experience bouts of hypoglycemia even without taking a drink of anything, it would be a good idea to seek proper medical treatment.
Alcohol Works Against Your Weight Loss Goals
Here is some information that may help you stay away from alcohol, or at least cut-down drinking to the bare minimum. Alcohol hinders fat loss and compounds weight gain. While a drink or two may make you feel more social and relaxed, the aftereffects may not be worth it.
Drinking alcohol too often as a bariatric patient may slow your weight loss down. All the time and money invested into changing your body and life would be better spent by removing all obstacles in your way instead of adding more. Now that it’s easier to lose weight, why not go for the gold? Drinking as a bariatric patient is like running toward the finish line of a race on crutches. Put the crutches down, limit or remove drinking from the equation, and you’ll get to the finish line in record time.
Be Wary of Addiction Transfer
Addiction transfer is where you trade one addiction for another. It’s as if that anxious energy needs to be expressed and if it can’t be tamed by food, then you may as well pick up a drink, or a joint, or whatever your poison happens to be.
Right now, we are discussing alcohol. If living a healthy lifestyle and limiting your previous food consumption causes you to drink more, speak to your bariatric surgeon and a mental health specialist.
How to Drink Responsibility as a Bariatric Patient
You should wait at least six months following your weight loss procedure before you pick up a drink again. If you do decide to drink, do it occasionally now that your metabolism is altered. Look for signs of low blood sugar and be aware of the calorie content of alcohol.
Why You Shouldn’t Rely on Alcohol to De-Stress
Alcohol can be addictive. Studies also show that drinking alcohol regularly can lead to greater levels of anxiety, stress, and depression. Imagine if using Band-Aids caused your cuts to deepen and bleed more. That’s what drinking alcohol to de-stress does; it makes it much more difficult to relax when you’re not drinking. Alcohol worsens the problem you are aiming to treat.
What about Food Addiction to De-Stress?
Learn to See the Benefits of Eating Healthily
We’ve spent more time on alcohol consumption than food for a good reason. Tackling your addiction to food and conquering the urge to overeat is one of the prime objectives of bariatric surgery. By taking part in bariatric surgery, you are forced to eat less, which should help with any tendencies to overeat.
Another benefit of bariatric surgery is that you are provided with a solid foundation from which to build a healthy lifestyle. In the weeks leading up to your procedure, you’ll be placed on a medically supervised diet that helps you drop enough excess pounds for the surgery to be the healthiest on your body.
Losing weight before surgery like the gastric sleeve reduces the amount of fat on and around your liver and abdomen. This primes your body for laparoscopic surgery, which is safer, minimally invasive, and allows for smaller scars and less downtime.
Eating healthily will eventually make you feel better. Eating a meal composed of whole foods like lean meats, complex carbohydrates, and healthy greens will make you feel satiated longer and more energized when compared to how you feel after eating a fat-laden and salty fast-food value meal. You’ll hopefully come to crave that feeling, which should spur you on to continue eating healthily by default.
Studies also show that cravings may change following any bariatric procedure. Not only do you eat less, but you feel less hungry overall, and your penchant for sweets and heavy carbs may become diminished or mitigated entirely.
You’ll still be human, and you may still want chocolate cake or cookies now and again. This isn’t about depriving yourself. Everyone deserves an occasional treat. The problem is when those treats become habits. Bariatric surgery can help you break your bad habits, leading to improved health and self-control in the future.
Ways to De-Stress That Don’t Involve Eating & Drinking
Now for the nitty-gritty, the lifestyle tips you came for.
The next time you want to reach for a drink or tasty reward, try the steps below instead. These may seem like oversimplified solutions to a bigger problem but give them a try anyhow. These rudimentary habits have profound effects on the human body.
Get Some Sun on Your Face
Spending too much time indoors can often make us feel isolated, stressed, and depressed. Feeling the sun on our face makes your spirit sprout, and brings about a sense of euphoria, much like how a wilting plant reacts to the sun’s rays after spending too much time in the shade.
For at least ten minutes each day, get out and feel the sun on your forehead, cheeks, and chin. If you live in an area that doesn’t see much sunlight, look into investing in a lightbox that can put out the necessary lumens to light up your day, and ease your mind.
Venture Out into Nature
Studies show that putting your feet in the grass, touching trees, and merely looking at trees can have relaxation effects. It’s as if becoming more attuned with nature puts us back on course and makes us feel calmer.
Find Real Connection with Others
Human beings are social creatures. Unfortunately, we have become separated physically more than ever, even as we become more connected digitally on platforms like social media.
If you hope to feel better about yourself and your situation, do your best to find more physical connections with others. Meet in person instead of on Zoom, COVID-19 restrictions permitting. But even a Zoom call is better than a phone call. Seeing others’ faces, reading their body language, and taking in their energy is all part of being a person in society. Reconnect with those closest to you and you’ll soon see that the relaxation the activity brings is far superior to anything alcohol or food can offer.
Physical Activity to De-Stress
Invest in a treadmill or head out to the local walking trail and go at your own pace. The point is to get your body moving. By engaging in a combination of aerobic exercise and muscle-building exercises, you can both clear your head and flood your brain with the feel-good chemical dopamine.
You don’t have to go heavy at first. Five, ten minutes a day is all it takes, as long as you continue to build as your endurance grows. Soon, you’ll hopefully come to learn and understand the therapeutic nature of moving the body, which is also one of the keys to bariatric surgery success.
Play with Your Pet to De-Stress
If you are too far from family and live a nomadic lifestyle without a close inner circle, try forming a physical connection with your pet. Studies show that the mere act of petting our furry friends reduces blood pressure and calms the nerves. If you don’t have a pet, consider adopting one. That way, you can both help one another find comfort in a world full of anxiety-inducing stressors.
Breathing Exercises to De-Stress
Suggesting someone breathe instead of drink or overeat when they feel stressed and want to will likely make them click their teeth and shake their head. However, deep breathing does work to de-stress. The studies prove it! Look up the Wim Hof method and other deep breathing exercises. Breathing deep for slow counts of ten, then exhaling just as slowly, could be enough to let your anxiety pass.
Try What Works for You
Listen to music, get creative and start writing or painting, and – whatever you do – get enough sleep. Try everything you can to get into an improved sense of wellbeing if you tend to reach for alcohol or food to do the same.
And if all else fails…
If none of the above work and you still find yourself wanting to reach for a glass or bottle, or you want to consume an entire bag of cookies or chips, there’s no shame in getting help.
You should also mention any urges you have to drink or eat to de-stress during your initial consultation with your bariatric surgeon if you are merely considering surgery at this point.
Having bariatric surgery may be enough to curb your drinking and eating, and you may see that eating healthily and moving your body are the best ways to live, especially when you see fast weight loss results.
Ready to learn more?
Are You a Candidate for Bariatric Surgery?
Bariatric or weight loss surgery is not for everyone. You might be a candidate for popular and effective surgeries like the gastric sleeve and Roux-en-Y gastric bypass if you:
- Have a BMI over 40 or 35 with one or more obesity comorbidities (heart disease, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, etc.)
- Are healthy enough to undergo a major operation.
- Do not abuse tobacco or substances, including alcohol
- Remain committed to a major lifestyle change
Find out if you are a suitable candidate for bariatric surgery by calling us in Southern California. Dr. Babak Moeinolmolki offers weight loss surgery and post-bariatric body contouring, allowing you to achieve your health and body shape goals without having to change doctors. Reach out today to schedule a consultation.