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Weight-Loss Surgery and the New Addiction, Part 2 of 2

TriciaBy Tricia Greaves, President of The Nelson Center

For Part 1, please click here.

In order to break the cycle of addiction, regardless of the “drug of choice,” it is essential that a person address the underlying causes of their addiction. Obviously, a person isn’t born morbidly obese. He or she had to have eaten excessive amounts of food for a prolonged period of time, usually a lifetime. Food addiction is very real and is caused by deep emotional pain that must be healed as well as maladaptive patterns of living that must be changed in order for weight loss to be successful and to avoid “transference” to another addiction….

Addictions are coping tools that people use to deal with life and emotions when they have not learned healthy ways to address stress and fear. When people treat the symptom of food addiction with such remedies as gastric bypass surgery or lap-band surgery, not to mention fad diets and extreme exercise, they may lose some weight, but they are usually still ill-equipped to live without the emotional crutch of excess food. This is why they instinctively turn to other “painkillers” such as alcohol, drugs, or sex. 

After an ultimatum from her husband, Ms. Wilson got sober in 2003 and went on to have 2 children, but she has continued to struggle publicly with both her weight and her ongoing addiction to food. In 2006 she was a contestant on “Celebrity Fit Club” and lost about 22 pounds which she quickly regained. After her second child was born in 2009 and her weight ballooned to over 200 pounds she became a spokesperson for Fresh Diet, a company that delivers fresh food meals to people trying to lose weight. They fired her for conflict of interest, however, after she failed to lose weight and they learned that she had started a home-made cheesecake company. 

“…There are even more complications to the story of food addict Carnie Wilson…Bottom line: surgery alone won’t do it. Surgery and dabbling in a little therapy won’t do it. Even the formidable big gun, the 12-step program, won’t do it…”8  

Losing weight isn’t as simple as shedding pounds (which is why shedding pounds isn’t simple.) Food and excess weight provide emotional support that goes far beyond the simple pleasure of eating. In order to lose weight safely and permanently it is essential that a person build a new support system that can address and heal the emotions that emerge when the food is no longer masking them.

Those who struggle with losing weight usually do so for a lifetime. When they turn to the medical field for answers, it is important that they be informed that the cause of the problem is every bit as emotionally-based as it is physically-based. Letting a patient know that lasting weight loss is an “inside job” and directing them to get the support they need to embark on that inner journey will help them achieve the success they desire while avoiding the pitfalls of “transference.”

As an addictions expert for over 20 years, and more recently as the President of The Nelson Center, Tricia Greaves has been educating clinicians, trusted advisors, families and the public about the root causes and complex issues surrounding addictions. To learn more, visit TheNelsonCenter.com

1 Spencer, Jane. “The New Science of Addiction.” Wall Street Journal. July 18, 2006.

 2 Woodward, Downey, Hernandez-Boussard, and Morton. “Impaired Alcohol Metabolism after Gastric Bypass Surgery: A Case-Crossover Trial.” Journal of the American College of Surgeons. December 22, 2010. http://www.journalacs.org/article/S1072-7515(10)01090-2/abstract. September 14, 2011.

3 Jameson, Marni. “After Gastric Bypass Surgery, Some Patients Battle New Addictions.” Orlando Sun Sentinel. June 30, 2011. http://articles.orlandosentinel.com. September 14, 2011.

4  “Carnie Wilson Comes Clean About Alcoholism.” Starpulse.com. October 26, 2006. http://starpulse.com/news/index.php/2006/10/25/carnie_wilson_comes_clean_about_alcoholism. September 17, 2011.

5 Hartman, Pat. “Famous Food Addict Carnie Wilson.” Childhood Obesity News. April 18, 2011. http://ChildhoodObesitynews.com/2011/04/18/famous-food-addict-carnie-wilson/. September 17, 2011.

6 Bell, Stacy. “Gastric Bypass Alcoholism Addiction Transfer.” New Jersey Rehab Centers. July 20, 2010. http:// NewJerseyRehabCenters.com/alcoholism/gastric-bypass-alcoholism-addiction-transfer/. September 17, 2011.

7 Woodward, Downey, Hernandez-Boussard, and Morton. “Impaired Alcohol Metabolism after Gastric Bypass Surgery: A Case-Crossover Trial.” Journal of the American College of Surgeons. December 22, 2010. http://www.journalacs.org/article/S1072-7515(10)01090-2/abstract. September 14, 2011.

8 Hartman, Pat. “Famous Food Addict Carnie Wilson.” Childhood Obesity News. April 18, 2011. http://ChildhoodObesitynews.com/2011/04/18/famous-food-addict-carnie-wilson/. September 17, 2011.