Frequently, I submit abstracts to speak at bariatric conferences. Educating people, whether said “people” are bariatric professionals or patients, about the psychological aspects of weight loss, about food addiction, and about maintaining a healthy weight is important to me.
It’s always more fun to work with patient groups because patients are eager to learn insights and new ways to address weight issues. It is essential, however, that more bariatric medical professionals listen to what patients and many in the allied health sectors know:
Weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight after weight loss involves a lot of psychology. And for many patients, food is a substance that can be as addictive as heroine, cocaine and other illicit drugs.
At most of the large bariatric conferences, the medical doctors’ meetings are held separately from the allied health professionals’ meetings. For this reason, physicians rarely hear the messages that I, and others on the same crusade, have to share.
I understand and respect that physicians are educated about physiology. Surgeons are trained, and are interested in, the biological aspects of weight loss. Physicians vary in terms of how interested they are in the “whole person” model of weight loss, to include the emotional and psychological variables that render “behavior modification” minimally useful for some patients. Particularly if food addiction is a factor.
Just as it is essential that all members of a patient’s care are aware of, and remained informed of the physiological realities of weight loss, physicians owe their patients the respect to take heed of the emotional aspects that can interfere with weight loss and maintaining that weight loss.
“Do no harm” is the ethical creed, I believe.
I maintain that not learning about, and not referring patients for whatever emotional support they need, is absolutely doing the patient harm. Not learning about food addiction is doing the patient harm.
I had an opportunity this past week to present a talk at an international bariatric conference for professionals in Italy. I was thrilled when I realized that all participants, regardless of background, were in one room! Finally! I had the opportunity to speak to the physicians. The bariatric surgeons, no less! The ones I want to educate the most!
I suspected they would be a tough crowd. It has been my experience over the past 15 years that bariatric surgeons are … less than interested in messages about emotions and food addiction.
Tough crowd does not begin to describe this group. No matter to me! I took the microphone, walked away from the podium, and gave ‘em all I had. On that particular day, all I had in terms of my voice wasn’t much. I had gotten run down and a little sick, so my voice had temporarily abandoned me, being replaced by a dry, throaty cough. But I croaked as loudly as I could into that microphone and called upon the passion that is within me.
My intention in speaking my truth was so we, all bariatric professionals, can better serve those who are struggling to lose weight and keep it off, those who are working hard to overcome the battle that is raging inside them in the form of food addiction.
The less reaction I received from the audience, the more determined I became to have them hear me. “Are you with me?” I demanded. “I beseech you to hear what your patients know… .” I looked those I could see squarely in the eyes to command their attention. It didn’t matter that they did not smile or nod their head in acknowledgment of my words. I had a mission and now I had a platform. For fifteen whole minutes.
I believe I used my time wisely and stated what I needed to. I trust I spoke on behalf of my fellow professionals with whom I am privileged to work; those who are trudging up the mountain of partial peer resistance alongside me. And most importantly, I hope that I shared the truth that is a daily reality for those patients we serve: Food IS an addiction, for many.
Following the session, one physician attempted to engage me in a philosophical discussion, leaving me uncertain if he agreed or disagreed with what I shared. Fortunately, an enthusiastic young psychologist in the audience approached and I gracefully pardoned myself away from the philosopher to engage with her. She was beyond grateful for the message I had shared and was eager to make further contact with me.
The really GREAT news came from YOU, those who are working to spread the news that FOOD can be addictive. More people need to know this reality so that we can help treat the addiction! By addressing both the food addiction and utilizing bariatric surgery or any weight loss method, more people will be free to live FULLY in recovery from obesity and from food addiction. As you and I know, trying to treat just the obesity isn’t going to work if a person is addicted to food.
Nearly 3 thousand of you have viewed the talk I presented. I am beyond grateful to my bestie, Diane, who was at the conference with me. She recorded the entire talk on Facebook Live! Thanks to her, and thanks to you, we are reaching many. Please, share the video on your own pages. Others will benefit from the knowledge and we will reach individuals in need of this information for their personal success. We can reach bariatric surgeons, other bariatric professionals and many recovery addicts who may not realize that FOOD has replaced alcohol or marijuana or cocaine. The awareness that food addiction may be hindering one’s ability to follow through with the “behavior modification” tools to help them eat better and exercise regularly may be the key to seeking treatment for the addiction.
If you are a food addict, being in recovery from food addiction WILL make losing weight and keeping it off much easier. NO weight loss method, including bariatric surgery, will result in permanent weight loss if you are food addict and are not treating the addiction with as much determination as you are the obesity. Both addiction and obesity are diseases. They both need treatment. People may not know they have a food addiction. Use this video to help educate others.
Awareness is the first step to change!
Keep helping us spread the word. Thank you!