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Bariatric surgery is a big life change. It’s vital to make sure you are as physically ready for the procedure as possible—you’ll work with nutritionists, physical therapists, and your surgeon to prepare. But being in the right frame of mind for change is also a necessary component to bariatric surgery. Working with a mental health professional ensures you are ready to tackle a “new you.”
“Working with a mental health professional can help you uncover potential barriers to success before and after bariatric surgery and give you the best shot at living a very full life after surgery,” said Bradee Rojas, M.S., R.D., C.D.C.E.S., Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Program coordinator at Inspira Medical Center Mullica Hill.
Preoperative Mental Health Evaluation
Before bariatric surgery, every patient undergoes a psychological evaluation with a mental health professional to ensure they’re ready for the big life change following surgery.
“It’s easy to underestimate how much bariatric surgery can change your life—for the better,” said Rojas. “Our job is to ensure that every patient is in a good space mentally before undergoing surgery so they can adequately prepare and take on this change.”
During the evaluation, a mental health professional might help you identify your strengths as a person, discuss the effects of surgery from a holistic perspective, talk to you about your support system and assess any mental health issues you might have, such as depression or anxiety.
“Our job is also to talk to you about emotional eating or past experiences that may have gotten you to where you are today,” said Keith Kreitz, M.D., F.A.C.S., medical director of Bariatric Surgery at Inspira Medical Center Mullica Hill. “It’s hugely important to address those issues prior to surgery and help you start to make changes.”
They may also help you to understand recommendations from your care team, including your new exercise regimen and dietary guidelines. And, if needed, they may refer you to a counselor for ongoing therapy.
Postoperative Mental Health Evaluation
It’s vital that you are confident about making lifestyle changes after bariatric surgery, but it’s difficult to predict exactly how you will feel when your surgery is done, and you are on the road to recovery.
“After surgery, you may face some new challenges as you adjust to the changes happening to your body,” said Kreitz. “That’s why we also provide mental health support following bariatric procedures.”
A mental health professional can help you sort through negative thoughts that may arise as you lose weight, and they can also help you think through the vast number of changes you must make in your new life.
“We help patients reframe things like family gatherings and holidays, which are so often centered around food,” said Kreitz. “It’s our job to help you overcome barriers and develop new ways of thinking about life after bariatric surgery.”