How to Prevent Emotional Eating After Bariatric Surgery

Eating for comfort is a habit we learn at an early age. Parents comfort children with sweets after a minor injury, friends bring ice cream after a rough breakup, and families prepare sumptuous meals when they can all come together. Food can bring comfort without becoming an issue, but emotional eating goes beyond the need to fuel your body.

Long-term weight loss success hinges on committing to your bariatric diet. Emotional eating or eating for comfort will rapidly derail your weight loss efforts. However, many bariatric patients struggle to disassociate food from emotional comfort. The following tips can help you take control of your diet:

  1. Eliminate temptations wherever it’s possible. You can’t reasonably dictate what food is available outside your home, but you can control what you stock in your pantry and refrigerator. If unhealthy snacks or foods are around, you’re much more likely to give in to cravings or emotional impulses. If you know you have a hard time controlling your eating around sweets, salty chips, and so on, don’t buy them or keep them in your home.
  2. Develop healthier coping mechanisms. Knowing you shouldn’t eat your emotions isn’t enough of an impetus to stop the habit when a crisis occurs. Comfort eating often leads to a vicious cycle of emotional eating, feeling guilty, then eating to soothe the guilt. Try to establish better methods of handling your emotions before surgery, such as leaning on your support group, keeping a journal, or going for a walk.
  3. Eat foods that you like. Diet has become a dirty four-letter word for many people because they approach it from a place of restriction. Your new diet shouldn’t be about depriving yourself or resigning yourself to a lifetime of bland salads. By finding healthy foods you enjoy, the unhealthy ones won’t be as tempting.
  4. Get your family on board. If your spouse or children bring unhealthy foods into the house, you’re going to have a hard time sticking to your diet. Talk with your immediate family and ask them not to bring junk food into the house. Explain that you’re making these changes to be healthier, and that you appreciate their support.
  5. Prepare for family functions. You may feel guilty when you don’t eat what your family prepared for holidays or get-togethers. However, this is an unhealthy emotional connection between love for your family and their cooking. Explain to your relatives that your new diet is to improve your health and is not a reflection of how you feel about them.
  6. Have a plan for events and parties. We conflate many holidays and events with an abundance of food. Having a plan when you know there are going to be temptations or if you’re not sure what will be available at a party can help keep you on track. Eat something before you go so you don’t arrive hungry. Look for the healthiest options available, such as baked, steamed, or grilled foods. When filling your plate, use a smaller appetizer plate if it’s available for better portion control. Aim to fill half your plate with a lean protein, a quarter or more with veggies, and a quarter or less of fibrous starches.


Adhering to your new diet can be hard in the face of tempting food. The struggle is even harder when emotions run high. Remembering why you started your weight loss journey and implementing tactics like the above can help keep you motivated. The health benefits you gain from losing weight are always worth more than a short-lived burst of comfort from food. Contact us to learn more about bariatric surgery and the ways it can improve your health and wellbeing.


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