Former Morbidly Obese Patients Still Seek Treatment After Weight Loss Surgery

By John Lavitt 12/19/14

Even years after receiving gastric bypass surgery, some are still seeking help for eating disorders.

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Years after gastric bypass surgery, morbidly obese individuals who have returned to normative weight levels are seeking treatment for eating disorders in alarming numbers. Uncovered in an investigation by the New Haven Register, the realization of this surprise trend has led to questions about why such eating disorders would arise after a successful surgery and the resulting weight loss.

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, about 25% of Connecticut adults are obese, up from 18.9% a decade ago. A combination of genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors impacts obesity and morbid obesity. Studies have revealed that morbidly obese individuals are 100 pounds over their ideal weight, and have a 50% to 100% increased risk of premature death.

As the medical director of the Eating Disorders Program at Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living, Dr. Sara Niego describes how the patients, “are terrified of gaining the weight back.” Now treating patients with anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder years after weight loss surgery, Niego explains why the eating disorders are appearing years after treatment.

“The unhealthy behavior goes away for a while because of the substantial weight loss during the first two years – that’s the honeymoon phase," she said. "Then the weight loss plateaus and some people begin to regain. That’s when the eating disorder or disordered eating resurfaces.”

For the patients with new eating disorders, the disordered eating patterns surface years after surgery. A lack of conclusive research on eating disorders in post-surgery patients clouds the debate. Examining the existing research, Dr. Niego found an “association between pre-surgical binge eating and post-surgical binge eating.”

One study cited by Dr. Niego said that 37% of people who binge ate before surgery continued feeling out of control when eating. These feelings of negativity continued to plague the patients even 15 years after maintaining a healthy weight. Another study found that 24% of patients who reported binge eating before surgery continued after the procedure.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.