Emotional Eating, Nutrition, Post-Surgery

Emotional Eating & Common Food Challenges After Bariatric Surgery

People tend to bury their feelings in food. Food is often used as a comfort source for many emotions. It’s like our best friend. Bariatric surgery provides a tool to control your portion sizes and combined with our program, can teach you to choose your foods wisely.

Bariatric surgery does not change your life in terms of job, family and other psychosocial aspects. If some areas of your life are causing you to eat you might want to take a step back and evaluate the situation. You must try very hard not to use food as an outlet. Set consistent meal times and follow that routine.

Understand the difference between physical and emotional hunger. Physical hunger is the physiological need to eat and it builds up slowly. You can eat a small portion of food and be satisfied. Emotional hunger on the other hand is triggered by a psychological aspect and it hits you suddenly. You develop craving for a particular item and you can eat large portions of that item. Here are some pointers to help you along the way to tackle emotional eating.


You need to remove food as an easy temptation and reward. If you find yourself using your kitchen as your home base then you need to find a different outlet. This is especially important if you find yourself with feelings of food related anxiety. Break your pre-surgery routine. Instead of reaching for a snack, take a short walk outside. Perform a series of stretches. Putting some distance between you and your temptations will help your self-control and your ability to replace unhealthy reward with life-affirming activities.


• Plan your meals and snacks. If you have planned meals and snacks, you will be able to detect emotional eating easily if you are looking for food outside of your normal routine.
• Identify your emotion associated with eating. Are you eating because you are stressed, bored, guilty, angry, sad or happy? Once you identify the emotion, it is much easier to cope with it.
• Surround yourself with healthy food choices. If you have a pint of ice-cream in your freezer, you might decide to help yourself in the middle of the night. If you know you can’t control yourself then it is better not to have the food in your freezer.
• Attend support groups to develop strategies and to have an outlet. Talk to you doctor, registered dietitian or psychologist to find different coping mechanisms.
• Keep a food journal.


If you suddenly crave for something when you have already eaten or if you begin to get feelings of food anxiety, you might want to consider the following questions:

• Why do I want to eat this?
• Am I upset about something?
• Am I angry about something?
• Is there something that I need to do that I am putting off?
• Will something else satisfy my craving?
• Do I really need to eat this?
• Am I lonely?
• Am I bored?

Once you have answered these questions and examined your feelings, you might decide not to eat the high caloric food you are craving. At first, taking this type of mental quiz might seem unnatural and uncomfortable. Nevertheless, it is the kind of mental exercise which helps you identify your feelings. Acknowledging your feelings and accepting responsibility for your actions is a very important part of your recovery and long term success.


Most people eat out. You can continue to enjoy eating out by making few changes to the way you approach restaurants.

• Plan ahead. Keep copies of menus or go on line for nutritional information from your favorite restaurant.
• Decide what you want before you go, select things that you know are safe
• Try new foods at home first
• Do not be afraid to ask for certain foods or make special requests
• Avoid fried foods
• Share a meal or box half of your meal before starting. Eat from a bread plate or salad plate.
• Order your drink to go or get a glass of ice.
• Avoid eating at buffets and fast food restaurants

Patients who undergo bariatric surgery must embrace healthy eating for the rest of their lives. Part of long-term weight-loss success requires an honest acceptance of the problematic nature of high-calorie processed foods. We encourage empowerment and knowledge with shopping and food-preparation so that dietary and health goals can be properly maintained.


Vitamin supplements are required after bariatric surgery. While there are some changes that occur in the digestive system, healthy food choices can help alleviate some vitamin deficiencies and aid in digestion. We work with our patients and try to identify natural foods that can be healthy and provide optimal nutrition.

About Janet Klein

Janet Klein, MS, RDN, CDN, CDE. is Orange Regional's Bariatric Surgery Program Director. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Dietetics from the State University College at Oneonta and her Master of Science in Education from Queen’s College University. She is a Certified Diabetes Educator, a Registered Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist, American Heart Association Certified Cardiovascular Counselor and a member of the Integrated Health group of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS). She brings more than 35 years of clinical, educational and leadership experience to Orange Regional, where she spearheaded the Bariatric Surgery program in 2008, received Accreditation for the program through the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) in 2011, re-accredited the program through the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Bariatric Surgery Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP) in 2014, and continues to lead the program with passion 10 years later. Janet can be reached at 845-333-2123 or jklein@ghvhs.org.


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