How does disordered eating develop after bariatric surgery?


People who have undergone bariatric surgery are required to change their diet and eating habits as a result of the physiological and anatomical changes that follow surgery.

Strict dietary guidelines are required immediately after weight loss surgery. Managing distress, appetite and hunger are all important aspects of food management. Without adequate nutritional and psychological support both pre-op and post-op, some people may find it hard to transition to a new way of eating, developing disordered eating patterns as a way of coping with their symptoms.

For some people, surgery may have an impact on their psychological health, specifically around changes to their self-identity following rapid weight loss, and their body image perception.

Most people who decide to explore bariatric surgery as a pathway for weight loss, have established disordered eating patterns – negative thoughts and behaviours around their food and eating.

At Surgical WeightMatters we believe that psychological and nutritional support pre-op and post-op are crucial in helping you prepare you for the physical, psychological and emotional requirements of weight loss surgery.

Below we have outlined some of the main physiological and psychological reasons why you might develop an eating condition after surgery, and the treatment interventions the Surgical WeightMatters team recommend to prevent this.

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Bariatric surgery is used as a tool to decrease the stomach’s size, and in some cases change the absorption of nutrients, so a smaller amount of food is required to make you feel full. As a result of these anatomical changes, patients must eat with restraint and control, following strict guidelines, with staged changes in eating in progressive weeks following surgery.

Some people find it hard to eat large amounts of food, or to digest certain foods. This means they need to limit and closely monitor their food intake, count calories, and avoid specific foods. These behaviours may lead to the development of disordered eating conditions as a result of the constant preoccupation with food, weight and perhaps the feeling of being deprived of joyful food due to the dietary restrictions.

People may end up binge eating or snacking throughout the day experiencing uncomfortable feelings of indigestion, and using vomiting as a means to relieve distress and pain.

Some people may subsequently use vomiting, chewing and spitting of food, or laxatives as a way of controlling their food intake to induce further weight loss. This can lead to the development of a more serious eating disorder, such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa.


Following bariatric surgery, most people adjust naturally to their rapid weight loss, new eating habits and new body image, yet others might experience difficulties in adjusting to changes in lifestyle, eating and self-identity.

Weight loss surgery may put you under huge amounts of stress, and for some this may result in heightened anxiety around food, behaviours like chewing and spitting out food, and the development, or escalation of established patterns, of emotional eating as a way of managing their feelings and stress.

The majority of people seeking weight loss surgery experience habits around emotional eating, and other disordered eating patterns, which have contributed to their struggle with weight. Without adequate nutritional and psychological support both pre and post-op, some people may develop more serious eating and mental health conditions.

In some cases bariatric surgery can lead to saggy skin due to extreme weight loss. People, who struggled with their body image and appearance pre-surgery, might continue to experience body dissatisfaction. This may result in further distress, with feelings of anxiety and depression, which in turn reinforce old self-sabotaging behaviours and low self-esteem.

The psychological and nutritional management of these conditions is important, as disordered eating, poor body image, and low self-esteem have all been linked to poor surgery outcomes, such as reduced weight loss or even weight regain.

Surgical WeightMatters has developed the Integrate Package of combined psychological and nutritional support. We will help you plan for your weight loss surgery, explore any issues or difficulties you have before undergoing surgery, and help you address any challenges that arise post-surgery so you feel resourceful, in control and happy with the many positive changes weight loss surgery will give you.


Surgical WeightMatters has developed the Integrate bariatric adjustment package, that combines our specialist nutritional and psychological services to support optimal weight loss surgery outcomes.

  • 12 sessions of psychotherapy
  • 12 sessions of nutrition and lifestyle coaching
  • Support adjustment to a changing mind and body, while navigating new food and eating experiences
  • Focus on compliance, motivation and adjustment
  • Collaborative team management between your surgeon, therapist and nutritionist
  • Sessions used over a 6-month time frame