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Cross addiction is a term used for people who replace one addiction for another. If you have ever had any addictions to food or sugary drinks, you are at risk of developing gambling, alcohol abuse, smoking, drug use, excessive shopping, disordered eating, or sex addiction.  In 2018, it was reported that approximately 252, 000 surgeries are performed a year and 5-30 % of patients report new addictions. Isolation, lack of support, “rewarding” oneself in the past, and self-sabotaging behavior as well as mental health issues such as anxiety and depression can lead to addictions.

Alcoholism, for example, can be a replacement for the comfort of food. Alcohol is full of empty calories, but can leave you feeling full, yet you become malnourished by skipping meals, depleting vital B vitamins, and can become quite dehydrated.  In an 80,000-participant study published at the Washington University School of Medicine, people with a family history of alcoholism were at risk for obesity as they may replace alcoholism with overeating. Once you have weight loss surgery, an addiction may find its way to replacing overeating or food addiction.

However, the increase in sedentary lives in work and home, overabundance of high calorie, low nutrient foods and less outside activity result in increasing obesity numbers so we are all susceptible to these addictions.

After bariatric surgery, we recommend abstaining from alcohol consumption at least 6months to 12 months after surgery, depending on your pre-surgery consumption and surgeon/dietitian advice based on patient history.

Here is a list of things to ask yourself regarding any type of addiction:

I have compulsive behaviors regarding…
I am obsessive about…
I am doing this in secret…
I am feeling out of control…
I only want this ONE thing and nothing else will do…
I do this to numb negative emotions or pain…
I am having an excess of…

Coping skills:

Enjoy what you are doing in moderation
Call a friend or log onto support groups
Get outside and do something physical like walk, garden, go to the park
Journal or read a good book


Any time during your weight loss journey, please advise a staff member if you struggle with any of these:

  1. Overeat to deal with emotions
  2. If you use food to give you comfort
  3. If changing your eating habits create strong negative emotions
  4. If you feel food is your best friend

Here are resources and more information:

Megan Adams LCSW, CEAP, CDFW-Candidate – EAP Manager/Provider at Wise Health System
My Bariatric Solutions support group Facebook page

Websites/podcasts with more resources:

My Bariatric Solutions