The Mental & Emotional Side of WLS

How To Get A Head Start On The Mental & Emotional Side of WLS

May 2, 2018

Years have gone by, diets have come and gone, maybe disease states have exacerbated and the decision for treatment via weight loss surgery has become more present. Now it’s time to prepare and gain insight into any emotional vulnerability you may have.

Questions to Consider for the Mental & Emotional Side of WLS

  • How do I prepare my head?
  • How do I know that I will comply?
  • How do I trust that I won’t fall into old behaviors (or my current ones?)
  • Will my family support me?
  • Will I feel comfortable eating out at a social situations/parties/events?
  • What will be my vice be when I’m stressed, bored, emotional, or happy?
  • Night time TV watching; how will I get through it without snacking?
  • Do I have to avoid socializing?
  • My culture is surrounded by food, will I be able to do this?
  • What will I do if I feel pressured by others to eat?
  • People say you can feel depressed, how do I prepare so I’m not depressed.

Lifestyle modification, disease treatment, and permanent weight loss requires a lot of change and change is difficult.

Be Prepared for the Mental & Emotional Side of WLS

If you don't get a head start on the emotional side of change, there is an unfortunate chance that you may fall back into your “old behaviors”. Let’s protect you from such susceptibility with some easy to do strategies.

Let’s start with first identifying what you want to change (be specific).

Some of the most important changes you can make aren't about the Why’s…"Why you do what you do?" or "Why your habits have years of investment?"

Rather it’s about the HOW’s and WHAT’s.

  • HOW you think and WHAT you can do differently?
  • WHAT can you do today to feel great?
  • WHAT are my goals?
  • HOW can I reach my daily, weekly, monthly life goals?
  • WHAT is my plan A and B?
  • WHAT are the steps I want to take?
  • HOW am I getting there?
  • WHO is my support?

Proactive Behavior vs Reactive Vulnerability

The subtle thought changes, confidence and goal setting, will encourage a proactive behavior, rather than reactive vulnerability.

People who have maximized their health goals, weight-loss goals, and maintained such lifestyle indefinitely often made the emotional and physical commitments to change.

They think differently than they did before. They found their readiness for change. They began to dominate their thoughts with productive goals and plans.

Let’s circle back to the common questions mentioned above and connect how the simplicity of our thought change, identifying our readiness and our commitment to ourselves can answer each question with confidence.

These few concepts can be applied to all of the questions. Let’s take a look…

1. Develop Goals in the 6 Areas of Life

  • Family
  • Spiritual and Ethical
  • Social and Cultural
  • Physical, Emotional and Health
  • Financial and Career
  • Educational

Setting goals in each area of life will ensure a more balanced life as you begin to examine and change the fundamentals of everyday living. If you focus on only one aspect (weight loss), the balance of you and your life will be impacted.

2. Write Your Goal in the Positive Instead of the Negative

Write down (be as detailed as you can here) and examine your goals in detail to create a set of instructions, a roadmap for your mind to carry out. Your mind is a very well-organized tool and the more we deliberately follow our map (GPS), the more subconsciously we will be able to drive without directions - aka create new habits ;).

Identify what you want, not what you want to leave behind. This is thinking in the positive. The more positive instructions you give yourself the more positive results you will get. Think about what I can do/have and reduce what I can’t do/have.

For example, every time you make a decision during the day, ask yourself this question, “Does it take me closer to, or further from my goal?” If the answer is “closer to,” then you’ve made the right decision. If the answer is “further from,” well, you know what to do.

If you follow this process every day you will be on your way to achieving unlimited success in every area of your life.

3. Believe that YOU CAN DO IT

You are responsible for and in control of what you want and how you will get there.  There is a misconception with the word ‘control’ and lack thereof when it comes to disease management. Now is your time to re-identify what ‘control’ means to you and to recognize that you CAN do what you set out to do. You have the power to ‘control’ your goals, your plan, your health and your lifestyle.

4. Find Your Discipline and Your Confidence

Discipline isn’t always about following a program or not. It’s not about the can’s and cants, it’s about following your vision and your goals in all areas of your life. It’s not about how you feel right now, it’s about how you want your future self to feel (in 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 years and beyond). Take the time to pause, reduce your doubt, reduce your reaction to a trigger and keep the vision of your future you at the forefront of your mind. Take the time to ask yourself, "Am I confident in this decision, this choice, this behavior? If the answer is yes, move on; if you answer no, then pause and modify your behavior and decision.

5. Have Self Compassion

You are human and there will be wonderful times and tough times. When preparing for lifestyle changes, believe in the best you. Explore your behaviors now and use them as opportunities to learn before surgery and/or your lifestyle change. Take each moment, each triumph, each lapse and explore your behaviors around those moments.

6. Identify Your Support

We are all humans and thrive in supportive networks (this can entail professional and personal support). Identify who is in your network. Your disease treatment is your decision and it is imperative to have a support team surrounding you, to be your sideline cheering squad.

Getting a head start on the emotional aspects of lifestyle change and/or surgery is imperative for true change. Sustained weight loss and disease treatment require a new mindset. Your health and wellness success requires you to think and act like your future self, the healthy you. Being healthy and more confident before surgery will complement the transition and protect you from any abrupt feelings of change.

Believe in you, believe in your readiness and believe that this is your time!

The Mental & Emotional Side of WLS



Dr. Willo Wisotsky is a NY State Licensed Psychologist and is affiliated with New York Bariatric Group. Dr. Wisotsky has committed her research and clinical practice to the field of eating disorders and obesity with its related medical and mental health comorbidities. Dr. Wisotsky practices from a Behavioral Medicine approach with an emphasis on improving overall well being, increasing mindfulness, motivation, quality of life and health.
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