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For the rest of your life by Rebekah Bailey

"For the rest of your life" is a phrase I have heard time and time again since I underwent continuing professional development training in bariatric surgery provided by NEDDE. I am a counsellor and psychotherapist who has taken further extensive training to specialize in eating disorders, food, weight, and body image struggles. Since gaining the NCFED Master Practitioner in Eating Disorders & Obesity qualification, this type of therapy in my practice has slowly and steadily increased. Today, I only work with clients seeking help with their relationship with food, eating, body image, and weight management struggles. This includes chronic dieters, yo-yo dieters, and people wanting to break free from the dieting rollercoaster. Until 2022, I had been unable to find suitable training covering bariatric or weight loss surgery (WLS). The Master Practitioner training covered a whole range of eating disorders, teaching that eating disorders and body image are not related to shape or size and are far more than anorexia or bulimia. The training started with Kim Rutherford Dalton, a psychotherapist who has herself undergone weight loss surgery (WLS). Kim calls herself the "sleeved therapist," a reference to the specific name of the WLS performed on Kim in 2020. Kim gave a passionate, informative presentation using her own story as a case study, highlighting the stigma, shame, sense of failure, and desperation present before deciding to elect for WLS. Before this training, I had heard that WLS requires a period of pre-assessment to determine suitability. I assumed this involved identifying eating disorders and disordered eating. As the training went on, it became clear to me that the pre-assessment does miss eating disorders and does not appear to offer much assistance or psychological support whether the person has an eating disorder or not. Following on from the latter it appears that rarely are patients screened for neurodivergence which clearly does not support recovery and long term health maintenance. What became clear is that bariatric surgery is not an easy way out. The procedures are technically easy; it is the living afterwards that requires preparation, support, and planning. Psychological support, specifically eating, relationship with food & body image support, is very limited. As someone who has been taught that body image, self-esteem, are all inversely linked to successful weight management as is the internalization of weight stigma, I was incredibly shocked. However, this blog is not about the lack of support. It is about the value of training enabling me to understand the WLS process from surgery candidate through to living what Kim refers to as the "bariatric lifestyle." The training also involved presentations from two nutritionists, Mel Wakemann and Lisa Smith. Mel Wakemann describes herself as a non-diet counselor specializing in eating disorders and intuitive eating. Mel helps people make peace with food. She works with people who have a history of dieting, compulsive exercise, weight, and body image concerns. Her own history provides her drive and passion, using her experience of an eating disorder to inform her work. Mel focuses on health rather than body size using a HAES approach. In conclusion, the training I underwent in bariatric surgery has taught me the importance of knowing all possible cases of patients and being able to deal with their unique challenges. It has also opened my eyes to a hidden group of people who struggle with food, and has provided me with physical, biological, and physiological facts to better understand the bariatric surgery process. It is estimated that around 340,000 people worldwide undergo bariatric surgery each year, and with this training, I am better equipped to provide high-quality care to those seeking help with their relationship with food, eating, body image, and weight management struggles. I highly recommend this training to other professionals working in the field of bariatrics, food, weight management, and personal training, as it can greatly improve the quality of care provided to patients.

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