Support Group Program: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

December 18, 2012

Support groups are especially important for those of us that have had weight loss surgery. ObesityHelp recognizes the importance that support plays in a weight loss surgery journey. One of the ways is through the ObesityHelp Support Group Leader Program.

OH support groups provide emotional support and the exchange of information and personal experiences regarding life before and after WLS. In support groups, members are able to share their experiences and openly dis- cuss problems without judgment. They receive understanding from their OH support group leader and other support group members. One of the many benefits of being an OH support group leader, and belonging to an OH support group, is that you gain the feeling that you are not alone.

There are many different types of support group meetings. The format and types of meetings vary for each support group leader and can be tailored to what the members want in their meetings. Some types of support groups are educational meetings, open sharing discussion meetings, and social meetings. Many of our support group leaders include aspects of all of these types in their meetings.

Educational Meetings: Many of our support group leaders will provide educational meetings by having a speaker join the meeting. The speaker could be a bariatric surgeon, plastic surgeon, primary care doctor, psychologist, registered dietician, exercise physiologist, or other professional who would discuss aspects of the bariatric journey or health related topics. Usually included at the end of the professional’s presentation are a time for questions and answers between members and the professional. Another advantage to support group members is the opportunity to get to know the professionals that personally interest them. Additionally, OH support group leaders have access to monthly handouts written exclusively for them as members of the OH Support Group Leader Program. Leaders are able to teach the topics from these handouts and conduct activities that relate to the topic.

Open Sharing Discussion Meetings: The open sharing portion of meetings is a very im- portant part of a support group. Through sharing personal experiences, members are able to build a connection with each other and with their OH support group leader. Open sharing is also a time for members to celebrate their successes, share, and obtain support for the problems and difficulties they experience. The open sharing portion of the meeting provides a format for members to discuss topics without judgment or harsh criticism that they might encounter with others that are not bariatric patients. In all my 11 years as a post-op, I have yet to leave a support group meeting where I am not inspired or motivated from the sharing by another member. The warm feeling of knowing that I’m not alone is a regular take-away I receive from participating in a support group.

Social Group Meeting: Social settings can be difficult for some weight loss surgery pre-ops and post-ops. Social activities done within the security of a support group can be instrumental in feeling more comfortable in other social settings. Some of our leaders hold their meetings at social-related venues. Social group meetings can include participating as a group in a local walk/run, going shopping for clothes or groceries, meeting at a restaurant and enjoying a meal together, meeting at the gym and working out together, or whatever other social events your group would like to do. Meetings can also include an annual party, summer bar-b-ques or holiday get-togethers.

Online Meetings: The majority of our OH support group leaders have online support groups on ObesityHelp called “OH Groups” that can be found at www.obesityhelp. com/group. If you do not have a physical support group close to you, or you prefer to be part of an online group, join one of our support group leaders’ OH Groups. You can obtain the same education, information, inspiration, and motivation from our leaders on-line from the comfort of your home or office. OH Groups are support groups that have no geographical limits or boundaries.

The ObesityHelp Support Group Leader Program is always interested in members that would like to become OH support group leaders. The main qualifications that you need to join our program is that you want to be an OH support group leader and will commit to posting to provide support on our message boards. You can have your own physical support group in your area, an on-line OH Group, or both! If you want to provide support to others, we want you! We will provide training, support to you as our leader and member, and all sorts of other benefits that are part of our program. If you’d like to join our fabulous team of OH support group leaders, please send us an e-mail to [email protected].

cathy wilson


Cathy Wilson, PCC, BCC, had RNY surgery in 2001 and lost 147 pounds. Cathy is a regular contributor to the OH Blog and authored the "Mind Matters" column in ObesityHelp Magazine. Cathy is a licensed pilot and loves flying. She is a member of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) and the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC).

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