The Importance of Weight Loss Surgery Support Groups for All StagesJune 9, 2021
Weight loss surgery (WLS) is a safe and effective treatment for obesity and can greatly reduce not only weight but also the numerous health conditions associated with obesity. Whether you are considering WLS or have already had it, finding a good weight loss surgery support group can help you achieve optimal results and keep you on the right path as you navigate life after surgery.
Why Weight Loss Surgery Support Groups are Important
WLS is not just a physical journey. Patients may find themselves overwhelmed as they learn about the surgery itself, necessary lifestyle changes, diet and exercise requirements, and the accompanying emotional changes. A good support group provides you with a safe environment in which to work through these challenges.
Most bariatric surgery programs have their own support groups, led by professionals who will provide you with a structured group, educational topics, guest speakers, and open forum time for members to talk and provide ongoing motivation for each other freely.
There is also an abundance of online groups from which to choose, but be cautious. If you do not feel safe or if the group content does not line up with what your bariatric surgery program advises you to do, then that group is not right for you, and you should find another one.
As a registered nurse and support-group facilitator, I cannot stress enough the importance of regular attendance in all stages of your weight loss surgery journey.
Your insurance company will likely require you to join a support group before it will authorize surgery. Still, it’s important not to look at a support group as merely a box to check off in order to have surgery. Attendance prior to surgery will provide you with education and the opportunity to learn from others who have walked the same path you’re about to take.
First Time Weight Loss Surgery Support Group
The first time you attend a support group, you may feel overwhelmed and a bit lost as you listen to information that is new to you and hear other people discuss things you can’t relate to yet. But don’t worry about that! Just sit back and listen, and look at it as the first of many building blocks you will need in your journey. It’s common to have some level of concern about surgery, and the people you meet in a group can explain the process to you and help alleviate your fears.
If you attend a group as often as possible in the months leading up to surgery, you will be much better prepared for the journey that begins after surgery.
In the first six months after surgery, your body and emotions will go through rapid changes. Your support group will be the place to share your journey and receive validation and motivation from those who have walked this path before you.
As you progress in your weight loss journey, your group is where you can share your successes and ask for help when you face the inevitable small defeats. As you become more skilled at navigating diet and lifestyle changes, you’ll find you can help others as they embark upon the same journey.
How You Can Help To Make Your Support Group Great
Remember, a support group is meant to help you, and there are numerous things you can do to contribute to the ongoing success of the group.
- Be open and honest with your group leaders. Do not hesitate to talk with them about what you want to learn or issues you might be struggling with. Encourage having guest speakers who are experts in topics you want to learn about.
- If your group doesn’t already have one, ask for a private Facebook Support Group. I suggest not using any words related to “weight loss” or “bariatric.” Avoiding those terms cuts down on unwanted outsiders and solicitors trying to get in the group. In my program, I find the Facebook group to be of enormous value, as it allows for ease of communication between members and group leaders.
- Be proactive! Your WLS support group is a key component of your success, and you and your fellow members have so much to offer each other. In the group, you may have experts on meal prepping, great bariatric cooks, emotional coaches and exercise gurus, so ask them to share their knowledge at group meetings.
- Think outside the box – always be on the lookout for fun topics and don’t be afraid to approach people to come and speak to your group. I find that almost everyone is happy to do so, but if they are hesitant, invite them to sit in on a meeting to get a feel for the group. Have fun!
Lastly, here are some topics to keep your group interesting:
- Stress eating
- Food addiction
- Reading labels
- Protein supplements
- Barriers to success
- How to quiet negative thoughts
- Alternative coping mechanisms
- Weight loss and personal relationships
- Yoga instructors
- Bariatric trivia night with prizes
- Farmers’ market representatives for healthy eating and shopping
- Local animal shelter employees for partnering dogs with someone to walk them
- Certified Diabetic Educators
- Bariatric pot-luck dinner (July and December) with recipe swap
- Relaxation therapists, guided meditation
- Yoga and dance instructors
- Local park service reps to educate on what trails and local outdoor areas are in your area
- Meal prep gurus
Whether you are considering weight loss surgery or are sure that you are ready to commit to this life-changing process, participating in a support group will help ensure your ongoing success. The education, peer support, and safe environment will be beneficial to you in all phases of your journey.
I would encourage you to make support group attendance as important to you as your food choices and exercise routines. Find a group near you or online and stick with it, you won’t regret it.
|Danna Flowers has served as the Bariatric Surgery Coordinator at Johnson City Medical Center since 2014. She has been a Registered Nurse since 1989 and spent most of her career in the operating room where she excelled as both a circulating nurse and RN First Assistant. Danna is the Editor in Chief for Stat Pearls Study Guide for CBN Exam, is a member of America Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons and The Obesity Society.|