Weight Loss Surgery Support Groups – Vital Component to Success
By Amy Teeple
Published on February 26, 2008
bariatric surgery and want to be prepared? You can do hours of research on
weight loss surgery. You can watch videos of a Roux-en-Y
gastric bypass procedure or LAP-BAND® surgery. You can read every piece of literature
available on what to expect from bariatric surgery. You can discuss various
aspects of the obesity surgery and its results with your bariatric surgeon.
But chances are you will still be surprised by your experience with weight loss
Encountering unforeseen post-surgical issues can make a weight loss surgery patient feel alone, almost like an outcast or even a failure. Because of this, many bariatric surgeons encourage, or even require, their patients to participate in obesity surgery support groups.
Importance of Bariatric Surgery Support Groups
surgeons have seen a correlation between active and consistent participation in
obesity surgery support groups and long-term success after weight loss surgery.
Dr. Philip Chin, a bariatric surgeon at Lite & Smart DIMENSIONSTM in
Fountain Valley, California, states, "What really has been shown in a lot
of studies is attendance in support groups really do contribute to the success
of these types of operations."
In explaining why weight loss surgery support groups are as effective as they are, Dr. Chin notes that bariatric surgery patients "certainly provide information that as a surgeon and not having gone through the operation, I really wouldn't be able to provide. So they have really been an invaluable tool for the bariatric patient."
Pre-op and Post-op Support Groups
Many bariatric surgery patients attend weight loss surgery support groups after their surgery, as they are beginning to deal with the changes the surgery brings to their lives. However, patients are encouraged to attend obesity surgery support groups prior to surgery.
What to Expect from Pre-op Weight Loss Surgery Support Groups
Dr. Diane LaMont, a
psychologist who leads a weight loss surgery support group, explains,
"When patients are looking forward to weight loss, they're focused on how
much better their lives are going to be when they don't have the burden of the
extra weight. But, as patients discover, it's a lot more complicated than
Many bariatric surgery patients do not realize the extent of the changes they will undergo, not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Dr. LaMont states, "Before [bariatric] surgery the biggest thing for [patients] to learn is that surgery is not magic, that what they're embarking upon is going to require a great deal from them. It's not like they have the surgery and sit back and wait for it to work." Having a better understanding of the entire process and all of the potential pros and cons associated with the surgery can make a difference in a patient's success.
Dealing with Post-op Surgery Issues in Support Groups
undergo weight loss surgery, they are faced with changes in eating habits, lifestyle
changes, physical ailments, possible changes in personal relationships, and
many other emotional, psychological, and physical issues. For assistance in
dealing with these changes, weight loss surgery patients can turn to support
Dr. LaMont explains that these groups allow patients to escape a feeling of isolation that might surface after the surgery. "After surgery it's a combination of learning that what they are experiencing is normal, that they're not the odd person out. All of the things they are going through are normal; other people have experienced them and it is possible to get through them in a way that they end up healthy and happy both physically and emotionally."
The support groups also offer a place to develop skills to help these patients deal not only with issues directly related to bariatric surgery, but also underlying issues that led to the original weight gain. According to Dr. LaMont, some psychological topics covered in bariatric surgery support groups are life skills, like self esteem and assertiveness, and habits of successful patients. She describes the necessary topics as "things that patients need to know how to deal with without reverting to food to help them manage."
The Patient's Perspective
Wendy Rawley lost
150 pounds after her bariatric surgery. She says that participating in a
support group has helped her lose the weight and keep it off. Rawley states,
"I do feel it was very important to [my] success because no one
understands what you're going through unless you're talking to someone else who
also has weighed three or four hundred pounds and is losing." She
continues, "Food is an addiction. But someone who's always been 120
pounds, they just don't get it, and these people get it."
Harley Gregory, another successful weight loss surgery patient, finds that the support groups help him through the weight loss process, by allowing him not only to listen to others, but also to be able to share his own experiences. "Having that kind of support has been instrumental," says Gregory. "It has been very important to me because not only has it helped me in finding answers to my questions but I've been able to be there for other people. That in itself, being there for other people, also helps to reinforce what you're going through, to make sure you're making those positive changes so that you can show people that, hey, it works."
Online Weight Loss Support versus In-person Bariatric Surgery Support Groups
Support for weight
loss surgery patients is no longer limited to face-to-face meetings. Many
online forums are available for patients to ask questions and discuss their
experiences. Dr. Philip Chin believes that such online groups can be very
beneficial to patients who find it inconvenient to travel to participate in
support groups. To him, the greatest benefit of an Internet support groups is
that it helps patients "know that [they] have the support of other
individuals on the net and be able to have questions answered that way."
Harley Gregory supplements his bariatric surgery support group meetings with Internet support groups so that he can better connect with other men who have undergone the surgery. "Because so many of the people who have the surgery are women, it's nice to be able to go and talk to men about things that they've been through specifically related to that because the physiology is different. Obviously the anatomy is different." Gregory continues, "It's just different between men and women, and it's nice to be able to ask another guy some of those questions without having to be embarrassed."
The Skinny on Obesity Surgery Support Groups
Regardless of whether you do so in person or online, it is highly recommended that you participate in a bariatric surgery support group both before and after your surgery. Harley Gregory sums his experiences with support groups by stating, "You're able to hear the issues that may come up - the positives and reinforcement, all that kind of stuff - it's there online; it's there in the meetings that you go to."