Friends & Family Support (Dos & Don’ts)
Weight loss surgery is becoming more common in the United States. According to the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, 158,000 bariatric surgeries were performed in the U.S. in 2011, while there were an estimated 216,000 such procedures in 2016. Obesity, which affects about 36.5% of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, is associated with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
Surgery for weight loss can dramatically change one’s life, outlook, and relationships. It’s important to understand what this surgery is, its risks, and the changes it can bring about. One type of procedure is the use of a gastric sleeve. Houston patients turn to this more than any other weight loss procedure.
What Is Bariatric Surgery?
The term bariatric/or weight loss surgery refers to various types of procedures. People may choose to undergo surgery to help lose weight. It has been found to be helpful for those with severe obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other health conditions related to obesity. Also, it differs from other surgeries in that there’s more to think about than the procedure and recovery.
The types of bariatric surgery Houston patients of Bariatric Care Centers include:
Sleeve Gastrectomy: A vertical sleeve gastrectomy removes about 80% of the stomach. Four or five small laparoscopic incisions are made. The remaining part of the stomach resembles a sleeve-like tube that has a smaller capacity by volume. After the surgery, a person can eat only a limited amount of food, appetite is decreased, and the person feels fuller much faster when eating. The reduced size of the stomach also limits how much ghrelin, or the hunger hormone, is produced.
Gastric Bypass: Roux-en-Y gastric bypass is a more complex procedure, that involves rerouting the intestinal tract. It also limits food intake but restricts the absorption of calories and nutrients as well. However, it increases hormones that contribute to a full feeling. The procedure splits the stomach into two parts, the smaller of which is connected to the intestines. Compared to gastric sleeve surgery, gastric bypass has relatively more complication rates and nutritional deficiencies.
Revision of Gastric Banding: Gastric banding surgery involves tying a Saline Inflatable Silicone Band around the top portion of the stomach. It can induce satiety soon after starting a meal. For a time, it was a popular alternative to a gastric bypass because the surgery is less invasive, but a high rate of complications and the availability of sleeve gastrectomy have made this a less common procedure.
Bariatric Care Centers also offers revisional surgeries for gastric banding surgeries that have been unsuccessful.
Weight loss surgery, however, is just the first step to a long process. Lifestyle changes must follow in order for the effects to be positive and long-lasting. An individual must commit to eating a healthy diet, controlling how much they eat with each meal, and getting regular exercise.
Bariatric Surgery and Lifestyle & Relationship Changes
One of the most important things to do in this situation is to be sensitive and understanding. Bariatric surgery is a choice. However, the decision is often difficult and requires a great deal of forethought.
Consider these things when deciding what to say to a friend before surgery:
- Ask what they know about the surgery and process.
- Join them in researching preparation, the procedure, options, effects, and risks.
- Listen to why they decided to go this route.
Life after surgery is often quite different. There are positive health benefits. Aside from weight loss, the person may have improved mobility and increased energy. They may have a more upbeat mood and improved self-esteem.
On the other hand, there can be psychological downsides. Eating is often used as a coping mechanism to combat stress and negative emotions, in the patient’s pre-surgery lifestyle. After surgery, some people may find other ways to deal with their emotional issues, exercising, reading, traveling, helping others, new adventures or career, all better than the negative alternatives that some patient may use for coping such as drinking, smoking, gambling, and even compulsive shopping.
So, being supportive is beneficial on a level of helping a loved one deal with stress.
Who Is Affected
- Self: Self-care is essential during recovery. It is crucial to avoid neglect and minimize any shame.
- Significant other: Changes in relationships after weight loss surgery are common. Significant others/or spouses often adjust to the change over time, but bariatric surgery spouse support is often available to help.
- Parents: Mothers may be highly-emotional and reflect the underlying issue upon themselves, while fathers may withdraw to cope with fear and concern.
- Children/siblings: Children are often fearful of losing a parent who undergoes surgery. In the grocery store or the kitchen, the pressures and temptations can be strong.
- Friends at work: There are many attitudes and emotions in the workplace. Co-workers may just be uninformed or may feel jealous or threatened in some way.
- Friends (old/new): Old friendships can change, especially if a common meeting place is a buffet.
- With new friends or strangers, you may not want to immediately bring up bariatric; Houston weight loss surgery discussions.
Steps to Helping
Fortunately, there are many ways to provide support to a weight loss surgery patient.
Here’s How You Can Help
- Stay involved: Read books or research on the internet together, or go to appointments, follow-ups, and support groups.
- Provide emotional support: Listen to their concerns and be available to talk. The surgery and the changes thereafter can be stressful.
- Be encouraging: Encourage the person to engage in healthy activities, try new recipes, or immerse themselves in a hobby.
- Celebrate: Always enjoy the happy times, but find ways to celebrate that don’t center around food and list other activities to involve everyone.
- Make plans: Decide together on where to travel, or to pursue other activities such as home improvements, gardening, or participating in a charity.
- Plan ahead when eating out: Review restaurant menus for nutrition information in advance, allot more time since eating takes longer, or share a meal and appetizer with them.
For more information on gastric sleeve diet, Houston patients and their family and friends can follow a set schedule, plus various guidelines and tips.
- Support them during setbacks: There will be rough times, but being around to support someone can make a difference. Make suggestions on attending a support group or visiting a doctor or dietitian—always address the problem directly.
Things to Avoid
To support the person’s best interests, there are a few things you should avoid. One is lying about weight loss surgery. When discussing the prospects of having it done, be honest with children, spouses, and friends about the risks of the surgery and about your own fears. A child may lose trust if you are not upfront with them. Spouses, family members, and friends will respect you better if you tell the truth; besides, if you hold back or lie, they won’t be able to help and guide you.
- Blame: There may be frustrations after surgery, from discomfort during recovery to changes in appearance and eating habits. Family members may argue over different food being served at home. Healthier meals are good for everyone. Blaming the patient for their choice or punishing others for their decision is not.
- Pressure: The pressure to change eating habits is strong. Do not bring food to the hospital following surgery or pressure the person to finish what is on their plate. Avoid tempting them with food or giving it as a gift.
- Alcohol: Patients are usually advised not to consume alcohol after surgery. You should not offer them a drink. Aside from countering their weight loss efforts (extra calories), they may no longer be able to digest alcohol and have stomach and bowels problems, or the effects may be much stronger.
- Being critical: Most people appreciate it when someone is helpful and encouraging. Constantly monitoring someone’s eating habits and offering criticism is not the way to go. They’re going through a hard time and feel enough pressure.
Each patient is unique in how they react to eating, post-surgery. If it feels rude to eat in front of someone who has had a gastric sleeve or gastric bypass surgery, Houston family and friends should not. However, not all patients grieve over foods they can’t eat. Depending on their problem, the patient may wish not to see others eat or it may not affect them. Be sensitive in asking if you’re not certain.
Be careful what you say as well. Encourage a person without being insensitive, so with bariatric surgery, spouses and others should avoid saying:
- “You took the easy way out”: Weight loss surgery is not the easy way out. It reorganizes and/or removes internal body parts, and recovery can be painful. There are lots opinions, emotions, and fears to deal with; plus, achieving weight loss goals is difficult.
- “So, you can eat anything now and still lose weight?”: Limiting the stomach’s capacity, surgery won’t prevent the patient from gaining weight if they don’t follow proper diet recommendations.
- “You should’ve stuck to dieting and exercising in the first place”: Bariatric surgery is often the last resort or to address serious medical conditions, and tough challenges often follow long after the procedure.
- “You haven’t lost much weight yet”: Avoid any comments about weight-shifting. Adherence to a strict diet is what helps shed pounds, and this isn’t always easy while being a smaller size can take some getting used to.
- “There’s a lot of extra skin there”: Excess skin may be an issue after weight loss (although younger patients’ skin is typically more elastic), and it contributes to body image issues and tough decisions to undergo more surgery.
- “You never got sick before surgery”: People get colds, flu, and stomach aches whether they get weight loss surgery or not. Blaming everything on the operation isn’t going to help.
- “You look so much better”: This can be hurtful, and should be phrased carefully to prevent hurt feelings and perceptions of judgement of their pre-surgical appearance; they have the same insecurities as before, so don’t treat them any differently.
- “My friend had the same surgery”: Everyone has a different experience and journey. Just because your friend or acquaintance had bariatric surgery, it doesn’t make you an expert, nor can you predict the person’s outcome.
After surgery, the patient may be just as unaccustomed to their situation as you are. You don’t want them to think about how to hide weight loss surgery. They should be proud of their decision and be encouraged to strive toward their goals.
Make an Appointment with Bariatric Care Centers
Bariatric Care Centers is experienced with the latest techniques, including the gastric sleeve Houston patients have relied on. We provide pre- and post-operative support, helping patients on their entire weight loss journey. View our website for information on services, testimonials, and reviews. Register for our seminar or request an appointment online, or call for a one-on-one consultation at 713-339-1353.
Disclaimer: This is only for general information. All patients should consult their doctors prior to following any of the recommendations in any articles, post, or video. All patients have individual needs and limitations that only their treating physicians can be aware of.
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