I believe in support networks. In my work life, I actively participate in software user groups. I have been involved in several community activist groups. I have learned from this involvement that the power of a group of individuals to help one another grow and affect change is undeniable.
It was only natural that I sought out weight loss surgery support groups when I made my decision to investigate bariatric surgery. I was lucky to have an active local support group affiliated with my surgeon’s office. Beyond this group, I found a wealth of on-line support web sites. Bariatric support closely parallels the make-up of other support groups. There are inquirers, newbies, and pros representing the full spectrum of the weight loss surgery timeline.
Local Support Networks
I hope that you have a good local support group. The interaction I have with my group helps define my own weight loss journey. There is something about hearing a person’s story, their struggles, and their successes that puts my life into perspective. We may believe we have unique problems and lives, but we really are on the same trip. As a longer term post-op, I love seeing the month-to-month transformations that people undergo.
Virtual Support Network
On-line support communities have really come into their own in recent years. With the advent of social networking, they continue to grow. I have been an avid chatter on ObesityHelp.com. From pre-op through one year post-op, I logged in daily on these message boards. The virtual community I formed was very important to me. I shared my ups and downs and grew in confidence and knowledge through these chats.
Many of these chatters are now Facebook friends who I continue to interact with and enjoy being part of their newly transformed lives. Some of these weight loss buddies have become friends that I have vacationed with or visited. I am fortunate to have made some lasting strong friendships from my time on the boards.
Do you have a weight loss support buddy? If not, I encourage you to find one. I have three. Mick, a very successful one year farther out post-op, has been my inspiration. Michael, slightly ahead of me on his journey, gave me a preview of things to come. Mike, about ten years out, made me look at weight loss with a long term point of view. Each of these three has made a positive impact on my life. You may not have three buddies, but this type of support multiplies your rate of success.
Unfortunately, the lack of family support exists in the weight loss surgery community. This can be very damaging to anyone’s weight loss journey. Nothing brings you down faster than constant disapproval by people you love. I urge you to find a supportive family member, coworker or friend that you can openly discuss the good and bad times you are experiencing. I was lucky that my partner Brett had gone through RNY surgery two years prior and has been my primary personal support.
If you do not have that affirming voice, I urge you to cultivate one. Choose a family member who you respect. Make a concerted effort to educate them about bariatric surgery and the positive impact it is having on your life. Invite them to your local support group. It may be a hard sell or easier than you think. Often people misunderstand weight loss surgery. After some education and one-on-one time, they come around and become one of your biggest supporters.
The ball’s in your court
In this post I explored four variations of support. Support is highly personal. Some people thrive on support networks while others do not. You need to cultivate the type and level of support that meets your personal expectations. The only caution I offer you is that if you find yourself failing or heading in the wrong direction, take a step back an open your mind to a stronger support network.
A friend is someone who knows you as you are, understands where you’ve been, accepts who you’ve become, and still, and gently invites you to grow. – Unknown
HI Tom. Great blog. You are such an inspiration. We’ve now added you to our blogger directory at http://www.bandedliving.com/public/Beariatric.cfm
Keep up the great work!