A strong support network is key in living a healthy happy life after weight loss surgery. I think this is true for most people. It’s a rarity to want to go down a new path in life alone with no one at your side. What is different in each of us is how we define support and how we embrace it. As you move farther past your surgery date, the nature of support changes as does your body and life.
I have a large support network of family, friends, cyclists, and on-line and in-person bariatric pals. They make nice rounded network that keeps me focused on success. What my vision of a good support network may not be your vision of the ideal support network. Bariatric patients come in a wide spectrum of personality types and life experiences. Each of us has a unique combination of traits and needs that factor into what we want for a support network.
Earlier this summer, I and a small group of long-term bariatric post-ops organized a support group for long term bariatric patients. The focus of our bariatric center’s monthly support group meetings is to give support to and address issues of those exploring, preparing for and just out of surgery. The meetings do meet those needs and are a great success. However, long-term post-ops drift away after a year or so. It became obvious that long term bariatric patients need a different form of support.
This summer has been a time of discovery. Our long-term group surveyed our bariatric center’s long-term post-ops. The results confirmed that there are a diverse set of support needs. A few common threads did appear.
- People wanted support to help them eat a healthy bariatric diet and keep them on-track.
- Many expressed disappointment in weight gain they experienced over the post-op years.
- Almost universally, people wanted to meet frequently.
After some initial meetings, our long-term group settled on two support options that appear to meet the needs of the majority of our members. The two flavors include a monthly social dinner night out and a more or less monthly traditional support type of meeting. The dinner group is more of an informal social networking type of animal. The traditional support group is a more structured group.
Dinner and an Open Mic is the name of the social dinner group. This group meets monthly for a weeknight dinner at a casual eatery with 10-12 people. They find that chatting while sharing a meal to be very therapeutic. Some people like to air a problem and get the group’s feedback. Others share stories of success. Some just want to listen. They are able to laugh and learn from their failures and missteps. Members appear to be people who are outgoing and open to letting others see more of who they really are.
The traditional long-term support group is an extension of the bariatric center’s support group meeting with long-term post-op topics. The meetings are held at a library or church in either a group discussion or classroom setting. Popular topics include eating right for success, navigating the grocery as a bariatric patient, and adding exercise to your daily routine. Members appear to be more introverted and look for support in the form of an expert’s opinion or consensus from the group.
What do we really want for support? The above two options seem to meet most needs. Some people float between the groups. Some attend the bariatric center’s meetings where the presence and support of long-term post-ops is welcomed by newbies and explorers. It’s impossible to develop a support network customized for every person’s needs. What can be accomplished is offering different support options and allowing the individual to build their personal network by incorporating them into the mix.
I am pretty happy with the approach that has morphed out of my local bariatric support group. The recognition that there are different support needs for different people is critical for the success of the support network. This support network will evolve over time to meet the group’s changing needs with new programs. The successful support network welcomes people in and allows the group to grow and change to offer the best support possible. I hope that you have found such a network and are motivated to build your personal bariatric support network.