Weight loss surgery (WLS) can dramatically change a person’s life, outlook, and relationships.
If you know of someone who is thinking about surgery is it important to be sensitive understand that this decision is not easy. The person you care about has thought about it carefully. This surgery is a choice. However, it may be the only way to their severe weight issues and the other health problems that come with it.
Consider these things when deciding what to say to a friend or family member 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 WLS includes many benefits, including those to physical health. On the other hand psychological challenges can be a reality as well, as the person copes with all of the changes that face them in their new life.
Knowing the best way to support someone after surgery can be difficult. Fortunately, there are many ways to provide support. Here’s how you can help:
- Stay involved: Research together, or go to appointments, follow-ups, and support groups with your friend/family member.
- 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/exercise, try new recipes, or engage themselves in a hobby.
- Have a good time: Always enjoy the happy times, but find ways to celebrate that don’t revolve around food. List other activities to include everyone or ask them how they might like to celebrate without food.
- Make new 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 in advance, share a meal and appetizer with them, ask the waiter to pack leftover food
- Blame: There may be frustrations after surgery, from discomfort during recovery to changes in appearance and eating habits. Family members/friends may argue over different food being served at home. Healthier meals are good for everyone. Blaming your friend/family member 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.
- 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.
What can I do if they starting returning to old problem habits?
It is important to understand these things:
- Surgery is only a tool to help them kick-start healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle
- The person may return to their old habits. This can happen as their body starts to adjust after surgery and they can eat more
- These habits or lifestyles do not just go away. It takes a lot of effort to change them over time
- The person may have a hard time getting used to these changes
Talk to your friend or family member about your concerns. Do this in a sensitive way, without judging or criticizing. Encourage them to go to their follow-up appointments at the bariatric surgery team. You can also talk about your concerns with the health care team. They are your partners in supporting your loved one
Written by Julie Hennessy