Written By: Emma Squillace
Maybe you haven’t had weight loss surgery, but a close friend or family member has. Or perhaps you’re preparing for a bariatric procedure, and are wondering how to ask your closest community to support you. Friends and family can be the strongest support system sometimes, but also a barrier to weight loss at other times. Today we’ll explore some ways to be a strong support system for someone who has had bariatric surgery or a gastric balloon.
Be ready for change
If your spouse is undergoing a weight loss procedure, things are going to change around the house. While their changes do not have to become your changes to, get ready to be understanding and realistic about different lifestyle choices. If it’s a friend of yours who is having a procedure, think about activities you do together – are they food related? Plan ways to swap happy hour for a walk in the park, or a morning bagel for some tea. The quality time does not need to change, just because the habits do.
Listen to their struggles
If your friend or relative comes to you to discuss their frustrations with their weight loss journey, consider yourself someone they appreciate and trust. You do not need to be able to solve their problems – just focus on being an empathetic listener, and encourage their choices. Everybody reacts differently to the major life changes that go along with losing weight, so instead of offering them tips or correcting their choices, be the support system they need.
Avoid making your friend or relative feel guilty about their food choices. And jump in if you see someone else taking this attitude. It’s easy to think “I’d never make someone feel guilty about food” but it happens so often. For example, many patients tell us they’ve eaten birthday cake at work, even if they didn’t want to. They were embarrassed by the attention of the birthday organizer giving them a hard time for turning down cake. Others say that gatherings with extended family are their trickiest eating situations. If your mother gives your spouse a guilt-trip for skipping out on a big helping of her famous lasagna, jump in and change the topic to diffuse the tension gently.
Participate in some of their changes
There is no reason you have to adopt every aspect of your friend or relative’s weight loss program. But if there are a few aspects that appeal to you – let them know you’re on board. Whether that means you’ll go on a daily walk, take a beginner’s yoga class every week, or commit to eating more protein and veggies – going along for the ride is a great way to show support as well as reap some health benefits yourself.
Avoid alcohol when possible
Soon after surgery, most doctors tell their bariatric patients to avoid drinking alcohol. So if you are going to have a meal with a friend who has had bariatric surgery, avoid focusing on alcohol. If they are not drinking, think about skipping the wine or martini also, and having unsweetened ice tea or seltzer.
Find rewards other than food
It’s also supportive to avoid talking about food as though it’s a reward. For example, instead of telling your kids “If you get these chores done, we can all go get ice cream” try something not related to food like “If you get these chores done, we can all go to the park”.
Follow their lead
Some patients do not want to talk much about their procedure or weight loss journey, and it’s important to respect their privacy. On the other hand, some people prefer to talk about their actual procedure, changes they feel in their bodies, and how their new journey is progressing. These friends may appreciate your curiosity and willingness to be a good listener.
Overall, remember that although the positive changes from losing weight are very exciting, there are always hurdles to get past. If your friend or family member has had a gastric balloon or bariatric surgery, you can be a strong source of support for them. And if you are considering a weight loss procedure, we are happy to answer your questions. Give us a call any time at 855-690-0565.