Five tips to help your family member succeed with their bariatric surgery weight loss goals

Whether it’s an extravagant wedding reception, a Fourth of July barbecue or a simple birthday party, whenever family gets together, it’s likely that food is going to be at the center of the celebration. But that doesn’t have to sidetrack your weight loss surgery success.

While your ultimate weight loss surgery success lies with you, your family and friends play a large role in that success because they are usually the one who are by your side when you interact with food. From the simplest everyday family dinner to the large family holiday celebrations, food, family and friends are closely linked.

No matter which type of bariatric surgery you’ve had – Gastric Bypass, Gastric Sleeve or Gastric Band (LAP-BAND® or REALIZE® Band) – it is important that you share with your family how significant their support and encouragement are in your weight loss surgery success.

New Jersey Bariatric Center® patient Dawn R., a gastric bypass surgery patient, says her husband’s and daughter’s support played a key role in her weight loss surgery success. But it wasn’t always easy on her family, she confides.

“We had a lot of issues come up,” she explains. “Even just sitting down to eat as a family became an issue because of what and how I had to eat compared with what and how they ate.”

But no matter what the issues were or how difficult it was at any given moment, her family never failed to support her and be happy for her, she says.

“Even though losing weight is my accomplishment, if it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I would have gotten as far as I have or had the success that I’ve achieved,” says Dawn, who lost more than 100 pounds after she had her Gastric Bypass surgery.

Here are my Top Five Tips For friends and family members who are looking to support their loved one who has had Gastric Bypass, Gastric Sleeve or Gastric Band (LAP-BAND® or REALIZE® Band) surgery.

  1. Learn about the surgical procedure.
    Just as patients research and learn about what changes their bodies will undergo, it’s important for family members to do the same. Understanding the journey your family member is about to take will help you guide, coach and offer support throughout the process.
  2. Respect patient’s new eating habits.
    The weight loss surgery patient’s eating habits are going to change drastically immediately after weight loss surgery. Be respectful of their weight loss goal: don’t bring “treats” to the hospital after surgery; don’t encourage them to finish their plate when they are full; refrain from tempting them with food – “a little bite won’t hurt you” – or inadvertently sabotaging their efforts, i.e. giving them a box of chocolates as a gift.
  3. Don’t blame the patient.
    Over and over again, patients remark that many of the toughest times during weight loss is when the family eats together. In many cases, the person who is in charge of putting meals on the table is also the weight loss surgery patient, and the family sees a difference in the type of food that is served. This frequently frustrates family members who have not had bariatric surgery.Fried chicken becomes grilled chicken. Bread and butter are no longer on the table. These little changes can cause squabbling at the dinner table. Family members should avoid responding to their frustrations with statements like “You chose this not me” or “Don’t punish me for your decisions.” Try to remember that while it may take some getting used to, healthier meals benefit everyone in your family. Many of our patients’ spouses tell us that they have lost weight too as a result of their new diet. Still not convinced that the new healthy diet is for you? Before you criticize, think about solutions that work for all parties.
  4. Prepare for the relationship to change.
    Feeling hurt that your sibling — who you always met at the all-you-can-eat buffet on Sunday nights – is not responding to your invitations? Or maybe you’re a little envious when you find your friend — who once shrunk from attention at parties — is now the belle of the ball. As your loved one’s weight comes off, prepare for the dynamics of your relationship to change. But that doesn’t mean that it has to change for the worse. Find new ways to connect. Instead of bonding over food, do things together that are not related to food — join a gym, take a class or start a book club. And understand your family member is still the person you’ve always known and loved. They are developing a new relationship to food. What you’re seeing is the new, confident side of them that’s always been there but that they were uncomfortable expressing when they were carrying the extra weight.
  5. Cheer their success and support them during setbacks.
    Complimenting your loved one during their successes will be easy! But just as important will be how you support them when they have setbacks. And they will have setbacks. Almost everyone does. Just remember that you need to be there for them during the rough spots. You won’t have the answers for them but you can suggest that they attend one of the support groups that we offer here at the New Jersey Bariatric Center®. Or tell them to make an appointment with one of our dietitians, doctors or psychologist depending on the nature of their problem. Standing by your loved one during the hard times makes celebrating the good ones all the better.

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