How Weight Loss Surgery Affects Your Relationships
Leslie Albers, Bariatric Coordinator
Weight Loss Surgery is a profound lifestyle change and can challenge relationships. Here are 6 relationships that are impacted by weight loss surgery:
- Self– Many weight loss patients have neglected their needs and have been self berating. Do not continue to be your own worst enemy. Give yourself credit for every change and every victory, you deserve it. Check your self talk and make it positive in addition to taking care of yourself in ways that are non-food related. Take a bubble bath, go for a walk or go see a movie. Talk with others on the same path to cultivate a sense of community and belonging
- Spouse or Significant Other– Your change deeply affects this person. As your relationship with yourself changes, your relationship with your significant other will change. They may be excited and supportive but at the same time feel “threatened” by your growing self-esteem and freedom. Take time to talk through how you each are feeling and don’t forget to make time for each other. Be sure to include them as much as possible in any support groups or activities related to your surgery. It is very helpful to have a supportive significant other, but if they are not supportive, make sure to seek out support from friends and family.
- Parents– Moms could feel as if they are in some way to “blame” for your needing weight loss surgery or are worried about you having surgery at all. Most of the time they will come around and be very supportive and proud even if they are not fully accepting in the beginning. Make sure to communicate your needs as an adult and don’t fall into traps from your childhood. Dads can be a bit unpredictable and not very verbal about how they feel about your surgery. Again, talk freely about the support you would like from them and once they see your success, they are usually fully on board.
- Children and Siblings – You will most likely experience some fear from children about the surgery itself and about how life and food will change for them after surgery. Ensure that you have studied the risks and benefits of the surgery. Remember that this decision is about your long term health and ability to be more involved as an active parent. Assure them that while you do want to create a healthy lifestyle for the whole family that it does not mean that they have to eat just like you. Siblings can be your biggest supporter or feel jealous of your success. Depending on your relationship prior to surgery, try to facilitate open communication and be true to yourself about your new lifestyle and confident in your decision.
- Work Friends, Old Friends and New Friends – It’s up to you how much you divulge with work friends. They can be jealous, supportive, or quietly admire you. Be as up front as you feel comfortable with but do not feel the need to answer questions you would rather not. Old friends can be a challenge, especially if they were used to going out and eating with you before surgery as well as having all social events revolve around food. It will take some getting used to your new lifestyle and choices. Hopefully they will choose to be supportive but be careful not to let them make you feel guilty or unsure of yourself and sabotage your weight loss. When meeting new people as an average weight person instead of an overweight person, you may experience comments about weight bias. This may be something that you want to think about ahead of time in order to have a comment or statement ready so that you are not caught off guard. It is up to you to own your story and what you want others to know. You can choose to ignore or educate; either is acceptable depending on your comfort level.
- Program Team and Surgeon – As you move from a pre-op patient to a post-op patient your relationship with the surgical team changes. You may feel that they have certain expectations of you and that you cannot be honest or vulnerable with them. Just remember that they have seen and heard everything and whatever you are experiencing is not new. They want to see you succeed and are there to support and help you every step of the way. The best way for them to help you is for you to stick to the recommendations, come to your follow up appointments and to call with any concerns or problems. Being honest about struggles and addressing them early without fear of judgment is the best way to be successful.