Finding a Support Network for Weight Loss Surgery

For better or worse, food is our friend. It is there to help us celebrate, it is there to console us when we are sad, and food is there for all the little stresses in life that we encounter.

The grim reality of many weight loss surgery programs is that they tend to focus on the operation and not focus on the reasons why patients gain weight in the first place. Some programs pay little more than passing attention to teaching patients how to make a lifestyle change and how to keep the momentum going after the easy weight has been lost.

As a bariatric surgeon, I would love to tell you that I can solve all of your problems with weight loss surgery, but I would be lying. At the end of the day, the only aspect of the weight loss equation that I affect is the size of your meal, because surgery DOES help you feel full and satisfied with less food. It is an important part of the equation, because convincing your stomach that you are full with a saucer-sized plate of food, when your stomach or brain is convinced that a dinner-sized plate or more is needed, is very difficult. It is one of the main reasons why most non-surgical weight loss programs fail, because patients have trouble making good food choices when they are constantly hungry.

That’s why a strong support network is an important aspect of weight loss surgery. Many of our patients have a great support structure at home to help them better deal with these stresses before and after weight loss surgery. But for some of our patients, the only person in the world interested in their weight loss is them. To make matters worse, the people in their lives that comprise their support structure may be actively trying to sabotage their weight loss efforts.

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Patient may hear comments such as these from loved ones:

  • “I think you look great just the way you are.”
  • “I don’t want you to lose weight, dear, because other men will want you, and you will end up leaving me.”
  • “If you have weight loss surgery, who am I going to eat with?”  

There are many reasons why patients may have poor support at home, and for these patients ProMedica Weight Loss Surgery provides a robust support team to help them with issues that may arise during weight loss and once the weight loss is completed.

Our support group classes meet on a regular basis, both during the day and in the evenings, where patients can come and talk about issues they may have and work to find solutions. They are led by our staff and are comprised of patients who are at various stages in their weight loss program, from preoperative patients to patients who had surgery months or years ago.

A lot of the problems patients have during their weight loss journey, especially early on, are common problems and ones for which others have already found a solution. To have that depth of experience and knowledge available for our new patients is a tremendous benefit for those patients that may not have all the support they need at home.

We can teach patients how to eat right and exercise, but a comprehensive program also needs to address the emotional aspect of weight gain. If we do not adequately prepare patients for surgery for all the foreseeable difficulties they may encounter along their weight loss journey, then we have failed as a program.

If you need additional emotional support for your weight loss surgery, you are not alone. Learn more about our services at promedica.org/weightloss

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Daniel McCullough, MD, FACS, FASMBS, has been a bariatric surgeon for the past 11 years. Prior to joining ProMedica Physicians in July 2016, Dr. McCullough practiced in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. He completed a Bariatric Surgery fellowship at The University of Virginia, residency in General Surgery at The University of Toledo Medical Center, and medical school at the Medical College of Ohio (UTCOM). He is a native of Toledo, Ohio.

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