You’ve probably heard it said a lot. This is your life, and you should make the best decisions for your health. And while that sounds very good, and ultimately, yes, the decision to have bariatric surgery should be entirely yours, it ignores the realities of our relationships. In particular, you will occasionally find that those you thought might be the most supportive of your decision may waiver or be outright hostile when you tell them about your bariatric surgery decision.
This is something we come across quite a bit. Although the stigma associated with bariatric surgery has lessened with its popularity, far too often, we are reminded that it still exists.
Common Phrases You’ll Hear From Those Around You
It’s dangerous. You can do it on your own. It’s a copout. You have no willpower. You won’t be the same. There’s nothing wrong with you now. The list goes on.
When you first get this kind of negative feedback, it can be very jarring, mainly because if you have reached a point where you are considering bariatric surgery, you know something NEEDS to change. You’ve seen that the way you’ve done it to this point is not working, and if you know you need to change, your partner or family member likely knows this too, but their motivations are not as straightforward as yours.
Why They May Not Support Us
It’s important to distinguish a loved one’s support from a loved one’s insecurity. Deep down, the person giving you a hard time about your decision may fully support your desire and need to change. However, they have likely seen months or years of you pursuing that change with no success. They have become used to this version of you and may have been lulled into a sense that you will never shed those pounds. There’s a great deal of comfort in the status quo. However, when you decide to have bariatric surgery, you take a very concrete step and use a tool representing the only long-term sustainable weight loss solution. As such, that friend or loved one gets jolted into a reality that, this time, it may be different.
What Do We Mean When We Talk About Insecurity?
Insecurity, as it relates to the loved ones of a bariatric patient, usually revolves around the discomfort of thinking that with your new life, there will be no place for them. You can imagine how unsettling and scary that may be for someone who relies on and depends on you for emotional support. They worry that you will change, and they will be left behind.
A very normal reaction to this emotional trap is to lash out. And while they may want nothing less than the best for you, their self-preservation instincts often kick in. Pleading with them or even getting upset that they are not supporting you typically does nothing to change their mind. Usually, it gives them even more ammunition to say that your decision is rash or based purely on emotion. Unfortunately, this often results in the degradation of the relationship unless someone is willing to compromise, open up and have a candid discussion.
The saying, “ignorance is bliss,” applies to so many things in our lives and may come into play here too. This is often the case for bariatric surgery and for loved ones who are not entirely supportive. They don’t fully understand the emotional low you have reached, nor do they know the effectiveness and safety of a bariatric procedure. To understand this better, they need to allow themselves some vulnerability, and many of us don’t open up emotionally.
The Importance of Nipping It in the Bud
We talk about this quite a bit before surgery because your friends and loved ones are the primary support system you will rely upon during your postoperative life. If this support system is not supportive at all, or, in some cases, trying to sabotage your progress, the result will be physically and emotionally taxing. So, it’s critical that you develop a plan early.
When you tell a loved one or friend about your weight loss surgery, come armed with some backstory. Yes, they have seen you struggle with your weight and have been there for your ups and downs, but it’s best to reiterate your motivations. It could be a physical impediment that has become more pronounced. It could be a medically related issue that has caused you to rethink your weight. It could even be an emotional or social hurdle you haven’t been able to jump. No matter what your motivation for having bariatric surgery is, a clear and concise argument for why you need it can give your significant other, loved one, or friend deeper insight into how you feel.
You must also have the facts about bariatric surgery at your disposal. Why is it not the easy way out? Why does it work? What is the safety data on the procedure you are considering? This is also a great time to ask them to participate in your consultation. You could watch the bariatric seminar together or come to our office to hear directly from our doctors. Either way, a friend or a loved one will feel included in the decision and may learn a thing or two about weight loss surgery while also having the opportunity to ask a clinician their questions or express concerns.
Finally, let’s change the thought process and maybe consider that your loved one is struggling emotionally or physically. There may be a deep-seated reason why they feel threatened by your decision to change your life and lifestyle. To understand and explore this, it may be worth having an open and honest conversation in a quiet environment without raising voices. Seeing a professional therapist who can talk through some of the concerns that the other person may have about your relationship and their own life can be helpful if everyone is willing to participate openly and honestly.
When the Pushback Comes From a Darker Place
It’s not something we like to think about, but there are certainly instances where the pushback comes from a darker place, and there are structural problems with the relationship. If you believe this to be the case, you get to the bottom by speaking to a licensed therapist to understand more about what can be done and why this is all happening. We don’t pretend to be relationship experts. However, we have seen our fair share of problematic relationships where one or both sides don’t get the full emotional benefit of this often life-changing procedure. In these cases, seeking professional help is not only recommended but crucial to your mental health and eventual success.
Notably, starting the process to get more information about bariatric surgery is entirely doable with no cost and no obligation. The first step is to do plenty of research. Understand more about obesity and look at your blood work to see how it affects you. Start watching seminars from bariatric surgeons like Dr. Huguet and Dr. Peterson. Hundreds of online resources can give you information about procedures and what to expect, down to the smallest details. It can be overwhelming, but this is a life-altering surgery and deserves all the seriousness you give it. And once you’ve done your research and watched your seminars, you can take the next step and start the pre-op process. Visit your surgeon of choice for a consultation while completing your preop testing. This process can be fast or slow depending on how you’re paying for surgery – cash pay or insurance – so remember that you can step back and reevaluate any time before surgery.
We encourage you to use our website as a resource to help inform you before finalizing your relationship with a bariatric surgeon. If you’d like to visit us for a consultation, we encourage you to sign up after watching our online seminar.