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What Does a Support System Look Like?

So, you’ve made the life-changing decision to undergo bariatric surgery. You researched, you asked the right questions, and you chose a surgeon with whom you feel you can tackle this incredible chapter of your life. Well done! But the reality is that that’s just the first part. You need a support system – not after surgery, but right now.

Two women chat while preparing a healthy meal together as they support each other in weight loss goals. MIIS Weight Loss Institute logo at tope left

But what does that look like for a bariatric patient? A good analogy is thinking of yourself as a world-class athlete.

All eyes are on the Olympic games, and we know that the road to Gold isn’t won alone. Yes, the athlete must put their mind to the challenge and put in the work – no one can do that for you – but behind the scenes each step can be optimized, or made easier, by leaning on others.

Let’s look at the stages of bariatric surgery and how your support system will matter.

Pre-Op and Surgery – Your Olympic Trainers and Coach

Before you embarked on this journey, the most crucial support system you engaged with was your surgical team. Your surgeon, nurses, practice manager, nurses, nutritionist, insurance liaison – the whole team at your practice will coach you through everything from pre-op nutrition to insurance requirements. Your surgeon is your coach and their skilled team navigates patients through questions, concerns and the logistics of insurance and medical plans. Trust your team to put in place all you need so you can focus on the victory ahead.

Post-Op – Your Olympic Team Nutritionists and Therapists

No one said bringing home a medal was easy, but with the right team your confidence builds and your choices become automatic. You are learning a new way to live. Eating not only changes, but food begins to taste different. These changes aren’t expected to be instant. Your team nutritionist will guide you in making the necessary changes that will start to show off your dedication and commitment to this journey. Whether with food, drink, or supplementation – you trust your team to guide you and teach you the fuel of a champion.

This goes for physical and mental achievement as well. All great athletes work on their most critical “muscle” – the mind. Without the mental focus and tools to push through the obstacles, no champions are made. There will be hiccups in your time after surgery. There will be tough days, and tougher days, but getting through one and then the next, like a skilled athlete, comes from having done it before and knowing you can do it again.

Support Group – Your Teammates

Who better to celebrate or commiserate with than those who have lived it? A world-class swimmer with the world’s eyes on them can’t fully share the pressures of their situation with someone who swims on vacation twice a year. Your support group meetings are a place to be yourself, share the highs and the lows, and learn from others so you don’t have to repeat the challenges and pitfalls that they’ve worked out for you. This is your team. You will celebrate together, and you will hold each other accountable. And for that, the victory is all the sweeter.

Family and Friends – Your Fans

Athletes know this to be true: While some fans are diehard, others can be fickle. And though it sounds simple, the latter can get into your head and change the space you’ve worked so hard to prime for success.  But what can rattle you the most is when those fans are closest to you. While not always the case, there may be times when the bariatric patient must “abandon” an old group of friends: the old gang with whom happy-hours, fast-food runs and bottomless fry baskets are the norm. And while a life of moderation is the best kind of life, these friends feel that you’ve “changed”. They see your remarkable physical changes and the new spark in your eyes as a criticism of their choices and habits. By leaving those old habits behind, the friends associated with those habits assume you’ve left them as well. Tough choices must be made. Do you surround yourself with the types of fans that want to see you take the Gold, or those that are happy that you never took up the sport to begin with because they haven’t taken charge?

This goes further. Much of this can be traced back to why you’ve retained the weight to begin with. It probably hurts the most when it’s a family member who won’t support you. Whether a negative parent or a criticizing spouse, changes in you can trigger a negative reaction from others. This is a time for mental toughness. If you live with this family member, your daily eating habits will be different, and your choices may be challenged. Their insecurities may come to the forefront. You can probably trace a time (or a hundred) when you made bad choices just to keep the peace or go along with the crowd. Choose which fans you want in your head, and which no longer have a place to take your Olympic dream.

Remember, gold is not easy, but it is entirely achievable. What may have seemed a distant dream just months ago is now within your reach. It is up to you to take the extra step and grab it and we look forward to being there alongside you to celebrate in your achievement.

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