Why I'm choosing bariatric surgery: How to support loved ones through weight loss surgery
MultiCare's director of general surgery, Jennifer Yahne, is choosing to undergo bariatric surgery.
When I first announced my decision to have bariatric surgery, I received a variety of responses. Although the majority of my friends and family were quite supportive, several were not.
Given the differing opinions about bariatric surgery, it is not surprising that many patients choose not to disclose their plans to have weight loss surgery.
However, the support of loved ones can greatly enhance a person’s success in their weight loss journey, so it’s best to create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing.
Since we are in the middle of the holiday season, I would like to offer some ways you can support those in your life who are planning to have bariatric surgery — or have already undergone the surgery.
- Educate yourself. Finding out somebody you love is about to have major surgery can be frightening, but the good news is that the safety and efficacy of bariatric surgery has improved in recent years. Learning more about the types of bariatric surgeries available and the outcomes can go a long way in helping you understand your family member’s decision. A great resource for this is the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.
- Avoid sharing negative stories. As soon as I made my announcement, people started sharing stories about acquaintances who had the surgery and suffered horrible complications, terrible side effects or gained the weight back. Although such stories may influence your opinion about bariatric surgery, they are ultimately not helpful to your loved one’s experience. If they’ve made the decision to move forward, they’ve done the research and weighed the pros and cons. Rather than assuming one story is indicative of the entire field, I would recommend you first become educated about the surgery.
- Be part of the process. My husband attended the bariatric surgery seminar with me, which helped him understand the types of surgeries available, benefits and complications, and what to expect following surgery. In addition to attending seminars or appointments, you can give your family member a post-surgery care package (think protein shakes, sugar-free Jell-O and broth). Or if they have a family to care for, you can offer to watch their kids or make them a healthy meal.
- Be understanding of limitations. Don’t be a food pusher. A person who has had bariatric surgery cannot eat a large meal, so encouraging them to eat more is not helpful. Neither is judgment about food choices. I do not eat treats very often, but I may choose to have some of my favorite dessert at a holiday gathering. What is helpful is finding out about food restrictions or preferences and how you can best support them. For example, some people prefer to eat off a smaller plate because it helps them maintain portion control.
- Recognize that surgery is tough work. Having bariatric surgery is not the easy way out. Surgery is a useful weight-loss tool, but ultimately it is up to the individual to use that tool effectively. It requires going through months of testing and preparation, then making permanent lifestyle and diet changes to achieve long-term success. It is important to honor, support and commend the commitment your family member has made to becoming healthier.
- Purchase gifts of support. Trying to think of what to give your loved one this holiday season? Though they may have enjoyed gifts of chocolate and sweets in the past, these may not be welcome post-surgery. Instead, consider purchasing a gift card for their favorite clothing store to help with the expense of maintaining an ever-shrinking wardrobe.
By supporting those in your life who have made the decision to have bariatric surgery, you are contributing to their long-term success. This is appreciated not only during the holiday season but at any time of the year.
About The Author
Jennifer Yahne and her husband of 17 years, Jeramy, are lifelong residents of South King County. They have two daughters, Jillian and Hayden. Jennifer has worked in health care administration for the past decade, most recently as the director for the general surgery careline at MultiCare Health System. In her limited free time, she enjoys knitting, sewing, reading and baking.More stories by this author