Weight Loss Surgery Support: Why It's So Important & How to Find What You Need

Reviewed by: Gregg H. Jossart, MD, FACS

Actively participating in a good weight loss surgery support group will not only make the tough times easier, but it has also been proven to result in as much as 12% more excess weight loss and a 10% lower body mass index…

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Purpose
Can be One of the Most Effective Weight Loss Tools
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Purpose: Can be One of the Most Effective Weight Loss Tools

weight loss surgery support The ultimate purpose of support group attendance is to help you achieve and maintain your goal weight in a way that is as physically and mentally healthy as possible.

But what’s the point? Can’t you get all of the support you need from friends and family?

To answer these questions, consider the interactions in other areas of your life. For example, when discussing child care, would you rather talk with another parent or one of your single friends? When venting about something that really frustrates you at work, would you rather the listener be a work colleague or your next door neighbor?

While many patients have partners and family who offer unending support, talking with someone who is intimately familiar with your struggles is essential. Despite its many advantages, weight loss surgery will bring about one of the most challenging times in your life and there will be times when you need encouragement and advice from people who have been in your shoes.

Common areas that bariatric surgery patients choose help from their weight loss surgery support group over help from friends and family include…

  • Fear before surgery
  • Questions about the future
  • Temptations and how to overcome them
  • Impatience or frustration regarding how quickly the weight is coming off
  • Learning how to interact with the world in your new body
  • Overcoming depression relating to your new diet and changes to existing relationships (both in and out of the home)
  • Diet and recipe tips
  • Relationship advice for at-home and work relationships

In addition to working with others who are sharing your experience, good weight loss support groups are moderated by a bariatric professional who can provide medically accurate advice to questions that come up. Guest speakers ranging from other patients to medical professionals are also common.

Difference Support Groups Can Make
Attendees Lose As Much As 12% More Excess Weight
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Difference Support Groups Can Make: Attendees Lose As Much As 12% More Excess Weight

Participating in support groups goes well beyond sharing experiences and advice… in addition to the invaluable encouragement and support attendees receive, they also result in more weight loss.

Several studies have shown that regular weight loss support group attendees lose as much as 12% more excess weight than patients who do not attend support groups…

Studies
Studies
Study A
Study A
Study B
Study B
Study C
Study C
Study D
Study D
Study E
Study E
Studies
# of Patients in study
Study A
85
Study B
46
Study C
38
Study D
n/a
Study E
102
Studies
Results
Study A
There was a recognized gap of seven percent between the groups at six months postoperative and at one year postoperative, it was 12 percent.
Study B
Patients who attended support groups had a 10% higher decrease in body mass index than patients who did not attend.
Study C
Patients who attended support groups achieved a body mass index (BMI) 1.6 points less than patients who did not attend support groups.
Study D
Regular attendance at multi-phasic support group meetings improves post-op recovery based upon specific indicators. For example, patients who attend have greater compliance to program-sanctioned diet, exercise and behavior modification guidelines. This trend extends beyond the immediate post-op period for patients who ongoingly attend support groups.
Study E
There was no difference in mood between group meeting attenders and nonattenders. There was a statistical trend for more weight loss in group attenders than in nonattenders. For group attenders, the more often patients attended group meetings, the more weight they lost.
Studies
Year
Study A
2008
Study B
2008
Study C
2006
Study D
2004
Study E
1998

Good Vs. Bad Support Groups
4 Aspects of a Good Support Group; Things to Look Out For
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Good Vs. Bad Support Groups: 4 Aspects of a Good Support Group; Things to Look Out For

The following sections will explain how to tell the difference between a good and a bad support group.

4 Aspects of a Good Support Group

During your search for a support group, the following 4 points are a must…

  1. Meetings are regularly scheduled (i.e. the first Monday of each month).
  2. Led (“moderated”) by a medical professional. Common moderators include a dietitian or nutritionist, bariatric nurse or mental health counselor.

Important Support Group Tip

If you choose to join a group that is not moderated by a medical professional, be very careful about any medical advice you receive.

3. Encourage participation from all participants and not dominated by a small percentage of attendees. Effective moderators are good at getting everyone to share their opinions and experience.

4. Geared towards the positive . Talking about problems and challenges will be an important part of your meetings, but negativity should not be the overarching feeling when you walk away. A good moderator is effective at keeping the meeting upbeat and encouraging.

If the initial group meeting you attend does not have each of the above, move on to a different one.

Other Things to Look (or Ask) For

A good weight loss surgery support group may also have one or more of the following…

  • Guest speakers with expertise relating to discussion topics
  • Contact information of other group members or a “buddy system” that pairs you up with an individual to call when times get tough.
  • Referrals to other groups as you progress. For example, at 2 years after surgery, you may want to focus on your current issues rather than issues related to surgery and recovery.
  • Clothing Swaps. You will be shedding the pounds quickly for at least the first year, and buying new clothes to keep up with your weight loss can be time consuming and expensive. Some support groups encourage clothing swaps that allow members to share clothes that no longer fit with other patients.

If a group you find and like does not have the above, consider taking the initiative to get them added.

Finding The Best Group For You
Can be One of the Most Effective Weight Loss Tools
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Finding The Best Group For You: Can be One of the Most Effective Weight Loss Tools

Weight loss surgery support groups are not “one size fits all.” You’ll need to apply your own preferences to find the one that’s right for you.

In addition to the “must-haves” listed in the previous section , consider the following…

  • How many participants?

The bigger the group, the less time each participant will have to discuss their issues and the more anonymous each will be. The smaller the group, the more attention and direct feedback you will receive.

  • How specialized?

Some groups have attendees at all stages of their new life while others focus on specific areas such as diet or nutrition or specific timeframes like ‘ more than 6 months after surgery.’ Groups with a broader focus can be good from an educational perspective, but once you learn the ropes you may find that a focused group is more beneficial.

  • Do you feel welcomed and comfortable?

The weight loss surgery support group you choose should feel like a warm and inviting place where you can share your troubles and offer advice freely and openly. If the group has most of the above points covered but “just doesn’t feel right,” move on.

Now you know what to look for in a weight loss surgery support group, but how do you actually find them?

Talk with your bariatric surgery team. There is a good chance that your surgeon’s office…

  • Coordinates their own groups,
  • Works with a hospital that coordinates group meetings or
  • Can refer you to one or more unaffiliated bariatric surgery support groups

If you have given your surgeon’s groups a shot and feel that they are not a good fit, try calling other hospitals and other weight loss surgery centers in your area. Even though you were not treated by them, they should be happy to have your attendance.

If you are still unable to find a group that feels right after working with all of the hospitals and bariatric surgeons in your area, consider starting your own group. Your surgeon may even allow you to use their facilities and may be willing to include a professional on their staff as your moderator.

Regardless of which in-person group you decide to move forward with, we recommend also finding and using one or more online weight loss surgery support groups…

Help & Support
Ask the Expert & Patient Experiences
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Help & Support: Ask the Expert & Patient Experiences

Are you struggling with life after weight loss surgery? Do you have any tips that might help other patients?

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Additional Online Weight Loss Surgery Support Resources

As reviewed above, support groups – whether online or in-person – should play an important part in your preparation, recovery and long-term goals.

To take full advantage of the Internet towards achieving your weight loss and maintenance goals, compliment your support group meetings with the resources reviewed on our Online Weight Loss Support page.

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[ Last editorial review/modification of this page : 02/13/2017]

* Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is provided for general information purposes and your specific results may vary depending on a variety of circumstances. It is not intended as nor should be relied upon as medical advice. Rather, it is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her existing physician(s). Before you use any of the information provided in the site, you should seek the advice of a qualified medical, dietary, fitness or other appropriate professional. Read More