Support Group Engagement After Weight Loss Surgery
As part of the weight loss surgery programs at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton, support groups are held once or twice per month. At BID-Milton, one group is open to all program participants and one is open only to post-op patients. These groups provide a safe forum to share challenges and talk with others who have “been there, done that.”
The groups are facilitated by a licensed provider, typically one of our bariatric dietitians. As a part of each meeting, there is time for a question/answer session so participants have a chance to “ask the expert.” Many times, patients will think of a question after leaving a clinic visit, and these group meetings allow another opportunity to have their questions answered.
Most group meetings are an open forum discussion, but periodically a guest speaker or special event will be a part of the group, including a recipe swap or cooking demonstration by the hospital’s executive chef. Another popular event is the clothing swap, when participants can bring in clothing that no longer fits to trade with other participants.
Participation in support groups is important for long-term success after surgery because it keeps patients engaged in the process of weight management. Losing weight after surgery may take months to a year, but keeping it off takes a lifetime.
After the first six months post-op, patients may only meet with their surgeon once a year, and one-on-one with their dietitian once or twice a year. Coming to a support group once or twice per month can help patients stay motivated and address any issues they may be encountering.
For patients who may have strayed back to old lifestyle habits, support groups can also be a great forum to get back on track. By re-engaging with the WLS program and having the chance to speak with others who have gone through (or are currently going through) the same struggles, participants can find new ways to focus on their weight loss journey. As one participant said recently at a group, “Talking this over with you all was the kick in the pants I needed.”
Connection is another important aspect of weight loss surgery support groups. Some participants may have known each other before having surgery, but others create connections through the groups that help with long-term success. For example, two patients who are both teachers were able to connect and discuss strategies for dealing with students’ gifts that are often food-based. Another participant came early before the groups in the spring and summer to walk around the BID-Milton campus, and invited anyone who wanted to join her.
A supportive environment is key for anyone going through weight loss surgery. The bariatric teams at BIDMC and BID-Milton encourage all patients to engage in support groups as a part of their journey.
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