Support Groups, Conferences are a Boon to Post-Op Patients

Bariatric surgery is a proven path to long-term weight loss. Numerous studies show that weight loss surgery patients have fewer obesity-related health conditions, like sleep apnea and Type 2 diabetes, and often patients are able to stop taking expensive medications, because their previous health issues have been resolved. Of course, overcoming obesity also can alleviate countless daily challenges, boost your self-esteem and improve your overall quality of life.

Although the physical outcomes of weight loss surgery are generally extremely positive, many patients struggle with the emotional ups and downs of the journey. For example, a spouse may become suddenly jealous or even withdrawn when their mate sheds 60, 100 or even 200 pounds. They may feel threatened by the seemingly sudden change, which can have a profound impact on the dynamic of the relationship. In other cases, friends or family members may try to sabotage a patient’s success and be less than enthusiastic about the positive change in their life, which can leave emotional scars.
ObesityHelp Conference
Reaching out for support, whether through a local support group or online meetings, can be the difference between happily ever after, and a continual struggle for emotional peace. Regional and national weight loss surgery conferences also provide a great opportunity to building friendships with other post-op patients, who can share their advice and encouragement while you walk the journey together.

Coping with Reality
The first year after surgery is often referred to as the “honeymoon period,” as patients experience the euphoria associated with rapid weight loss. The extra pounds seem to just melt away with little effort or discomfort. Post-op, you likely will be more active, have more energy, and generally feel wonderful. (Women also often get excited about the fact that they can fit into a size 10 or 12 dress—something they previously never fathomed.)

Bear in mind, however, that the procedure itself is only the beginning of an ongoing process that requires lifelong maintenance. The excitement that comes with weight loss surgery can quickly dwindle once you arrive at a steady weight. In fact, patients can become discouraged and even depressed once the dramatic weight losses they initially experience subside. Some may retreat into unhealthy habits and regain the weight they lost after surgery, while others may experience addiction transference and find they suddenly struggle with alcohol, painkillers, gambling, or another addiction that has taken the place of food.

Embracing Support
The best way to retain your initial excitement and channel it into a sustainable and healthy lifestyle is to have a good support system in place. After weight loss surgery, it is critical that you have a support network—a group of allies that will keep you accountable and make sure you stick with the healthy habits you learned from your doctor. Those habits include not only dietary changes and physical activity, but also new ways to cope with stress and difficult emotions.

In addition to participating in a regular support group locally or online, you may want to look for local and national conferences sponsored by established and reputable obesity awareness and support groups. These types of events provide an excellent opportunity to connect with others going through the same changes—and encountering the same challenges—as you are. Moreover, you can often learn tasty pouch-friendly recipes, get discounts on nutritional supplements, and hear about interesting new research and legislative initiatives related to the fight against obesity.

Finding a Conference
Numerous organizations and non-profits host conferences for weight loss surgery patients. Several host annual conventions that are open to patients and doctors alike, giving attendees multiple invaluable perspectives about their surgery and their lives.

The Your Weight Matters National Convention, an annual event produced and presented by the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), brings together experts from around the country to present the latest information on proven weight-loss techniques. The OAC wants to empower visitors by giving them the knowledge they need to take control of their health. Attendees receive tools to create healthy change in their everyday lives, empowerment through overall wellness, and an opportunity to connect with others who are along the same paths in their journey with obesity and excess weight.

The ObesityHelp National Conference, which will be held in Anaheim, California this year, will feature a number of prominent speakers with expertise in helping weight loss surgery patients navigate the challenges of their surgery and its aftermath. Cathy Wilson, a member of the ObesityHelp staff, says, “Our members enjoy having face-to-face contact with each other. They love coming back to the website to post their event photos and stories about how they finally got to meet members they had been chatting with and supporting online for years. ObesityHelp has been doing this a long time – imagine 10 years of real hugs, real in-person laughs, and support from the weight loss surgery community.”

You can also find local conferences at the state or regional level, such as the Texas Association for Bariatric Surgery (TABS) annual conference. TABS serves weight loss surgery patients and the medical professionals who care for them through education, wellness and advocacy efforts. At the annual conference, TABS physician and surgeon members share ideas in the education, prevention and treatment of obesity to improve patient outcomes, conduct patient education, promote healthy living and advocate for the rights of the obese. The next conference will be January 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.

Conferences like these provide weight loss surgery patients with the kind of nurturing environment they need while they are adjusting to their changed selves. Although they are no replacement for ongoing support from a physician, they can provide hope and healing after the trauma of obesity and connect you with fellow post-op patients who can prove to be welcome companions on your lifelong journey to a happier, healthier you.

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