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Making the decision to have weight loss surgery is a massive one. We all have our own journey through it but not one of us is truly alone on that journey. The support of the people around us is so important and I know I wouldn’t have coped anywhere near as well if I hadn’t had those key people around to reassure me. It’s hard on the person having surgery but it can be tough on those around them at times too. I thought I might write up some tips on how to support someone who is going through weight loss surgery. This week I’m focussing on the pre-op stages and next week the post-op edition will go up!
The initial conversation
Trust me when I say this has probably been on their mind for a long time. It takes a lot of courage and swallowing a lot of pride to admit to yourself you need weight loss surgery and saying it out loud is another level completely. This first conversation with you is important because it may set the tone for how much support someone will seek from you. It’s really important to be supportive without being judgmental for this conversation. You will probably have a lot of questions and may already know a little or a lot about weight loss surgery but depending on how the conversation goes it may not be the right time to ask all of your questions.
This is clearly not the time to tell them the story about the person you know who had surgery and put all the weight back on or any other story related to weight loss surgery that is not positive. The best thing you can do is let them know you will be there for them and want to help them in any way you can. You may also want to let them know that it’s okay for them to tell you what they feel they need from you and to let you know if there’s anything you’re doing that’s not helpful. Don’t take these personally if they come up later, we’re all different and handle stress in a variety of ways.
When I first broached the subject with my husband I wasn’t expecting it to be met with much positivity. I knew he would worry about the risks and while that came up later when I initially told him he responded in the best way possible. He said he was fine with me doing it and my long-term health was the most important thing for both of us. I’m glad I didn’t have to talk him into it or justify my decision, that made the experience much better for me.
The pre-op stages
This is a hard time, especially if they have a weight loss goal to achieve before they get on a surgical list. Your friend may want encouragement, reminders that they can do this and are worth it or they may want to be left alone to get it done. It’s not the right time to suggest every single different diet and exercise plan you’ve ever heard of that has worked for someone else. Unless you’re asked directly for diet and activity advice your friend probably doesn’t want to hear it.
Emotionally, this can be a really rough time. Expect lots of highs and lows, doubts and a need for lots of reassurance. It’s incredible how much negative stuff you can tell yourself and how quickly you can convince yourself that you don’t deserve it. At this point your friend probably needs some emotional support and a sounding board to give them a boost when they’re down.
For many people, especially in the lead up to surgery, are very careful who they tell about their upcoming weight loss procedure. It’s important that you respect their privacy and don’t go talking about it to everyone, when they’re ready they will spread the word themselves in whatever way they feel comfortable with. If you’re one of the lucky few who get told be proud that your friend has trusted you enough to tell you and confide in you.
The pre-op diet, surgical preparation stage
Once they start the pre-op diet expect anything. Be gentle with them and know if they start going a bit nuts that things will level out, it’s a huge thing to have to go through. The first few days we’re okay for me but then it got really, really hard. I was tormented by my hunger and it was honestly the hardest bit of my whole weight loss surgery experience.
Day 11, the pre-op diet is typically 2-3 weeks but I’ve heard of people doing it for up to 6 weeks, seems to be the day where many of us completely lose the plot! I had a toddler style temper tantrum and demanded that my husband go and buy me Doritos. He was extremely patient with me, didn’t take any of my behaviour personally and managed to talk me down. The mood swings and not being terribly nice to be around in these couple of weeks is normal, just ride the storm, I can absolutely promise you that it’s not your fault!
If you’ve supported someone through all of this I salute you. If you’re about to then you’re a superstar! Your support, presence and reassurance will be an immeasurable help to your friend and I’m sure it will come back to you from them one day in the future. Have you supported anyone through weight loss surgery? Have you got any tips or ideas for someone else who is about to embark on this journey by someone else’s side?
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