Breaking the News About Your Decision to Have Bariatric Surgery
Millions of Americans qualify for bariatric surgery, and many have researched surgical options for weight loss. However, while bariatric surgery is the single most effective long-term solution for patients suffering from obesity, only a tiny fraction of qualifying patients ultimately have the surgery. It’s hard to separate metabolic surgery from the idea that it is elective, despite excess weight causing so many significant medical conditions. This perception is partly because many of the comorbidities associated with morbid obesity, like type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, do not produce symptoms until they become severe. Even with standard screening procedures, many patients do not adequately control their comorbidities for any number of reasons.
If you have finally decided bariatric surgery is an option, congratulations! Not only have you taken a massive step toward renewed health, but you’ve also decided to be vulnerable. And, to be honest, that really takes guts.
You may now want to tell friends and family about your decision, but you may be worried or even terrified about their possible reaction. After all, there is still a significant contingent of people who believe losing weight is simply a matter of willpower and may not understand obesity is a chronic disease that can be very difficult, if not almost impossible, to control with diet and exercise alone.
Candor, and thick skin, are what you need.
Ultimately, just as the decision to have bariatric surgery is yours, the decision of whether to tell family and friends is also up to you. If you’re debating whether to do so, consider there are certain benefits to making the announcement. First, you will undoubtedly need a support team around you after surgery to maximize your success. While we are always here for you, you can’t only rely on your bariatric practice or support group buddies. The people around you day in and day out will influence what you eat, how you feel, and ultimately the success you achieve. Also, the ability to talk about your decision calmly and rationally shows you made the decision, not only because you felt you needed it, but also because it is objectively the best option. This is also a great time to recap why you decided to have bariatric surgery, and there’s no harm in hearing others’ opinions.
But you need thick skin.
You may get pushback from certain family members and friends. Some may be rooted in legitimate concern and love, while others may feel your relationship with them will be threatened if you have the surgery. Listening to them as they openly voice their dissatisfaction will be challenging. However, these are the people with whom you can be the most candid while giving them a glimpse into the emotional and physical reasons behind the decision.
Many people may tell you surgery is the easy way out, which it isn’t. It will require work on your part to be successful. Some will ask, “Why can’t you just eat less and exercise more?” Of course, there would be no need for bariatric surgery, ever, if it was that easy.
A useful thought, exercise can present them with the scenario of acid reflux. There are medical treatments for that, but when they fail to work, there is an operation that may be done to resolve that problem. Why is that approach any different than the same thought process applied to obesity? It isn’t. And explaining it that way may help others understand your decision. They may not be on your side now, but this is not the time to give up on your journey or on them. Eventually, most people who care for you will come around and understand why you have decided on the course.
But you may also be pleasantly surprised.
As humans, we often obsess over the negative, forgetting there may be distinctly positive outcomes from having these conversations. These happy surprises may even come from the last people you might think would support you. Your decision may enlist the backing of the very individuals you did not expect to be helpful. Telling them may be one of the best decisions you could make, and you may find yourself with an even broader support team.
You may inspire others.
You may have friends or family that are also obese, or even if they aren’t, could benefit from losing some weight. They could be afraid to embark on a lifestyle change by themselves, but your candor and vulnerability may inspire them to join you on this journey. They may not have bariatric surgery with you, but they may wish to follow your pre-op and post-op diet to help improve their health. Many of our patients come to us only after a family member or friend takes the leap first and going at it as a team is sometimes all the motivation someone needs.
Everything about the bariatric journey is intensely personal, starting with your decision and commitment to long-term improvements in your lifestyle. Similarly, choosing whether to tell loved ones about your decision may take some time and reflection. Ultimately, we hope you will employ all the support resources around you to ensure your surgery is as successful as possible. Remember your success is also ours; we are rooting for you.