Many weight loss surgery (WLS) programs require that patients attend lifelong support groups. Unfortunately, most post-ops stop going to support groups after 12-18 months. Some stop even earlier. I suspect it’s largely because the farther out from surgery someone is, the less interest they have in what I call the mechanics: who can eat what, making sure they drink water, exercise.
There was a support group the other night. I was the ‘oldest’ person there, at a little more than 3 years postop. A couple of people were about a year out. Everyone else was 6-12 months [there was another support group for newbies].
The main topic of conversation was FOOD, of course, mostly who could eat what, or not. And tolerances, and water intake, and other mechanics. A couple of people said that they could not exercise because they had bad knees or bad feet or whatever. Now, while I understand that many people have all different kinds of barriers to exercising, I also know that there are ways around them. A person has to be interested in looking for them, but these people seemed to have decided that they didn’t have to make the effort.
But everyone missed what I think is a key point, which is that most of us got into this mess through emotional eating, and if we don’t deal with these issues, we’re not going to maintain our weight loss with some degree of contentment and happiness.
There were signs of resentment in some people, and others had ‘poor me’ attitudes. No one was bringing up issues about why they had urges to binge, or why they felt so deprived that they couldn’t eat whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. No one raised the oh-so-common issue of needing to deal with people differently. No one admitted to needing to be assertive but not having the skills.
As we get farther out from the surgery, many of us figure out what to eat and when. Others may learn this, but don’t eat wisely. Still others never learn, and are stunned when they regain their weight. They haven’t spent the ‘honeymoon period’ learning, often for the first time, how to live without being emotionally dependent on food.
And, as I say over and over and over again, I’ve never met an overweight person who put themselves first in their priority list. People who become heavy enough for the surgery generally have no idea how to take care of themselves. They often don’t even recognize emotions because they’ve spent their lives literally swallowing them with food.
A formal, functional support group could go a long way in helping us on this otherwise individual journey, but mostly, if you’re not interested in bite-by-bite descriptions of someone’s day, there’s almost no place to go other than a private therapist [not a bad thing at all, just that there’s little choice out there]. Some people are going to mainstream diet programs, with some very good results. Maybe that’s because after a certain point, the issues are the same for people who’ve had WLS and those who are doing it the old-fashioned way.
This self-care thing isn’t easy. I may write about it at SDP, and talk about it to anyone who will listen, whether it’s in a casual conversation or a formal lecture, but I certainly don’t have this all wrapped up in a neat little package. I’m very much a work in progress, as are we all.
We all gotta find that path.