March 7, 2017 – Changing Relationships after Surgery

Bariatric Support Group

Date:  March 7, 2017

Facilitator:  Dr. Ravi Sabapathy

Dr. Sabapathy came to talk to the group how bariatric surgery impacts relationships, both before and after surgery.  He discussed that there were 3 domains that are impacted:

  • Biological
  • Psychological
  • Social

Patients talked about the ways their lives had been impacted positively in each of those domains.

Biologically: 

  • Physically more comfortable
  • More energy
  • Greater mobility
  • Off medications – healthier

Psychologically:

  • Increase in self-confidence leading to being less concerned with what others think
  • Increase in self-esteem and able to focus on themselves
  • Feel that they have more choices and more options, since they are not limited by their weight
  • They are no longer noticed for “being fat” – but no longer “invisible”
  • Feel that they have their freedom back, and are more willing to try new activities
  • With absence of continuous urge to eat, have more time rather than planning on eating all the time

Socially:

  • Have enough energy to do things in the evenings rather than being too tired all the time
  • Go out and do things by self, meet new people, join social gatherings
  • Increased professional/career confidence
  • Find their family/friends are more conscious of what they eat and have begun making better food choices and losing weight also.
  • Don’t have to worry about going places like theatres that may not have large enough seats, restaurants that don’t have adequate seating, etc. Can go anywhere now

Dr. Sabapathy says these are the reasons he calls weight loss surgery “health improvement and function surgery!” He talked about the different relationships in our lives.  The first one we think of is the relationship with our spouse.  There is currently a 50% divorce rate just in the general population.  There are a few statistics showing that 2 years after bariatric surgery can be a time of challenge; but he finds that those who have a strong relationship find it gets stronger, and those with a weaker relationship find it gets weaker.   While it is easy to blame the surgery, there are usually other issues involved.  For example, if the patient who has had the surgery has more energy and wants to get out and do more, this can be challenging for the partner who doesn’t want to see that change.  Change is hard, and “change breeds more change.”

  • The first big change most people make is a job change. Once they have lost the weight, they feel they are freer to explore more career options.  Previously they frequently work long hours and have a lot of emotional exhaustion.  Once they lose weight and are focused on self-care, they often want to look at something that isn’t so draining, and they have the confidence to consider more options.
  • Another change can be with family and friends. Some patients mentioned that the control in a relationship can change, and some find themselves facing some rejection from the other person who doesn’t want to give up control.  Families may resist changes that involve the patient spending more time away from home as the patient becomes more social; and some have sensed jealousy from family and friends who may be jealous of the new, thinner person.  It may force them to look at themselves, and can bring out their own insecurities.
  • Some relationships in our lives are toxic, and those can sabotage patient outcomes.  You may need to leave those toxic relationships behind in order to be successful.  Communication is key, addressing how different you feel and addressing how that changes the way they feel. 
  • Your relationship with food is a big one that needs to change. You develop your habits beginning as a toddler, and you just eat what you’re given.  You now eat for nutrition, and not for other reasons.  Sugar is as addictive as heroin, so you need to avoid it, especially if you know you are prone to addiction.  Be very mindful about food.  Find something to replace the pleasure you got from eating – find another source of pleasure instead. 

The most important relationship you want to address is the relationship you have with yourself.  Patients at support group agreed that self talk is important – especially when you go somewhere socially and you cannot have something that is available to eat.  You want to keep reminding yourself of what you are trying to accomplish and keep on track.