The Life-long Journey – Bringing Long-term Bariatric Post-ops back to Surgical Support Group

My name is Nikki Massie, and as I write this, I am five years, eight months and 18 days post-op from gastric bypass surgery.

And because I know that this information is customarily paired with success statistics, I have the following to offer:

The day I walked into St. Agnes Hospital on the morning of January 8, 2008, I weighed 330 pounds. That August I hit my lowest recorded weight of 178 pounds. I now sit at about 200 pounds and have been 200 pounds for the last two years.

So that is to say I’ve had the full post-operative experience: surgery, phenomenal weight-loss and, yes, regain.

Throughout it all, I’ve held onto my sanity, and have stayed accountable, through my blog, called Bariatric Foodie. The blog I started four years ago to share recipes that didn’t make me sick has grown into a community several thousand strong. It was through Bariatric Foodie that I learned about the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) and attended the Your Weight Matters National Convention in Phoenix this past August.

While at this phenomenal convention, I collected as many Your Weight Matters Magazine copies as I thought I could fit into my carry-on bag and on my flight from Phoenix to Baltimore, I read every single one of them.

And that’s how I came across an article entitled “Bariatric Support Group Secrets – What I Learned as a Support Group Leader” by Sarah Muntel, RD.

In the article, Ms. Muntel listed some reasons she’d experienced for why bariatric patients don’t attend support group. Overall, I think they were valid reasons. Still, I finished the article thinking, “Well that’s not why I sometimes don’t want to go to support group.”

I don’t go to my surgeon’s support group as often as I should, but I do attend as often as I am able. I have to admit, though, it’s not always a great experience for me as a long(er) term post-op. I had a feeling I wasn’t alone in this sentiment, so I wrote to OAC and asked if I could add our voices to the conversation and they graciously agreed.

Before I begin to explain my experience and what I’ve learned from others, I want to make one thing clear. This blog series is not an admonishment. It’s not an admonishment of the bariatric professional community nor is it an admonishment on bariatric patients (pre-operative, new post-operative or long-term). This is an attempt to add the voices and concerns of long-term bariatric patients into a critical conversation.

Anecdotally I know that some regain after bariatric surgery is fairly common. At the same time, I’ve also read the statistic that post-ops who attend support group tend to maintain more consistently than those who don’t.

So why, then, do many long-term post-ops not attend support group? We could lump those people together into the general reasons given in Ms. Muntel’s article, and I’m sure for some those are valid reasons. But for some of us, there are deeper reasons that, I believe, have solutions, but only if we speak up and ask for what we need.

That’s the spirit in which I’ve written this blog series. And in it I will cover:

      • How the basic format of a surgeon’s office support group can be alienating to long-term bariatric post-ops.
      • From a patient’s perspective, how (and why) surgeons’ offices can get us back in that room!

I’ll also discuss some alternative methods many of us use for support. These methods of support should be of interest to the bariatric community at large (both patients and professionals) because we stand to learn much from the examples of de facto and peer-led support that exist.

But it’s my most sincere hope, that by the end of this blog series, I will have started a conversation — between post-ops and their surgical practices, between surgical practitioners and amongst patients themselves — that leads to the utilization of this easy, affordable and highly effective method to prevent obesity relapse after bariatric surgery.

About the Author
Nikki Massie is a professional writer based in Baltimore, Md. She underwent Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery in 2008. She also lives in Baltimore with her two daughters, dog and cat. 

8 Comments for this Post
  • Mary Grisaffi
    October 15, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    Thanks Nikki this should be very interesting. I hope some good will come from it. Can’t wait to read the next post.

  • Midge
    October 16, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    I am a hospital affiliated support group leader. I am most interested in your thoughts – please keep me informed.

    • Nikki Massie
      October 17, 2013 at 10:34 am

      Hi Midge,

      Stay tuned for the next few parts of this series. I think there’s things we can all do (patients and bariatric staff alike) to increase long-term bariatric patients’ attendance at support groups. As I asked long-termers about this subject, even some of my basic assumptions were challenged so I look forward to sharing more with you about what I’ve learned!



      • Midge
        October 18, 2013 at 9:26 am

        Nikki! You are amazingly on target! Thank you – I will indeed stay tuned! I almost missed your kind reply here! I am frantically searching for a legitimate way to get a hard copy of what you are writing to take up with my dietician and surgeons. I will not fail at this support group and I need all the professional help I can get. I come with great credibility with docs and staff as I have been nothing but compliant from day 1 of my gastic by-pass – I had my surgery done at Rush in Chicago by a great 5-star medical general, Dr. Jim Madura! I have had no regain but share my understanding of how it happens…..a long story about this, as you know, with our attendees…..I am staying tuned. And I remain grateful to you.

  • Pingback: Obesity Action Coalition » The Dynamics of Surgical Support Group from a Longer-term Patient Perspective

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  • Paula
    November 18, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Our team reached out to the long-term group dealing with regain with a behavioral approach (for patients cleared of having any medical or surgical issues for their weight gain) with dismal attendance.We even made personal phone calls to patients we knew could use the extra support.
    It’s difficult to offer these progams and have so few people take advantage of them from a financial perspective.

  • Sue
    October 17, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    my problem with the support groups, the only one that was enve a little close to me was horrible. To much arguing between members, IE: the leader and one member most of the time. So I got nothing from them at all. So I just stopped going, I was not going to drive that far for that. I will be 6 years post op RNY November 18, 2014. I lost 210 from my highest, then had low blood counts and iron, so the dr put me on 8 weeks of iron and steroid IV infusions. So I have gained back about 70 to 80 pounds. I an struggling to lose any of it. I wish there was a good support group in my area, but oh well there is not at least I have not found any. I live in Ione CA about an hour and a half south east of Sacramento.

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