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.