You would be hard-pressed to find many people that agree with the notion that losing weight is easy. When it comes to cases of dramatic weight loss—like those of bariatric surgery patients—the impact is as much of a mental challenge as it is physical. Before any weight loss procedure, it’s important to consider the changes that it may bring to your personal life, work life and even your daily routines.
“I talk with patients about healthy changes in both attitude and behavior that will help them, and ways to overcome barriers to success,” says Dr. Christian Lemmon, an adult and pediatric psychologist with the Augusta University Center for Obesity & Metabolism. “We also discuss how their close family and friends might respond to the changes they are making. Before meeting with me, most patients have not explored these aspects of weight loss surgery.”
Many habits, thoughts and emotions can affect how much weight you lose and how much you keep off, he says. This is why a psychologist is part of the team for all patients in the program at Augusta University Health.
The changes patients make both before and after the procedure can be challenging, he says. Such changes typically include an increase in physical activity, adjustments to what and how much you eat, and how you deal with stress. “Eating in response to emotions is one of the biggest challenges for patients,” he says. “So, we talk about healthier reactions to stress.” Those include physical activity, meditation, prayer, talking to a friend or relative, uplifting music and even aromatherapy.
Also, with weight loss upwards of 100 to as much as 300 pounds, your family, friends, coworkers and even strangers will likely react to the new changes differently, he says. And you will look at yourself differently, too.
Confidence in Your Own Skin
“Feeling good about yourself and how you look is a wonderful thing,” Dr. Lemmon says. “Our patients are ecstatic about it. But sometimes, the people around them have unexpected reactions. They may even try to sabotage their hard work.”
This can be a subtle thing, such as offering a favorite but unhealthy food to celebrate an achievement. “The person may not even be conscious of it, but it’s something we want our patients to be aware of,” Dr. Lemmon says. “That knowledge can help them communicate and cope better with the people around them.”
The best asset for a healthy weight loss journey is a strong support system at home. Switching up aspects of your routine that involve your family or partner may come with its effects. Make sure to be transparent with your loved ones regarding any needs that can aid in your efforts.
“By talking about all of these changes ahead of time, the patient and their family can be better prepared and supportive,” he says. “The more you know before you join a program, the better you’re likely to do.”