Talking about your bariatric surgery can be a touchy subject. Some people are strongly against bariatric surgery and may view you differently for having it. Most of these people are either uninformed, scared, jealous or a combination of the three. It’s a personal choice who you tell and don’t tell, however, any conversation about your upcoming surgery should focus on the health benefits. At minimum, your family doctor and spouse need to know. You may want to consider telling your children too, as they’ll see you getting smaller and may worry something is wrong with you. Family, friends and co-workers can either know or not, depending on how close you are. Talking about your bariatric surgery to loved ones should focus on the health and emotional benefits the weight loss will provide.
Talking About Your Bariatric Surgery with Your Family Doctor
Your first step in bariatric surgery may have already been to talk to your family doctor. However, if you were like me and went to the informational session first, talking about your bariatric surgery with your family doctor is a necessary step. Your family doctor cares for your overall medical needs, so it’s important that he or she knows about any medical procedures you plan on having. Some items you may want to discuss are:
- Prior weight loss attempts
- Any diet programs you may have tried
- The risks of bariatric surgery
- The rewards of bariatric surgery
- How your excess weight is affecting your health
- Is there another weight loss method you should try before pursuing weight loss surgery?
Cheryl Borne of My Bariatric Life has a great article with more detailed questions about bariatric surgery to ask your doctor. While you’re having a conversation with your family doctor about bariatric surgery, it’s also a good time to remind him or her that once you have surgery, you won’t be able to take NSAIDs. I find a lot of doctors either don’t know this information or forget it. You have to be your own advocate after surgery. We also can’t have blind NG tubes because our anatomy has changed. It’s a good idea to mention these facts and have them documented in your medical record. Remember to focus on the health benefits from losing weight when talking to your doctor.
Your Significant Other
Next, you probably need to tell your spouse or significant other about your upcoming surgery. I understand why some bariatric patients are hesitant to talk to others about their surgery, but you’re going to need support and help afterwards. You at least need to tell your significant other about surgery. Again, you’re going to want to focus on the health and emotional benefits that come with weight loss surgery. Some things that may help to steer the conversation are:
- Increased confidence
- Increased sex drive
- Decreased tiredness
- More energy
- Increased life expectancy
- More active
Now, there is some research that indicates that the chance of divorce increases after bariatric surgery. I feel the reasons for this possibility are the bariatric patient gains confidence, and the partner may feel unneeded or even jealous. If your relationship is already solid, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. However, it never hurts to see a therapist and work on any issues prior to surgery. I would hope your partner is on board to improve your life and talking about your bariatric surgery is the first step to getting there. Focus on the positive health and emotional aspects, and they should want the best for you. You might have to make a few adjustments in your relationship, like how often you eat out and where, but it will be worth it in the end.
Talking with Your Children
If you have children, they probably should know as well. If your children are older teens or adults, they will probably understand and want you to be healthy. Talking about your bariatric surgery with them should still focus on health benefits. You’re not trying to convince people that bariatric surgery is the best thing in the world (although for me, it was). You’re simply trying to educate and ask for the support of those closest to you. Your children should want their parent around for a long time, so it may be helpful to focus more on the health improvements from bariatric surgery. You might want to mention the following benefits listed by the Cleveland Clinic:
- Improved blood sugars could lead to remission of type II diabetes
- Improved heart health
- Decreased depression
- Improved obstructive sleep apnea
- Relief from joint pain
If your children are younger, you may want to wait until closer to surgery to tell them about it. You may be hesitant to tell your younger children, but kids are quite the observers and will notice your changing appearance. They may worry you are sick, so telling them ahead of time that you’re getting a surgery to help you be healthier and lose weight will be beneficial. Talking about your bariatric surgery with your younger children shows you respect and have open communication with them. Tell them what to expect.
I wish I could have had this conversation with my youngest nephew. He was around one when I had my surgery, and every time he sees me, I look different. I think he doesn’t understand that I had bariatric surgery and am losing weight to be healthier. He told me I scare him, and I can only assume it’s because I look so dramatically different from when he first remembers me. It’s okay, one day he’ll realize that I’m his awesome Aunt Nicky and will beg to spend time with me.
Talking About Your Bariatric Surgery with Others
Depending on how close you are to the other people in your life you may choose to tell them. Or not. Either way is okay. Just remember that most people who care about you will want the best for you, and taking care of yourself and your health is the best thing you can do. It might also be worth noting that you may want to tell your boss, since you’ll likely have to miss work for so many doctor appointments and eventually surgery. When you speak to others about your weight loss surgery, continue to focus on the health and emotional benefits listed above. Some other points to consider are:
- Avoid judgment or shame about being overweight, especially if the people you are talking to are overweight themselves. It my cause them to get defensive and not support your efforts to be healthier.
- Explain the weight loss surgery procedure you’re having. A lot of time anger towards weight loss surgery comes from fear of the unknown. Most procedures work by either malabsorption (reduction of the amount of calories the body can absorb) or restriction (reduction of the amount of food the stomach can hold) or both. Check out this article from the Mayo Clinic about the four most common types of procedures.
- Tell them how your excess weight makes you feel, for example, tired, lethargic, sick, depressed, painful, or whatever else your weight is causing you to feel. Focus on how after you lose the weight with bariatric surgery, these symptoms will improve.
- Feel free to use my story as an example of someone who transformed their life thanks to bariatric surgery. My heaviest weight was 428 pounds, and thanks to portion control, exercise and weight loss surgery, I’ve lost over 235 pounds. I’ve gained my life back. I found my self worth. These are things that no other “diet” has ever been able to give me. Use my story to inspire your story.
Keeping It A Secret
There are a lot of people out there who decide that talking about their bariatric surgery is no one’s business. They’re correct. Your medical record is no one’s business but yours and your doctor’s business. You have every right to keep your bariatric surgery a secret from whomever you please. I know of people who did things this way. Some things to keep in mind if you decide to limit who you tell:
- Either way, people are going to notice your weight loss. You’re going to have to come up with a good story as to how you’re losing weight. Telling people you’re practicing portion control, reducing calories and exercising more isn’t a lie, because you will be. It’s just not the whole truth either. Practice your story in the mirror, so you’ll sound confident when it comes to telling others.
- Having support is so important in this process. Go to local support groups where anonymity is encouraged. You can also try Facebook groups that are closed or secret, as other’s won’t be able to see that you’re a member or what you post (unless they’re part of the group, too).
- You’re going to need a few weeks off to recover from surgery. You’ll need to make arrangements ahead of time for time off work and covering any other responsibilities you have with the house and kids. Make sure you have a reason to be MIA during that time.
Focus on Health Benefits
When it comes down to it, you’ll need a reason to explain your weight loss and smaller portion sizes. People closest to you will notice your weight loss and habit changes, so telling your spouse, closest family and friends may he a good idea. Your family doctor should also know, so they can properly treat you in the future. Children, especially younger ones who may not understand why you look so different, should be told a few weeks prior to surgery. Telling other family, friends and coworkers is up to you, but the added support could really inspire you. Talking about your bariatric surgery to loved ones should focus on the health and emotional benefits the weight loss will provide.
If this article gave you some great ideas to incorporate into your life, just imagine what other amazing strategies I have for you! Share this post on social media by clicking one of the sharing buttons, and don’t forget to join my email list! You’ll be the first to get updates, access to my new products and lots of tips, inspiration and motivation to help in your bariatric surgery journey. Just for joining, I’ll send you a free eBook with the 10 Habits to Change Before Bariatric Surgery, as well as some other pretty awesome goodies to keep you motivated. Join today!
1. Discuss previous weight loss attempts
2. Share any diets you may have tried
3. Ask about the risks and rewards of bariatric surgery
4. Describe how your excess weight affects your health
5. Ask about other weight loss methods to consider
6. Ask for a referral to a bariatric surgeon
7. Discuss realistic weight loss expectations
8. Ask about recovery time
9. Discuss post-op food choices
10. Get a recommendation for an exercise program