More than a decade ago when I had my gastric bypass, my bariatric surgeon told me “I do the surgery. The rest is up to you.” I was on my own, with no training on what it meant to eat healthy. Everything thing I know today has been self taught. Fortunately, unlike when I had my weight loss surgery in 2003, we now have bariatric dieticians like Lori Rosenthal to help us transform our eating habits from unhealthy to healthy. In this sharepost series, we examine the healthy behaviors post bariatric patients need to develop in order to be successful with long term weight loss. Read the first post in this series, “Keep the Weight Off for Life” Lori Rosenthal, MS, RD, CDN is a bariatric dietitian at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York. She provides individual nutritional counseling for weight management, focusing on dietary and lifestyle modifications needed to promote successful, sustainable weight loss before and after weight loss surgery. Follow Lori on Twitter @LoRoRD.
Support Can Make a Vital Difference
**My Bariatric Life: **Why is support important to maintaining long-term weight loss from Bariatric surgery?
**Lori Rosenthal: **Bariatric surgery is an amazing tool, but it is not magic. In order to lose weight and keep it off for life, post-op patients need to not only make healthy dietary/lifestyle changes, but maintain them. Maintenance is the hardest part and having support is crucial. Challenges are going to arise and haters are going to hate. It is very helpful to have people to talk to about these issues instead of reverting back to old, unhealthy habits.
**My Bariatric Life: **Who should be in the post Bariatric patient’s support system?
**Lori Rosenthal: **It should be comprised of people that understand, support and encourage the healthy dietary/lifestyle changes the bariatric post-op patient has adopted. They can be friends, family members, other bariatric patients, etc. The most important thing is that they are people that empower and motivate the patient to be the person they want to be.
**My Bariatric Life: **Where can the post Bariatric patient find support online? In person?
**Lori Rosenthal: **I highly recommend joining a post-op support group, whether it be online or in person. There are a number of great online support groups. For example, many of our patients belong to support groups on Facebook and follow specific bariatric hashtags on Instagram. Just remember that the information shared in these support groups is not necessarily from medical professionals.
Some bariatric programs, such as ours at Montefiore Medical Center, hold post-op support groups. I recommend calling the facility where the surgery was done and asking if they offer post-op support services. The patients that come to our support groups have become a family. They have each others’ phone numbers, support each other on social media and even go on outings. It’s amazing!
**My Bariatric Life: **Should the post Bariatric patient end friendships with former “eating buddies?”
**Lori Rosenthal: **Even the most disciplined person can have difficulty staying on track when surrounded by temptation. At the end of the day, we are only human.
Sometimes friends and family members are purposefully unsupportive and try to sway people off track by offering them unhealthy foods/drinks. It is unfortunate, but it does happen. If someone is bringing you foods they know you shouldn’t eat or pushing you to skip workouts, they are not your friend. I hate telling people to end friendships, but these types of toxic relationships have to go in order to ensure success.
I always remind my patients to remember how they felt before they lost weight and why they wanted the surgery to begin with. This is the best way to combat “sabotagers” and stay on track. Standing up for ourselves and our health is very empowering. Use that power to remain strong.
**My Bariatric Life: **How can post Bariatric patients handle events or activities focused on food or associated with eating?
**Lori Rosenthal: **People who have undergone bariatric surgery often feel forced to eat in order to not offend relatives. It is important to explain why you are eating differently and that it has nothing to do with how much you love the person or their cooking.
Keep the focus on enjoying the company of family and friends during the holidays. Always eat something before a party or event with food to help maintain control. Scout out all of the options available and opt for dishes that are baked, broiled, grilled or steamed. Next, make a small, balanced plate. When possible sit or stand away from the food. Also remember to take the time to chew, taste and savor the meal. This helps us to naturally eat less and enjoy even more.
Parents need to speak to their children about bringing unhealthy food into the house and the changes that are going to affect them. I tell parents to explain to their teenagers that they can eat/drink what they choose when they are out of the house, but to be respectful and not bring unhealthy items home. It also makes it far more difficult for an adult to lose weight when their children complain or refuse to eat the meals they prepare. It is important for parents to explain why they are making healthy dietary/lifestyle changes and to try to enroll them.
It is very challenging to stay on track when the people closest to us are not supportive.
Living life well-fed,
My Bariatric Life
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