Navigating Changes in Relationships Following Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery will change your life. From the moment you decide to improve your health through weight loss surgery, things will start to look different. Some of these changes will be great. You’ll start feeling more hopeful about the future, and once you’ve had your surgery, your health will more than likely improve. However, our relationships may change. By preparing for what can happen, you can reclaim the positive changes you’re making in your life.

Helping Others Understand

The barrage of questions you’re asked when you decide to get bariatric surgery can be overwhelming. You may feel like a broken record, answering the same questions over and over again. “Is it safe?” “Why don’t you just diet and exercise?” “Why did you decide to get bariatric surgery when you look just fine?” Even if it’s hard, the best way to help others understand is to tell them. Have an open, honest conversation with each of your loved ones, sharing only as much as you’re comfortable sharing. The answers to some questions will be none of their business, and that is a valid answer when such a question is asked. 

Dealing with Jealousy

In our culture, weight is emphasized to the point where everyone’s thinking about it. Most of us are looking to lose weight, gain weight or maintain our current weight. So, when you get bariatric surgery and lose a significant amount of weight in a short amount of time, others will notice. Your friends and family members may feel jealous and wish they could lose that much weight. When they’re in the moment, they may not consider that your surgery is just a tool you’re using on your weight loss journey. Even if you feel like you’ve told them this a thousand times, a gentle reminder never hurts. 

Attending Family Gatherings

Many families express love with food — and lots of it. Navigating this particular change can be challenging, as it involves facing your own relationship with food, as well as considering your family members’ feelings. It can be difficult to explain that you’re eating the portion sizes you may have before and that you’re not going back for seconds. Depending on where you are in your relationship with food, some types of food may be triggering for you. You may need to avoid certain dishes entirely. Explain to your relatives that this is all part of your health journey, and you still love them just as much as you did before you lost the weight. 

Addressing Marital Issues

If you’re unmarried when you have bariatric surgery, you’re statistically more likely to get married within 5 years. However, it’s just as likely if you’re married that you’ll be facing marital difficulties that could lead to a divorce. When you pursue bariatric surgery, you often make major changes in how you live your life. This means living differently from how you lived when you met your spouse. For some, this can lead to incompatibility where it didn’t exist before. 

From eating habits to activity levels (and even sex drive), your path to weight loss will change your lifestyle. If your spouse is not on board with these changes, it can lead to serious friction. Communicate with your spouse in an open, clear manner about what the bariatric surgery process will involve, and keep them posted during the journey. The more they understand where you’re coming from, the more poised they’ll be to support you and stay by your side. 

When you make major changes in your life, it can impact your relationships with others. As these shifts happen, remember that you’re doing the right thing for you and your health. And keep in mind — the people in your life may need to be reminded, too. 


Bariatric Support Group

Dr. Hodges highly recommends patients attend monthly support group meetings. The meetings are led by Dr. Collins Hodges, both a licensed clinical psychologist and someone who has had bariatric surgery himself. The support groups are offered on the first Monday of every month from 6:30pm – 7:15pm CST via an online GoToMeeting. The meetings are open to the public, and there is no charge to attend.

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