Weight Loss Progress

Monday, September 12, 2011

Support Groups & Seminars: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

On Tuesday September 6th I went to my monthly support group for patients less than one year out of surgery at Norwalk Hospital. I love this support group, it is small, so I have created a bond with the other people in the group. Often I text a few of the ladies from the support group to see how they are doing and overall it is a great time, if this group met twice a month I would drive to Norwalk twice per month just to attend. I always leave this support group feeling better and with renewed focus on the mindfulness that is needed in this weight loss journey.

That was the good.

Now for the Bad & Ugly.

On Thursday September 8th I drove to a special seminar being held at Fairfield Country Bariatrics other hospital, St. Vincent's Hospital in Bridgeport. This is a seminar entitled, Life After Lapband, and it is held twice per year. I had to pre-register for the seminar and I did so hoping that the seminar would teach me a little more about successful strategies for eating and cooking and dealing with various lap band related issues that I may or may not know anything about at this point.

So, I arrived ten minutes early and signed in and got prime seating (I am such a dork, I know!). I looked through the packets of information and saw that there was a PowerPoint, a basic "what to eat at what stages" packet, and a pamphlet on St. Vincent's Hospital Bariatrics Department. I was beginning to get a negative impression of the seminar. Also, as I was signing in the woman ahead of me told the Physician's Assistant that was running the seminar that she hopes this seminar helps because right now "things aren't going well and all I can eat are potato chips and ice cream". And my negative impression was growing....I was beginning to hope that this was not going to just be a giant bitchfest.

As the PowerPoint began and the seminar progressed my fears were found to be true. I was told that drinking out of a straw is OK (although I have experienced first hand the gas pain that you get from drinking out of a straw-strike one), that eating popcorn is OK (alright, we are told right in "what to eat at what stages" handout that it is not, strike 2), and we spent over half the presentation going over possible complications (strike three and I was mentally checked out!) Then people started asking questions and it was clear to me that the people at the seminar were of a particular group of LapBanders.

Not to be mean, but I have found that there are three types of Lapbanders out there. There are Type 1 LapBanders, these are the LapBanders who understand that this is a lifestyle change and that the LapBand is a tool that will assist you but that you will need to be an active participant in the process; follow the LB rules, exercise 30min daily, and see your doctor often to get check-ups. Type 1 LapBanders will be successful and lose at least the 50% of excess body fat that is projected, but most likely more.

Then there are the LapBanders who are Type 2- this type follows the rules of exercising most of the time and eats less but firmly believes that as long as they are eating less they can still eat what they want. The Type 2 LapBander will see the doctor occasionally and will have the projected 50% of excess body fat loss.

The Type 3 LapBander missed the memo that they will actually have to do work in the weight loss process after surgery. Type 3 LapBanders believe that the band should do the vast majority of the work and that exercise can consist of a "little more than before" but that with the LapBand they will be eating less so they shouldn't need to exercise. Type 3 LapBanders will go for fills all the time as they are still "hungry" and with the band to them that shouldn't happen. When they get filled to the point of overfilled they will remain too full, even if it means that all they can eat are slider foods (ice cream, cookies, chips, all crumbly or melty foods that go right past the band). Then Type 3 LapBanders will complain on online forums, at seminars, and basically to anyone that will listen that the LapBand only causes them pain, that it didn't work, that they wish they never got it, and that they are not the only ones to feel that way- how there are full online communities that have the same experience as them.

The Type 3 LapBanders are not wrong in that they are not alone. There are many of them. These individuals may have been better off getting bypass where the surgery does most of the work because of the mal-absorptive aspect of that surgery,  and where the surgery will allow you to lose over 80% of your excess body fat. But these individuals chose the LapBand for their own personal reasons. Now though they complain about the LapBand a lot, while not following the rules and then when there are complications they complain and badmouth the band even more. Now, I fully understand that there are potential problems and complications, but that is clearly a potential with any surgery. Statistics show that the LapBand does have much lower complication rates though than other form of Weight Loss Surgery. The primary difference for Type 3 LapBanders, in my opinion, is that they wanted and expected  the weight loss results of having Bypass or the Sleeve while not even following the rules of the LapBand.

Now, I am generalizing but overall I have found that these are the three primary Types with the LapBand. Some people will not fit into any category or may blend a few of the categories, but the majority of people will fit into one of those three LB categories.

And on Thursday the 8th I was sitting in the Seminar with a room full of Type 3 LapBanders. Who wanted to know why they weren't successful after two years of having the surgery. And the fact of the matter is that they were most likely not successful because they didn't attend the type of meetings that I attended on Tuesday (the Behavioral support groups) or the group I will be attending this Thursday the 15th (the Nutritional Support Group) at all during their weight loss process. When I attend the Behavioral or Nutritional Support Groups there have been between 6-10 of us and the surgeons at Fairfield County Bariatrics probably do that many surgeries in a week. Where are the people? Why don't they attend, at all? Do they not realize that you do not get to be 250lbs or more without there being some behavioral issues that need to be addressed in order to be successful? The support is vital, seeing the Nutritionist, going to the Support Groups, going to see the Doctor, making an individual appointment with a Behavioral Psychologist when necessary...these are all things that need to be done in order to be successful for many people. There is no shame in asking for help or seeking mental/emotional assistance. You need to change the cycles and thinking that you had previously in order to move forward. Or you will not reach your full potential.

This has been a long ranting post, but the support groups are so important in my opinion to help us address the issues that plague our psyche. I did not get to 284 pounds without some issues that needed and still need to be addressed on a regular basis. Weight loss, no matter surgery type or no surgery at all, Weight Watchers or whatever, is a mind game. We are constantly facing external stimuli that will send us running back to our old habits, but we need to find ways to address the stimuli without food. To find new ways of thinking so we are not always perpetuating a negative self image and inflicting more self hatred on ourselves. Then there are issues of self destruction, of fearing what will happen when I am thinner, and self sabotaging your success either through negative thoughts or actions. These are all issues that have been brought up at the Support Groups. And if you had not gone to any of the groups how would these LapBanders deal with these topics? How would they deal with falling of the LapBandWagon? What would they do?

Most likely they would show up on an online forum complaining or at the Seminar I went to on Thursday the 8th.

Weight loss surgery patients, and all individuals who are trying to lose weight and are obese or morbidly obese, need to address the psychological and behavioral issues during the weight loss process or they will backtrack or fall of the LapBandWagon, or quit. Weight loss is a mental game and you must be in it to win it!

Amen! Now, I step off my soapbox!

<3 and I promise my next post won't be as preachy!

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