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Relationships After Surgery
By Andrea Rigby, Psych D
On April 16, 2009, the Penn State Health Surgical Weight Loss Support Group met to discuss Relationships After Surgery. Small groups comprising post-operative patients who had surgery within one year, post-operative patients more than one year post-surgery, pre-operative patients, and significant others discussed their unique experiences adjusting to surgical weight loss. Groups put their creative skills to use drawing laundry baskets illustrating their “emotional laundry” in terms of their relationships with food, significant others, family, friends, community, and their changing bodies.
Laundry baskets were decorated inside and out. Some were full, some were overstuffed, some harbored “secret stashes” or proudly displayed neatly folded laundry depending on the circumstances and current strength of the relationship. As expected, the most frequently discussed baskets depicted the relationship with food and the relationship with significant others. Overall, post-surgery participants found that their relationship with food was improving, but that the relationship continues to be challenging at times.
There were still some surprises in those baskets! The most encouraging news was that beneficial changes in health status, and increasingly positive feelings about body image provide the motivation to keep our patients “on track” with better nutrition and exercise. Our patients reported improvements in social life and activity since surgery, and overall positive changes in their relationships, which in many cases, related to increased self-esteem.
Here are just a few findings from recent research studies that suggest that relationships are generally improved after weight loss surgery:
- 52% of patients reported improvements in marital relationship satisfaction.
- Some patients reported that with increased health and vitality, they became more active in their communities.
- An increase in feelings of self-worth leads to re-evaluation of previous relationships,especially when friends and family act differently to the new post-op “self”. This can be difficult at times, and was addressed in our session.
- Our patients who are single are beginning to think about expanding their social life—some for the first time in years.
Our participants’ baskets reflected all of the above. Thank you to all of the patients and significant others who were willing to share their varied experiences since they decided to embark upon this weight loss journey.
Exercise for a Lifetime
By Mike Zehner, M.S., R.C.E.P.
Editor’s Note: Mike Zehner is well-known to many of you as the exercise physiologist that makes exercise easy. He has successfully helped many of our patients find an exercise routine that works for them—regardless of their physical limitations. As you will read below, he presented more useful tips at our August support group meeting.
I’ve been asked many times, “How do you start an exercise program?” There are several good points of advice I can give on this question.
- The first thing you need is the motivation to begin an exercise program. This motivation can come from the desire to lose weight, increase what you are able to do in a day, or to just be healthier.
- Once you have this motivation, the next thing you should do is choose something that you like to do. Some examples are swimming, walking, biking, etc. Make sure you are physically able to do the activity and have access to the equipment that you will need for that activity.
- Next, find a partner to exercise with you. This can be a spouse, sibling, or friend. Make sure that this person is as dedicated to exercise as you are. If not, this person may quit, leaving you to exercise by yourself.
- The next piece of advice is to vary what you do. This is very important because if you do the same thing, it gets boring. If something is boring, it will not be long before you stop.
- Also, choose a time of day that works best for you. Don’t go by the latest book, because if you are not a morning person and try to exercise in the morning, guess what will happen?
- Don’t get discouraged! It may take a while to see the weight loss with an exercise program. If the weight is not coming off, ask yourself if your clothes are fitting better. If they are, you are losing fat mass and increasing muscle mass which is a good thing, right?
- Next, make exercise fun!! Go to the park, zoo or nature trail, and walk around and enjoy the things around you. Read a book, listen to music, or watch TV while pedaling a stationary bike. These things will take your mind off what you are doing and make exercising more enjoyable.
- The last piece of advice I would like to give is to schedule your exercise times as an appointment and stick with them. The way to stick with them is to make yourself accountable to someone and show them that you are exercising.
I hope these suggestions help you start and maintain an exercise program. Exercise should be an important part of your health care. Exercise will reduce your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer. It also helps with relieving stress and anxiety along with helping treat depression. Exercise can also increase your energy and endurance, maintain your weight, and also help you to sleep better. After reading this, I am sure you want to run out right now and start to exercise! So take the advice above and start an exercise program that will last you a lifetime.
See our Health Library for more about Exercise: