How to Discuss Weight Loss Surgery With Family

You know you’re interested in bariatric surgery–you might have even done some research and know exactly which surgery you want. But you’re worried about how to have the conversation about surgery with friends and family. You want them to understand the life-changing decision you’ve made and to support you, but you’re not sure how to talk to them about it in a way that will help them get there.

The truth is that many of our patients have been right where you are now. They knew it was time for a change, and they were ready to transform their life–to lose the weight and keep it off, to be able to hike and climb and have super soaker fights with the grandkids–but they were daunted by the prospect of discussing their weight loss surgery decision with friends and family. The truth is that this obstacle can be overcome. Let’s walk through it together.

How to Have the Conversation

When you’re talking to friends and family about your weight loss surgery decision, you want them to be on board. There are three keys to having a good conversation: lay out why the decision you’ve made is important to you, talk about any misconceptions, and (if needed) set clear boundaries. Let’s walk through each one of those.

Strategies to Initiate the Conversation

First, you’ll want to actually begin the conversation. Invite your friend or family member to meet you, and tell them that you have something important to share about your life that you’re excited about. You can invite them over to your house, or meet for lunch or coffee in a quiet place if that’s more comfortable. Pick the environment that will put both of you at ease. Discussing weight loss surgery is much easier in a place where you’re both comfortable and feel at home.

We also recommend that you not have this conversation with everyone in your life at the same time. Some people might not initially understand why bariatric surgery is important to you, or may not be receptive to the idea, and it’s especially important to talk to those people one-on-one. That way, you can meet each person heart-to-heart and show them why this matters to you.

Talk About Why Your Weight Loss Surgery Decision is Important To You

The first thing to talk about, after you’ve gone through the pleasantries and how-are-yous, is why this surgery matters to you. If the person doesn’t know what it’s like to suffer from obesity, you can describe the daily challenges you face. Talk about how amazing it would feel to not have those daily challenges, to be able to go for a hike with your kids or even to bend down and tie your shoes without it becoming a whole process. You can also talk about the struggles in your life that obesity has caused–be it sleep apnea, or diabetes II, or having a hard time meeting people of the opposite sex–and how excited you are to be rid of those struggles.

Now might also be a good time to talk about why it’s important to you even though it’s expensive. The truth is that while there’s a cost to bariatric surgery, there’s a cost to obesity too; and the latter cost is higher. Just from a dollars and cents standpoint, adults suffering from obesity pay 81 percent more for healthcare on average than adults who don’t. That cost comes in the form of prescription drugs, medical bills, higher health insurance premiums, and many other costs. Added up over a lifetime or even just a few years, that cost can dwarf the price of weight loss surgery. Severely overweight people often struggle with their energy levels and health, meaning they’re less able to be productive and sometimes present at work—yet another cost. 

There’s another cost to obesity too, and that’s the human cost. Obesity is a miserable disease to live with. Our patients routinely tell us that before surgery they used to struggle with joint pain, with shortness of breath, with feeling self-conscious and isolated from the rest of the world–even from people who loved them.

For most of our patients, losing weight and keeping it off felt like a priceless gift. Suddenly they were able to exercise and enjoy everything Colorado has to offer, to play with their kids or grandkids, and to take joy in being able to fly on an airplane and fit comfortably within the seats. Many said that bariatric surgery was also good for their mental health. Bariatric surgery isn’t just about dollars and cents; it’s also an incredible investment in yourself and in the kind of life you want to have.

Most of our patients found that once they communicated how much beating their obesity meant to them, their friends and family were on board.

Handling Misconceptions

Some people do have misconceptions about weight loss surgery, and these misconceptions generally fall into two broad areas: that it’s an easy way out, and that it’s dangerous. Let’s deal with each one of these.

Misconception 1: Bariatric Surgery Is the Easy Way Out

Some people think that weight loss surgery represents an easy way out for people who don’t want to do the hard work of diet and exercise, but nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that when you suffer from obesity, your body is wired to maintain its current weight. It even goes into ‘starvation mode’ when you start to lose weight, slowing down your metabolism to keep the weight on. This is one reason that 95% of people suffering from obesity aren’t successful at losing weight and keeping it off by just using diet and exercise.

Many of our patients describe their pre-surgery attempts to lose weight as like trying to scale a sheer cliff without a rope. They would diet and exercise like champions, and lose 50 or even 100 pounds…only to watch as the scale crept back up the minute they returned to their old habits.

It’s also important to note that weight loss surgery isn’t a magic pill. After surgery, you’ll still need to make healthy dietary changes and exercise multiple times per week for the rest of your life. This is one reason that we offer dietary services and behavioral services both before your surgery and for 90 days after your surgery. What bariatric surgery will actually do is just level the playing field in your battle against obesity, giving you the same chance to lose weight and keep it off as someone who doesn’t suffer from obesity.

Misconception 2: Bariatric Surgery Is Dangerous

The second common misconception is that bariatric surgery is dangerous. It’s natural for loved ones to worry about potential complications. The good news is that, while twenty or even thirty years ago weight loss surgery carried substantial risks, with advancements in surgical procedures, weight loss surgery at a certified ASMBS comprehensive MBSAQIP center like the Bariatric and Metabolic Center of Colorado is no more dangerous than the most minor out-patient surgery such as gallbladder surgery. The 30-day complication rate from three common bariatric surgeries is around 1%, and our double-board-certified bariatric surgeon has one of the lowest complication rates in the country.

There are minor risks associated with surgery, but it’s also important to understand the risks of obesity. People suffering from obesity are at a 50% increased risk of premature death compared to people of a healthy weight. They often experience more health concerns, such as sleep apnea and diabetes. In the long run, obesity is much more dangerous than surgery. Bariatric surgery has actually been shown to reduce the risk of dying an early death by 89% within the first 5 years alone.

Setting Boundaries

If someone still struggles to support your weight loss surgery decision, then the last stage of the conversation is to set some boundaries. Make it clear that, while you value their input and perspective, this is ultimately your life and therefore your decision. You can ask for their support, but at the end of the day you may need to remind them (and, more importantly, yourself) that no one else has veto power over your own life. Be gentle, but firm. 

Very few conversations with loved ones come to this stage; our patients generally report that their friends and family support their decision once they explain their reasoning and talk through any misconceptions. Even when loves ones are truly skeptical, they often come around once they see how your life has changed post-surgery. In those rare cases where they don’t, setting these boundaries can help you maintain the relationship without sacrificing your integrity or giving the other person unrealistic expectations.

Should I Tell People About Bariatric Surgery?

If you feel comfortable, you should absolutely tell your friends and family about this life-changing decision. It’s helpful to go into surgery with a social support system, and many loved ones will be excited about the positive life changes that you should expect. Use the above conversational tips to help manage the discussion.

Taking the Next Step On Your Weight Loss Journey

Discussing weight loss surgery can feel daunting, but we’re here to help. Our double-board-certified bariatric surgeon is happy to talk to loved ones and answer even the toughest questions. If you’re considering bariatric surgery with the BMCC, we encourage you to schedule a bariatric assessment with us.

Our patients routinely say that surgery was the best decision they ever made.

“I feel like I have won the lottery and have been given a second chance in life! March 25, 2014 was the first day of the rest of my new life and I can’t even start to express in words how grateful I am.”—Rochelle Goforth, patient.

If you’re suffering, don’t wait. Take the next step on your weight loss journey and call our Denver office today.

Dr. Joshua Long headshot

This page was medically reviewed by Dr. Joshua Long, MD, MBA, FACS, FASMBS. Dr. Long is a double-board-certified bariatric surgeon and bariatric medical director for Parker Adventist Hospital.
Full Bio: Dr. Joshua Long, MD, MBA, FACS, FASMBS
Page Updated: May 25th, 2023

Are You a Candidate for Weight Loss Surgery?

Take Our 60 Second Assessment.

Start Assessment

*Please note that individual results can vary and are not guaranteed.