Bariatric support group helps patient stay on track with a healthy weight

MaryannMaryann Webb was once “fired” from a support group for not losing enough weight.

Never mind that she’d shed 100 pounds from her starting weight of 357 pounds after having gastric bypass surgery. It wasn’t fast enough or significant enough to meet the expectations of the other members of her group. So she quit.

She and a friend left another support group so depressed they went out and got a hot fudge sundae.

Then in January 2017 she found the support group at Tucson Medical Center for those who had weight-loss surgery.

The 74-year-old retired personnel trainer never misses one.

“It’s like getting a booster shot every month,” she said. She likes the positivity of the group and the non-judgmental environment.

Webb had a long struggle with weight. Part of it is genetics – a whole passel of her family is just a little shorter and a little heavier than average. And she comes from a long line of family members who comfort and nurture one another with food. If you went to grandma’s for Saturday supper, you knew you were going home with a dozen of her sugar cookies.

When she moved from the family farm and the physical demands associated with it, and took a desk job, she found herself gaining weight pretty quickly.

“I’d tried them all. The cabbage soup diet. The hormone shots. This was a long time ago, but I even tried that approach where they shock you when they show you a photo of food to try to make you repulsed by it. Nothing worked.”

It got worse when she was hit with a triple whammy: A divorce, a change in jobs and a newly empty nest after her daughter went away to college.

By the time she had surgery – this was back in 1999 – she was 55 and having trouble with her kidney function and she had diabetes. She took off 100 pounds pretty quickly and then years later lost more when she went through an unrelated medical condition.

The weight loss support group is offered monthly and provides an opportunity for patients who have had weight-loss surgery to connect with others who are in different stages of their weight-loss journey. Our mission is to provide a safe, supportive environment for patients to build relationships and get education focused on health and well-being for their lifelong journey.

Last year, she underwent surgery to fix a constriction and a hernia on the original bypass. When her surgeon asked her what she wanted from the surgery, she said she just wanted to eat lettuce again.

Unlike the larger incision from the first surgery, technology allowed a laparoscopic procedure this time around, with much less pain and a faster recovery. She stuck to her surgeon’s diet suggestions like gospel, sure it would help her heal faster. And sure enough, she’s eating lettuce again.

She’s also walking three days a week, doing aerobics three days a week and organizing monthly social events with a group of retired friends (including a tour of Tucson’s ethnic restaurants with strict orders to try something they’d never had before.)

“I feel better than I have in years,” Webb said. “It isn’t like the surgeon gets to wave a magic scalpel and suddenly the weight comes off like magic. It’s a tool. But it’s a tool that makes it easier. Plus, now I know myself better. I understand what I have to do to take care of myself. I know I never want to be that sick again. And I’ve learned over the years that it’s OK to be proud of yourself a little bit.”

And that’s also why her self-care toolbox includes the monthly support group held on the TMC campus for those who have had bariatric surgery at TMC.

Webb said she appreciates sharing her tips with others and learning from experiences others share – not to mention it’s often a tasty experience to boot.

A recent class had a series of taste tests for protein bars (she’s rather partial to Power Crunch salted caramel.) In another class, members shared their recipes for protein shakes and made samples. The class learned about vitamins and supplements in another.

“I can actually say that I’ve been to a lot of support groups over the years,” Webb said. “And this is really a support group.”

For more information about weight loss surgery at TMC attend a FREE weight loss surgery seminar.

Comments

  1. “Maryann Webb was once “fired” from a support group for not losing enough weight”. Read that and couldn’t quite believe it. How insensitive. I’ve learned from my surgery – which has been without pain or complications SO FAR! – that just like T-shirts, one size and one experience doesn’t fit all.

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