Connect with patients just like you 24/7 in a Facebook bariatric support group. Online bariatric support groups can be used to receive support, celebrate physical and emotional accomplishments, provide anecdotal accounts of the “bariatric lifestyle” for preoperative patients, and comment on challenges with mental health and experiences of weight bias, according to a study published on ScienceDirect. And evidence suggests that the majority of people seeking bariatric surgery use online groups.
Introducing Bariatric Weight Loss Family, a Facebook Bariatric Support Group
Meet Gail Reeves and Cassandra Crawford, two weight loss surgery patients who founded a not-for-profit Facebook bariatric support group. Named Bariatric Weight Loss Family, BWLF has 32 admins and moderators and is approaching 15,000 members at the time of this writing. BWLF launched in 2016 and receive its 501c3 designation.
According to the Bariatric Weight Loss Family website: We often refer to the group simply as “Family” because we are more than just a weight loss group–we actively aim to be a holistic resource for support and well-being. Our paths, our journeys, are all encompassing–there is no part of our lives or days that don’t intertwine with being a weight loss surgery patient.
Gail had the gastric sleeve surgery in 2015 and Cassie was “sleeved” in 2016. Let’s learn about their weight loss surgery support group on Facebook, which they affectionally call Family.
Q&A with BWLF
How is an online Facebook bariatric support group different from a bariatric surgeon’s support group meeting?
Well, for a lot of us, the issue is time. We hardly have the time in a day to get our normal stuff accomplished, let alone attend an hour-long meeting that may or may not hold the information we’re seeking! Most surgeon’s support groups have a speaker who is only able to answer questions related to them. i.e. plastic surgery, nutrition, exercise. Facebook allows us to offer MANY different opinions, just by logging in. You immediately get feed back, questions answered, one-on-one attention and support any time of day or night, no matter the struggle.
What makes Bariatric Weight Loss Family different from another Facebook bariatric support group? What types of resources and programs do you offer?
Family, as we like to call it, is very special and unique. Many people shy away from online support groups because of all the cyber bullies out there. We don’t allow that in Family! We have very few rules in Family. No judgment of any kind; we believe members are allowed to be themselves and express themselves any way they wish, as long as it’s not harmful to someone else. No food police! Our members are grown and they’re capable of making their food choices without getting negative back lash because they’re “not doing it right.” No politics because that always causes a fight. In Family, we say “We’re not weight loss support, we’re life support.” We feel if we can help you handle your stresses, triggers, questions then you will be able to handle your food choices better. Lets face it, most of us binge because of stress and high emotions. Family offers a safe place to vent, cry, scream, laugh, and love.
We have several resources with our NYBC (New You Boot Camp) site and trainers on hand to answer questions. We’ve partnered with nutritionatlanta.com, run by Jennifer Hnat (R.D), offering online challenges to help learn about eating mindfully and how to pin point food triggers and how to deal with them in a positive way.
We are getting ready to launch our BWLFKIDS page this summer to help kids learn how to eat better, as well as provide workout and emotional support in a safe, bully-free environment.
Last but not least, our store and main page at BWLFAMILY.ORG where people can read our blogs, inspirational stories, recipes, and shop our non-profit store. All items are donated to Family and sold at a cheap price to help keep us going. Think online Goodwill.
In what other ways does Bariatric Weight Loss Family give back to the community?
Where do I start?!?!?! This is the heart of our charity! We run several projects a year and have monthly give-back to the community reminders. In 2017, we hosted our first annual BLUEJAYS AUCTION. This was started when a member went into preterm labor and the baby (that we fondly nicknamed BlueJay) lived for 45 mins before she passed. The auction allowed us to help cover the funeral costs for BlueJay. Every May, we host an auction in her honor and one child recipient in need of medical help or attention is who we raise funds for. 2018 BLUEJAYS AUCTION recipient is 2 year old Hunter Adams. Hunter has grand mal seizures. They’re extremely terrifying for him and his family. We are raising funds to help him receive a service animal to help predict his seizures, so his parents can get him to a safe location in time. Members donate unique items for people to bid on. Our goal for Hunter is $2,500.
Our Junie Project adopted 17 families and a total of 42 kids for Christmas this year. Every child got 2-4 gifts, a full stocking and a Family stocking for the parents. We originally set out to adopt 5 families, but we’re overachievers.
Every month, we run our Stinky Pete Project, named after my pup who recently passed from cancer. We ask members to donate old towels, blankets, pillows and sheets to their local animal hospital, in Family’s name, to help animals have some comfort when they’re hurting.
We also run our Sherr-a-bear project, named after our admin and Board of Director, Sherri Scarbrourgh. We ask our members to donate gently used stuffed animals to their local fire stations, to give to children in traumatic situations. We also offer protein, vitamins and calcium to those in need and lack funds or those affected by natural disasters.
Tell us about your motivation to start a not-for-profit that serves the weight loss community. Are you happy with the results?
Honestly, I didn’t start out planing on being a non-profit. I started out as just a Facebook support group. I tend to have a bleeding heart and I was struggling hearing my members talk about not having enough food to eat or warm clothes for their kids. So, I was sending them things via Amazon out of my own pocket. I quickly realized I couldn’t do it alone, nor afford to, so we applied for our non-profit status so members can help donate the funds and I can make sure the people in need receive what they need. We have a Board of Directors to help make those decisions and to verify all the information is legit on our application requests. Family has morphed into more than my wildest dreams could have imagined. It’s been a learning process for sure! I’m learning as I go and I’m beyond blessed to have the support of Cassie, Sherri, Kathy and my husband, Chris, all members of the board, to help guide me as we grow.
What have you learned and what’s next for Bariatric Weight Loss Family?
I’ve learned that whenever there is a call for help, someone will always respond! It amazes me daily the amount of time, effort, energy and money people will donate to Family. All of our amazing moderators, we call the Mod Squad, donate countless hours a day to ensure the safety and integrity of Family.
I’ve learned there is no right or wrong way to walk your journey. We are all unique and as such our journeys are unique. We ENCOURAGE and support that! We NEVER tell people how to live their lives because they deserve to live the life of their dreams, whatever that may look like for them.
What’s next? Who knows! LOL!! We adapt to whatever crisis is presented to us at the moment. Currently, I’m looking forward to our July 7th Peacocks Fly 5k/10k/half marathon virtual race. The launch of our first newsletter. The new layout of BWLFAMILY.ORG and our thrift store. Our BLUEJAY AUCTION in May is already receiving some amazing items to bid on. Our BWLFKIDS launch this summer. Our first member calendar, cookbook and our “Overcoming Myself” book of inspirational short stories featuring our members and their amazing journeys.
#OHANASTRONG: Ohana means Family and Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.
Applause for BWLF!
All I can say is WOW! Gail and Cassie, their Board and admins, do a remarkable job to support not only the weight loss community but also the community-at-large. And that is one of the reasons Family is a favorite Facebook bariatric support group. Recently Family won the first ever GOTY Award from the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America.
I hope you’ll join the conversations going on 24/7 at the Bariatric Weight Loss Family support group on Facebook. I guarantee it is a place where you can be yourself, warts and all, and be loved and accepted!
Living larger than ever,
My Bariatric Life
The Facebook bariatric support group study abstract reference at the beginning of this article is published on PubMed.