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December 5, 2022

Supporting Loved Ones in Weight Loss

ThedaCare Bariatric Nurse Offers Advice for Holiday Season and Beyond

The holidays can be a challenging time for anyone who is trying to eat healthy. For those on a weight-loss quest, the holidays can be especially challenging. That can offer family and friends a great opportunity to support their loved ones who are making lifestyle changes.

“In the United States, our holiday celebrations tend to be centered around food,” said Sandra Santiago, RN, a bariatric nurse working with the ThedaCare Bariatric Program in Neenah. “Birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas are mostly food-centered, and most of it is high in carbohydrates and sugar.”

One idea to help everyone be a healthier version of themselves is to put less focus on food during those occasions.

“Maybe plan a hike or bike ride or go ice skating, sledding or skiing as a family activity,” she said. “You can also attend or participate in a sporting event or play board or card games. The point is to make food less of the main attraction.”

Santiago said the support of family and friends is very important to those who are making lifestyle changes, which is important when a person has significant weight loss goals.

“Successful weight loss requires lifestyle changes, which includes developing healthy eating and exercise habits, and being mindful about what and how we eat,” she explained. “For example, eating more slowly so our stomach can signal our brain when we’re full; that takes about 20 minutes. It includes being aware of what our body is telling us as we eat and determining why we want to eat and if we are comfortably full, not over full.”

There are also habits to work through.

“Eating out of boredom, or when we are emotional, are habits that should be identified and addressed by other means,” she said. “When a person has the urge to eat during those times, perhaps they could do something else, such as using deep breathing exercises, taking a few minutes to read or go for a walk, or use other distraction techniques to let the feeling pass. It’s important that we are mindful or aware of why we want to eat or whether we are truly hungry.”

Studies show that many weight-loss patients have frequently tried numerous diets throughout the years, only to regain their weight – and sometimes even more weight – after discontinuing the diet.

Bariatric surgery is a tool to aid in weight loss and help people become healthier versions of themselves. The ThedaCare Bariatric Center offers two types of bariatric surgery – the Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass and Gastric Sleeve Resection as well as gastric surgery revisions, if needed.

“Some people who have a goal to lose a few pounds may be able to manage their weight by changing their eating and exercise habits,” Santiago explained. “For those who have significant weight loss goals, bariatric surgery, and the support that comes with such surgery, can be a very beneficial tool.”

She offered these suggestions for how family and friends can help loved ones who want to maintain healthier eating habits:

  • Model good eating habits by serving healthy snacks and meals.
  • Invite them to join you in a physical activity such as a walk or bike ride.
  • Offer to watch their children so they can go the gym, engage in some physical activity or have some “me” time.
  • Cook with them to learn more about healthy foods and healthy ways of cooking/eating.
  • Compliment their progress.
  • Encourage them in their lifestyle changes; tell them you are proud of their determination and self-discipline.

“Again, the support of family and friends is very important to anyone making lifestyle changes,” said Santiago. “Be a cheerleader and a proponent of their actions; that goes a long way toward encouraging them to be successful in their efforts. In the end, supporting them may help you live a healthier lifestyle, too.”

For more information about ThedaCare weight-loss programs and surgery options, visit or call 920.720.7211.

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.

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