Choosing to have weight loss surgery is a life changing experience. For many bariatric patients, weight has been a lifelong struggle. Excess weight and a strained relationship with food and their body may be something they have been dealing with since early childhood. Unwanted weight is by no means uncommon, with survey data showing that about 50% of adults in the US reporting they have tried to lose weight in the past year. But if fad diets and the current diet culture worked, wouldn’t we all be thinner? The fact is that weight loss is hard. It is even harder, in fact, the higher your BMI is. The body gets comfortable with stored fat and is reluctant to lose it. When you do work tirelessly to decrease your calorie intake and increase your calorie burning, your body often works against you, desperately trying to maintain its fat stores.
From research, we know that bariatric and metabolic surgery is the most effective means for obese people to lose weight and sustain their weight loss over time. However, we often hear the negatives of weight loss surgery instead of the positives. As specialists in the bariatric field, we are here to assure you that we have seen weight loss surgery work, and work well, for many patients over many years. While results will vary and lifestyle changes play a vital role, the statistics show that bariatric surgery is a safe, and effective option for individuals with BMIs over 35. The benefits of bariatric surgery are seemingly countless, but we have listed a few below to get you thinking.
You may have been told by your primary care provider, or even a cardiologist, that “losing weight would really help you.” There are several medical conditions which are often referred to as “comorbid,” meaning a condition that accompanies another (in this case, obesity), or “weight related,” meaning they are made more severe by excess weight. Some common weight related medical conditions include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and sleep apnea. Beyond co-occurring medical conditions, obesity also increases the risk of cancer and stroke.
With bariatric and metabolic surgery, patients often see near immediate changes in their existing medical conditions. With procedures like the gastric bypass and duodenal switch, a metabolic feedback change leads to major changes for patients with Type 2 Diabetes, even before significant weight has been lost. Weight loss surgery patients frequently find they are soon taking fewer medications for their chronic conditions, many of which they have been battling for years, or can greatly decrease their dose under the supervision and instruction of their physician.
Carrying excess weight is hard on the body, meaning joints like the hips, knees, and back often experience greater wear and more pain in obese and overweight individuals. The force on your knees is roughly one and a half times your body weight when walking on a level surface, like your home or office hallway. Say you are 300 lbs, each step is 450 pounds of pressure. Now, add extra pressure for an inclined surface like the stairs. This increased the pressure on your knee to twice or even three times your weight, now your knees are feeling 600 to 900 lbs of pressure. Drop something and need to squat to pick it up? This pushes the pressure to four or even five times your body weight when you squat. That could be 1,500 lbs of pressure.
If these are just normal, daily activities, think about the added pressure of exercises like running, jumping, or lifting weights. While your body is likely very strong from carrying excess weight, it is also being constantly worn down. Obesity exacerbates this by contributing to inflammation in the body. Bariatric surgery can help patients achieve excess body weight loss of 50-80%, depending on the procedure and varying by patient. Removing excess weight removes excess pressure, alleviating unnecessary and painful pressure on your weight bearing joints.
Not only does painful joint pressure limit an individual’s activities, carrying excess weight also imposes other limits. Imagine wearing a weighted vest or bodysuit and trying to enjoy a jog in the park or manage to run and play with your kids. It is going to be more tiring and taxing on your cardiovascular system and you’ll likely feel more exhausted than you otherwise would. This is no different for someone who carries excess body weight. Your heart and lungs are working overtime, and so are other bodily systems.
Losing the weight through bariatric surgery allows you to more quickly incorporate exercise and healthy habits into your routine by helping you lose weight at a faster pace safely and under the supervision of a trained bariatric physician. As you shed the pounds, you can more easily increase your stamina and ability to exercise which further contributes to your improving overall health. You no longer feel like you have to miss out on chasing your kids on the field after the big game or get in on the fun at the park.
For some, weight and size mean limits on where you can go and what you are allowed to do. Maybe that means not being able to ride the rollercoaster at the amusement park, or maybe it means not stepping up for a big promotion because it would require you to become a frequent flyer. Size could also limit where you can shop for clothing or sit comfortably. No one should have to feel, or be, limited by their size, but the reality is that obesity presents challenges everywhere, many of which people of average size may never realize.
Weight loss procedures allow you to realize your ideal weight and can get you one step closer to living your ideal life. If you have a passion for travel, fashion, nature or fitness, bariatric surgery could be the perfect option to get you where you want to go with confidence.
In the US, we place more value and attention on unhealthy diet culture than we do actual nutrition knowledge. Part of the bariatric surgery process is learning how to better nourish your body. When people around you see your success and health, you’ll often find they want to know more about it.
Obesity and many chronic weight related conditions tend to occur in families and meals are often a family occasion. Prioritizing your health and making the choice to change your life for the better will help others see the value in putting health at the top of the list. As you change your diet and lifestyle, those in your home are also likely to start learning more about food and benefit from you introducing healthier options and more appropriate portions. Modeling positive eating behaviors and healthy habits for your children and other loved ones can make a lifelong impact. Think back to your childhood relationship with food and how what you observed changed your feelings and habits. Harmful ideas about our bodies are often planted early in life and we carry those with us into adulthood.
As you can see, there are many benefits, both for your physical and emotional health, of weight loss surgery. However, every patient’s story is unique. We would love to hear your story and even share your journey with other patients going through the process or who are considering bariatric surgery. If you are a patient of MASJax, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us about sharing your experience with others.