What was your motivation to pursue weight loss surgery? Did a physician mention it to you? If not, was your PCP supportive? If you spoke to 10 different prospective bariatric patients who walk into our office, they will all have broadly similar goals – losing weight, improving their lifestyle, getting healthier, living longer and having better social and work opportunities. But ask them how they arrived at the decision to have bariatric surgery and you may get some very different answers.
Our society has been conditioned to believe that weight gain and weight loss is a matter of willpower and the simple equation of calories-in versus calories-out. Of course, to some degree that is correct, but for people suffering from obesity, the equation is much more complex. Recognizing this, the medical community has labeled obesity as a disease, and we are finally starting to treat it as such.
However, most people have that single moment – hitting rock bottom, if you will – that makes them realize that they need a more permanent and curative option for their excess weight. Just as we all have different interests and priorities, many of us have different catalysts that take us to the next step. Some of the most common reasons for considering bariatric surgery include:
- The side effects of medications or having to drag around a CPAP machine
- Not being able to play with a child or grandchild
- A serious or even devastating medical diagnosis
- Seeing a friend or loved one lose weight and change their lives from bariatric procedure of their own
- Not being able to pursue the activities that one wants
- Not be able to fit in the seat on the plane, at a carnival or elsewhere
- Not be able to tie one’s shoes
- And much, much more
The bottom line is that obesity affects almost every part of our health and lifestyle and we miss out on many of the opportunities that were once afforded to us at a lower weight – whether actual missed opportunities as in the cases of fitting on a ride or on a plane, or perceived “missing out,” like forgoing pool parties, beach get-togethers, or even being photographed because of how we feel about ourselves. And while the safety and efficacy of bariatric surgery has improved tremendously over the years, surgery is still a scary thing for most people and is consequently considered a last resort.
The Support Hurdle
So, you decided that bariatric surgery may be the right option for you, but it is a scary step forward. Every bariatric patient will tell you that having a support system around you is key to long-term success. But what will your family say? What will your primary care physician say? These are the considerations we have to make.
The bottom line is that your family and your primary care physicians may not be fully supportive of your decision to have bariatric surgery. This is not uncommon and is usually rooted in one or more causes. As for the family, they may believe that it is the easy way out, they may be intimidated that you will leave them behind once you have lost the weight or they may simply have no idea what bariatric surgery involves an maybe scared on your behalf. This is a great time to sit down and have a very frank and honest conversation about your health and educate them on why you believe that bariatric surgery is the right step forward for you. You can even invite them to join you in watching the online seminar that we have prepared for our new patients.
As for your primary care physician, their lack of support may be directly tied to a lack of knowledge or a misunderstanding about bariatric surgery. Remember, that most physicians do not receive significant training on nutrition, obesity and surgery for obesity related diseases during their medical training. It is up to them, over the course of their professional careers, to learn more about these options. We always suggest mentioning this to one of our physicians who will put a significant emphasis on educating primary care physicians as an added layer of support for all of our patients.
The bottom line is that you will have different reasons for considering bariatric surgery, all of which are legitimate and all of which should be taken seriously. Most importantly, however, the decision to have bariatric surgery must be yours and yours alone. You must be comfortable with the benefits and risks of surgery as they relate to you, as well as the responsibilities you will have after surgery to achieve your full potential. In the meantime, our office staff will help you recruit the friends, family and medical team around you to ensure that you have a complete and effective support system helping you through the ups and downs after surgery.