Choosing Weight Loss Surgery
Your alarm goes off and you hit the snooze button. You’re too tired. But you need to get up and go. You lift yourself out of bed after the third alarm. If you don’t get going you’re going to be late for work.
You’re making progress…you’re showered and dressed. All you need now is to bend down and tie your shoes. You take a big breath and down you go. You’ve got to work fast – you can only hold your breath for so long. You take another deep breath, one down and one to go. You’re starting to sweat. You think: “I’ve got to lose weight.”
You’ve been thinking about weight loss surgery. You have a couple of friends at work that did it. It seems like they’re doing okay. You’ve read about it on the Internet, some good information, some scary. How do you decide? Years of dieting and exercise hasn’t worked for you longer-term. It’s been a frustrating few years.
The Tough Choices
The stigma associated with excess weight and obesity is undeniable. There is still a strong sense in many of those around us that being overweight is simply an issue of not having the will to lose weight or simply being lazy. Of course, we know that not to be the case and obesity is indeed a disease. At a certain point, bariatric surgery seems like the only option. But here again, We run into a stigma – many think, very openly, that surgery is “the easy way out.” From celebrities being mocked for having bariatric surgery to friends and family who commented on others who have had a procedure, we are often scared to even consider it ourselves. This is a reason why only a small fraction of patients who would benefit from weight loss surgery actually get it.
How Do You Decide?
The decision to have weight loss surgery is a very personal one. It’s a decision that you shouldn’t rush through or take lightly. Bariatric surgery has been proven to help many patients achieve a healthier life when diet and exercise alone have failed. Ultimately, the question that you must ask yourself, with the assistance of your medical team is “What are the risks of surgery when compared to the risks of living with obesity?” The answer may be clear in your mind or may take you months or even years to come to.
However, before making that decision, remember that weight loss surgery is not a quick fix. We encourage you to learn as much as you can about weight loss surgery by:
- Getting informed. Try to learn as much about the different procedures as you can. What are the advantages and risks of each procedure? Just because your neighbor had a particular procedure and is doing well, doesn’t mean that it’s the best procedure for you. Attend a seminar or go to a support group meeting.
- Finding out if you’re a candidate for weight loss surgery. Do you know what your BMI is? Do you have any of the comorbid conditions associated with obesity (diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, to name a few)? If you haven’t had a recent physical from your primary care physician, now may be the time to get one.
- Figuring out how to pay for surgery. Does your health insurance provider include weight loss surgery in their list of covered benefits? If you don’t have insurance do you know what your cash outlay is going to be? This is information you need to find out to determine how you’re going to proceed.
- Learning more about post-op life. You will have a new diet and exercise regimen that you will have to follow to help ensure success. And fighting obesity is life-long. Once you’ve lost the weight you will have to work hard to maintain that weight loss.
Bariatric surgery is not the easy way out. Surgery is a tool and you will be required to do your part. You will have to make lifestyle changes including a modified diet and exercise program. Your mental preparedness will be as important as any physical challenge you will encounter. Not knowing your responsibilities will almost surely affect the success of your surgery and your weight loss.
Keep a few questions in mind as you make your decisions:
- What do you expect if you proceed with surgery? What can you expect if you do nothing?
- Are you willing to change your life through diet and exercise over the long term? Are you willing to commit to support groups every month?
- Can you develop a support system comprised of family and friends that will be there with you during the ups and downs that you will invariably experience?
These are all questions to ask yourself and then ask your primary care doctor and any bariatric surgeons with whom you have a consultation. In the end, bariatric surgery is a way to get healthier with a bonus side-effect of weight loss.