In this section:
Why Consider Bariatric Surgery?
Why do people elect to have bariatric surgery instead of trying one more diet and exercise program?
Morbid obesity is a complex problem that involves more than just numbers on a scale. In fact, the external symptoms of morbid obesity and society's focus on them often distract from many of the more dangerous problems that occur inside your body as a result of obesity. Issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, etcetera are the "silent" symptoms of obesity. Weight loss can help you avoid many of these health dangers and help you add many active, happy years to your life.
In addition to easing the medical symptoms that accompany morbid obesity, weight loss can give you:
- Increased energy
- Improved self esteem
- Reduced need for medications
- Normal clothes shopping
- Increased flexibility
- New endurance for everyday activities
Once you realize all the potential complications you face when you are morbidly obese, you are faced with a very important choice: Lose weight through traditional diet and exercise, or take the leap into weight loss surgery.
The unfortunate reality is that long-term weight loss through diet and exercise is not a practical or achievable solution for you if you are obese, no matter how dedicated you are to a restrictive diet and aggressive exercise plan. In the end, a traditional diet plan could hurt your health and self esteem even more and leave you feeling like a failure when the deck was actually stacked against you from the word, "Go."
Most dieters who are considered morbidly obese and do manage to lose weight with conventional diet and weight loss methods gain the weight back within five years. This is not true of those who undergo bariatric surgery. In 1998 The American Society for Bariatric Surgery found that up to 60% of bariatric surgery patients were able to maintain their weight loss for more than five years.
If you decide to take the step toward bariatric surgery, remember that it requires as much of a commitment from you as weight loss through diet and exercise would. As part of your commitment, you must be willing to eat substantially smaller portions, follow up with your surgeon on a regular basis, and accept the impact that this may have on your relationships.
The decision to have bariatric surgery is not one to be taken lightly, but for most of those who are considering it there really is no other choice. Of course, deciding to have the surgery and being ready for it are two very different things. So your next step is to find out if you are a ready for bariatric surgery.
Are You Ready for Bariatric Surgery?
While the weight loss results from bariatric surgery are both dramatic and long-lasting, they can only be achieved if you are prepared for and willing to accept the changes that bariatric surgery brings.
Any time you decide to have surgery, it is a big deal. Having your body altered during an operation is never a casual matter, but when you consider bariatric surgery the commitment is even more intense. The ramifications of deciding to have bariatric surgery don’t just affect you during the surgery and recovery period, but instead they kick off a string of changes that affect the rest of your life.
Bariatric surgery forever changes the way that you can eat. After surgery, individual meals will not be larger than one cup and sometimes, even smaller than that. Also, because you are severely restricted in the amount of food you can eat, you must make very healthy food choices every time you eat. In order to stay healthy you must eat with the goal of meeting your body’s nutritional needs within a limited meal size.
In addition to the restrictive eating, some surgeries will require you to commit to taking certain supplements daily. This is your safeguard against encountering a nutritional deficiency because of your new, reduced stomach size.
Many people who decide to have bariatric surgery have a relationship with food that involves more than just a physical need for it. Many find that it is difficult to adjust to the fact that food cannot be used as an emotional crutch after surgery. When they encounter everyday difficulties like stress at work, relationship problems, or other stresses, they need to find an alternative method of dealing with the stress. In addition, a whole new crop of emotional and stress issues can arise as you relearn how to eat, and how to relate to your friends and family after the surgery.
That is why it is so important to set up a reliable support system before you have the surgery. If you experience any of these struggles, you need to know that you are not alone. Former bariatric surgery patients have gone through the same psychological and emotional issues you might face and their methods of dealing with it and stories of experiencing it can be vital to helping you get through your own.
Once you have decided that you are prepared to meet the challenges of lifestyle and behavioral change in order to lose weight with bariatric surgery, your next step is to see if you qualify for weight loss surgery.
Criteria for Bariatric Surgery
Making sure you have the best hope of success with bariatric surgery means meeting a few qualification criteria.
Bariatric surgery is not for the casual dieter and there are several requirements that you will need to meet in order to be considered. While this may seem intimidating, the criteria is actually a good thing because it creates a positive environment for surgery and helps ensure that the candidates who are most likely to benefit from weight loss surgery are granted the opportunity.
So how does that affect you? Well, Dr. Ayoola and our office staff will work with you to determine whether or not you are a good candidate. That will help you feel comfortable about the safety and likelihood of success for the upcoming procedure.
Considerations for Bariatric Surgery
There are some very basic guidelines that can determine whether or not you are a good candidate for bariatric surgery. These include:
- Your age. Patients who are between 18 and 65 years old are the best candidates—although special permission can be granted for those who fall outside the age range.
- Your Body Mass Index (BMI). Having a BMI somewhere between 35 and 39.9 AND medical complications caused by obesity OR a BMI of 40 or more indicates a suitable candidate. Check your BMI. A BMI of less than 35 does not automatically exclude you from consideration. Dr. Ayoola makes this determination on a case-by-case basis.
- Your smoking preference. Nonsmokers and those who do not drink alcohol excessively or take illicit drugs are generally good candidates.
- Your dieting history. Many insurance companies consider a documented history of failed attempts at structured weight loss programs as a necessary criterion.
- Your commitment. Those patients who are ready to commit to permanent changes in lifestyle and are willing to regularly follow up with their doctor for a long period of time after surgery will have better long-term success.
Reasons You May be Turned Down for Surgery
Unfortunately, not every person who desires weight loss surgery is a good candidate. Some of the factors that could result in your getting turned down for surgery include:
- If you are over the age of 65—although exceptions can be made.
- If you have a BMI of less than 35, you are generally not be considered.
- If you drink excessive amounts of alcohol or take illicit drugs.
- If you already have medical conditions that create a high risk situation for surgery.
- If you suffer from a severe mental illness that is not controlled by medication.
- If you are being actively treated for cancer (if your cancer is in remission you could be considered suitable).
- If you plan to become pregnant within the next 12 months.
If you think you fall into the category of a good candidate, then it's time to do some research into the types of bariatric surgeries and the advantages and disadvantages of each before you decide whether or not to have it.