Obesity is extremely prevalent in the U.S.—according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 40% of people struggle with this issue. It not only affects your self-esteem and the way you feel, it also raises your risk of developing serious chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. For those who undergo yo-yo dieting in which they face a cycle of weight loss and gain, the end goal can feel particularly unlikely, and that’s one of the reasons why bariatric surgery has become a popular tool to help you lose weight and keep it off. It’s not a shortcut to a healthier lifestyle, but is instead something that can provide a significant amount of help. You’ll need to follow post-operative instructions and change the way you eat as well as your level of physical activity to be successful in the long term.
Ultimately, bariatric surgery can create significant long-lasting changes that affect not only your brain but the rest of your body.
What is bariatric surgery?
Bariatric surgery is performed on obese patients who haven’t had success in losing weight and keeping it off. This type of surgery works by decreasing hunger caused by the sleeve removal which eliminated most of the hunger hormone ghrelin. This surgery can also restrict the amount of food your stomach can hold and therefore reduce the amount of nutrients absorbed.
This type of surgery is never the first course of action to lose weight—in fact, it’s only appropriate when diet and exercise have failed over extended periods of time. Each type of surgery has specific requirements that are usually determined by your body mass index (BMI), which is a weight-to-height ratio that acts as an indicator of whether a person is obese or underweight. Qualifications for bariatric surgery usually require a BMI equal to or greater than 40 or being more than 100 pounds overweight, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. In some cases, surgery can be recommended if an individual has a BMI equal to or greater than 35 with the presence of one or more obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
Who is a good candidate for bariatric surgery?
You might be a good candidate for bariatric surgery under the following circumstances:
- You’ve tried and failed to lose weight and keep it off over an extended period.
- You have realistic views about the surgery, what it can accomplish and what will be required of you.
- You’re committed to completing any suggested counseling and following the diet and exercise plan your healthcare team devises for you.
- You meet the BMI requirements and any other prerequisites for the type of surgery you’re considering.
What types of bariatric surgery are available?
There are several types of bariatric surgery available, each of which has its own pros and cons. Many are performed using a laparoscope—a small instrument with a tiny camera attached to its tip that allows the surgeon to avoid making large incisions by providing a better view inside the abdomen. The smaller incisions help make recovery a quicker process.
If you and your doctor determine that a weight loss procedure is appropriate, your doctor can recommend one of the following:
- Gastric sleeve: In this surgery, most of your stomach is removed from your body, resulting in smaller portion sizes and decreased hunger.
- Gastric bypass: This type of bariatric surgery creates a small pouch which bypasses the majority of your stomach and your intestines are rerouted to carry food away from the pouch.
- Duodenal switch: This procedure combines qualities of the gastric bypass and gastric sleeve operations. It’s a drastic surgery compared to other types but offers the chance to lose a significant amount of weight as well as greater resolution of many comorbidities.
- Obalon intragastric balloon: This procedure uses space-occupying balloons in your stomach to decrease hunger and caloric intake.
How can you prepare yourself before surgery?
Bariatric surgery is life-changing, and you’ll need to understand the changes it will create prior to your procedure. The better you understand what’s required of you after surgery, the greater your chance of long-term success.
First, you’ll need to commit to changing your diet for the better as well as maintaining an exercise program. These habits will help ensure that you lose weight and keep it off in a healthy way. You’ll also need to take supplements after surgery as directed by your doctor, as bariatric surgery can cause your body to absorb fewer nutrients.
It’s also important to prepare yourself psychologically. Although you’ll experience many positive psychological changes, it helps to have some coping strategies for dealing with the effects that your major weight loss could have on your relationships with others. For instance, if you previously overate or reached for fatty foods as a reaction to stress, you’ll need to find healthier coping strategies.
Meeting with people who have already had bariatric surgery can help you understand the benefits and challenges, as well as some reactions you might expect. For example, although people will likely be excited for you after you lose weight, weight loss can sometimes change relationships. If you used to go out with friends every day after work to eat fatty foods and drink alcohol, these habits—and the relationships that go along with them—may change. In terms of romantic relationships, some partners are supportive while others may be jealous. Being prepared for these kinds of changes and learning some coping strategies can help you handle different reactions and continue doing what’s necessary to ensure your success.
What physical benefits are associated with bariatric surgery?
The combination of bariatric surgery and your own efforts after your procedure has the power to transform your health. Losing weight in a healthy way and keeping it off is about much more than fitting into a favorite pair of pants or looking better—although these are definite pluses as well—as it can greatly improve your quality of life and longevity.
Bariatric surgery can provide the following benefits:
- Long-term weight loss success: Research shows that more than 90 percent of severely obese patients who undergo bariatric surgery can maintain at least half of their excess weight loss after surgery. This represents a significant amount of weight that patients couldn’t lose on their own. Previously, these patients were unable to lose enough weight and/or keep it off in the long term.
- Improved health: Losing significant amounts of weight and keeping it off over time can decrease your risk of many obesity-related health conditions. If you already have any of these illnesses, significant weight loss can vastly improve them—and, in some cases, even reverse them. This could provide the opportunity to reduce the amount of medication you take or eliminate your need for it altogether. Chronic health conditions related to obesity include type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gallbladder disease and sleep apnea, all of which can severely impact your life, compromise your longevity and result in greatly increased medical expenses throughout the years.
- Increased energy: Carrying extra weight can lower your energy level and make it more difficult to exercise and be active. After bariatric surgery, many patients find that they have more energy and find it physically and mentally easier to get the exercise they need to stay healthy.
What psychological benefits are associated with bariatric surgery?
When you think about bariatric surgery, physical changes probably come to mind. Your body will certainly benefit from these positive changes, but you’re also likely to reap psychological benefits. For instance, years of obesity can lead to the habit of feeling “less than” and wanting to hide when family and friends take photos or engage in a physical activity, and many obese patients develop depression and have less social interaction than they might otherwise.
Both anecdotal evidence and research back up the significant psychological benefits that can be enjoyed after weight loss surgery. In one study, researchers questioned a group of patients who underwent bariatric surgery a year or more after their procedures. They found that positive gains were made in appreciation of life, sense of personal strength and improvement in relating to others.
Patients who have undergone bariatric surgery have also shown improvement in their overall mood and psychological health. They’ve reported having less depression, anxiety and body dissatisfaction, along with an increase in energy.
A study in the Journal of Obesity also found a trend suggesting psychological improvements after bariatric surgery. More specifically, significant weight loss leads to improvement in patients’ body image, self-esteem and self-concept. You’re also likely to benefit from the knowledge that you’ve taken control of your life to make significant, positive changes.
To learn more about bariatric surgery’s brain-to-body benefits, contact BMI of Texas today. We have the experience and expertise needed to determine whether bariatric surgery is right for you and which type is most appropriate. We realize that although bariatric surgery is an important step, you’ll still need plenty of support to achieve your long-term goals. Our team, including a nutritionist, will help you develop the right habits to keep the weight off and live a happier, healthier life.