Are you considering weight loss surgery?

Feeling like you are the only one with a weight problem? You’re not alone. The statistics about obesity are staggering! According to the CDC, there are 78.6 million obese adults in the U.S. Obesity can lead to over 40 different medical conditions according to The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), such as heart attack, stroke, Type 2 Diabetes and cancer. Additionally, obesity is emotionally draining. The CDC states that 43 percent of adults suffering from depression are obese. Obesity hits you hard in your wallet too! On average, an obese person spends $1,429 more on health care than someone within the recommended weight range. Much more money is spent on dieting! Americans spend more than $40 billion annually on weight loss programs and products. Yet only 20 percent of those trying to lose weight are successful.
That means that 80 percent try to lose weight and fail. One option to combat this obesity epidemic is aimed at the severely obese crowd – weight loss surgery (also known as Bariatric Surgery). The ASMBS studies the numbers of people having bariatric surgery annually, and it is increasing exponentially. In 2011, there were 158,000 surgeries. Just 3 years later, the number of surgeries jumped to193,000. There are three common bariatric surgeries performed – Adjustable Gastric Banding or “Lapband”, Sleeve Gastrectomy and Roux-en Y Gastric Bypass. The decision about surgery type is made between patient and surgeon.
The weight loss from bariatric surgery can be quite impressive. The ASMBS reports that there can be up to a 60 percent loss of excess body weight six months post-op and as much as 77 percent loss after 12 months. Additionally, 5 years later, patients maintain about 50 percent loss. This is good news for those who pursue this path. It isn’t for everyone. If you are one of those people who have been successful at losing weight but can’t lose those last 20 pounds, don’t bother applying for surgery. Also, you are automatically excluded from bariatric surgery if you are pregnant, have severe mental health issues, are addicted to drugs or alcohol or have a reversible medical reason for obesity.
There are criteria to meet in order to be considered a good bariatric surgical candidate. To get started, find out your Body Mass Index (BMI) – a comparison of height to weight. Don’t know your BMI? Go to the NIH website, it calculates BMI for you
To qualify for surgery, a person needs to have a BMI >40 with no medical conditions or BMI >35 with medical conditions. Also, a potential bariatric surgical patient needs to be educated about the surgery options/complications, have no contraindications, and have tried non-surgically to lose weight and failed.
Meeting the criteria is the start of a long journey toward a healthier weight. The next step is to work on behavior modification. A bariatric patient will not be scheduled for surgery if changes in food habits cannot be made. These behavior changes are not temporary. Permanent change is mandatory for a bariatric candidate. Knowing that change is difficult, 6 months or more are allotted for the bariatric patient to work on those behaviors.
To help in this process, bariatric surgical candidates meet with a Registered Dietitian to get a personalized plan. The RD is great resource for kicking off new eating habits. If you think you may want to try the bariatric surgical route, why not start working on the behavior changes now?
Below you will find some common steps all bariatric patients need to get in place well before surgery:
• Meals and snacks need to last 20-30 minutes.
• Chew each bite 25 times.
• Empty your house of junk food. Donate or throw away these foods. Don’t eat them to get rid of them.
• Start exercising 30 minutes/day.
• Drink 48- 56 ounces of water/day; having no more than 8 ounces an hour.
• Avoid carbonation, gulping & straws.
• Go caffeine free.
• Eat small balanced meals.
• No skipping meals.
• Get your hands out of food packages – use a cocktail size plate.
• As soon as you are hungry, eat.
• Stop eating as soon as you feel full.
How did you do? After changing behavior, some choose a non-surgical route permanently and just keep following this new healthy lifestyle. Others do make changes and are ready for surgery. If the changes were too much, don’t despair. You simply need more support and education, and aren’t ready. Spend more time with your dietitian and keep working. It all comes down to this, are you ready to change your life? You’ll only know which path to follow once you start taking those first steps.
Jennifer Giffune, R.D., L.D.N. is a freelance author, professional speaker and nutrition counselor. On the last Wednesday of each month, Jennifer can be heard on 89.5 WSKB radio on the “Wake up Wednesday Morning” Show. To make an appointment with Jennifer at Mercy Medical Group, call 786-1500.

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