Is Stomach Banding Surgery the Right Thing for Me?
Weight loss operations are treatments of last resort, meaning that they are for people who have tried unsuccessfully to lose weight through conventional methods. If you haven’t tried yet a diet and exercise program that was supervised by a health practioner, you may want to explore this option before taking the step of going into surgery.
If you have tried diets and exercise, you may want to review what happened and why these approaches failed you in the past.
Steps you will take when considering bariatric surgery
If you consider weight-loss surgery, your doctor will get you an appointment with a dietitian. The dietitian will ask you a few questions that look like this:
- When did you become obese:
a. In childhood
b. When you hit puberty
c. As an adult
- If you have not always been obese, was there an event that led to your weight gain:
a. A pregnancy
b. A divorce
c. An injury or medical condition
d. Job loss
e. Death of a parent
- When was the first time you went or were put on a diet?
- Have you tried to lose weight using diet and exercise?
a. Include diets you have tried as well as weight-loss attempts that were medically supervised.
b. Did you lose weight?
c. How long were you able to maintain that loss?
- Have you used medication in order to help you lose weight? Which ones?
In the months prior to preparation for the surgery, you will want to investigate why the diets you have tried and the exercises programs have failed because issues like emotional eating or poor habits can interfere with your best progress after surgery if they are not addressed before the operation.
How motivated are you to lose weight?
You may want to make a list of the factors that motivate you to lose weight to the point that you are considering surgery.
- Do you want to look better?
- Do you want to wear different kinds of clothes?
- Do you want a cure for your health issues related to obesity?
- Do you want more freedom to travel?
- Do you want to have more energy for your relationships, your children, or your job?
Will you be able to comply with the requirements after surgery?
One of the most common misconceptions about weight-loss surgery is that for the person who goes through this type of surgery is the easy way out and that he/she doesn’t have to do anything.
Actually, you will have plenty to do. Yes, the weight may come off, but in order for you to see the best results you will have to commit to a diet, exercise, and supplementation program, as well as medical follow-ups for the rest of your life. It is a lot of work and that is why you cannot take lightly the decision to have bariatric surgery.
The truth is that weight loss surgery is not a replacement for a healthy lifestyle. If you do not modify the habits or situations that brought you to this stage of obesity, the surgery will not work. Thus, a question you need to ask yourself is: is weight loss surgery right for me?
Do you have the support of your family?
The support of your family is essential. In fact, the people who have the most support are the ones who are most likely to be successful. Keep in mind that the types of foods you will eat and the portions will be very different after surgery and your family may be concerned you will not “survive” with the amount of food you are eating.
This could mean that for your family members to be supportive, they may need to go through some education about your new ways; otherwise they may be an adverse influence on the amount and the types of foods you have to eat. In addition, when you go out to eat, your meals will be different which may be a little disorienting for your family members and friends.
So, what if you meet resistance? You may have to make the case to your family. Talk to them about how your obesity affects your life, socially, emotionally, and medically. One thing you can do is to take your husband or wife with you to the support group meetings. That way, he/she can see the changes you will go through after the surgery and will be easier for them to give you their unconditional support.
Are your expectations realistic?
Although losing a substantial amount of excess weight can mean a significant improvement in your quality of life, before you make the final decision you need to be aware of what you will be dealing with after surgery.
- It will not be easy. It is very tempting to think of the surgery as a magical cure. But, in fact, the success here requires a tremendous amount of effort, education, and determination on your part. The road ahead won’t be easy. In fact, some days will be hard to deal with.
- Results won’t be immediate. You will wake up in the recovery room looking exactly the same, and you will for a while. It probably will take about a year and half for you to end up at your final weight with a bypass, and longer with the band.
- Your relationships may change. People around you may feel less secure in the relationship. The way you look, the way you eat, the way you wear your new clothes may present a challenge for them.
- Surgery won’t change your relationship to food; you have to change your relationship to food. Surgery will give you a number of tools, a smaller stomach and reduced hunger. But if you don’t resolve an unhealthy relationship to food before surgery, it can cause you to fall into a terrible depression when the primary emotional crutch – food – is removed from you after surgery. In order to overcome the depression and look at food as fuel, you may need to get some professional help.
- Even after all is said and done, you may not look like a supermodel. You are going to look and feel great compared to what you were used to feel. But it is important you realize that, even at the end of your journey, you still may be carrying some excess weight. Remember that this surgery helps you lose 65 to 75 percent excess weight, not 100 percent. You also may be left with lose skin.
If you and your doctor decide you are a good candidate for weight loss surgery, it is important you keep in mind that this type of surgery will not change your life. But if you want to change your life, weight loss surgery can help you do it.
Take the time to think carefully about it. Talk to your family and your friends and go to a support group. If after soul-searching you feel that you are ready for this surgery, make sure you find a good doctor.
To your health!
Emilia Klapp, R.D., B.S.