Bariatric surgery can reward you in countless ways. But myths persist about the surgery and about obesity itself. Here, bariatric and metabolic nurse specialist Karen Schulz, CNS, shares facts you should know about weight-loss surgery.
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“The key to bariatric weight-loss surgery is to be informed,” says Schulz. “Work with your doctor to address any concerns and to find out if you’d be a good candidate for it.”
13 surprising facts about bariatric surgery
- Obesity is not just a weight problem. Obesity is a complex, metabolic disease. Your metabolism slows so that you remain severely overweight even when eating a modest number of calories. Talk about frustrating! Consulting with your doctor about the best plan of action for maintaining your weight is important.
- Surgery counteracts the metabolic changes. “Many patients are not aware that after bariatric surgery, you can feel full and satisfied after eating a small meal,” Schulz says.
- The risk of bariatric surgery is about the same as the risk for gallbladder surgery. You may be surprised to learn that the health risks of bariatric surgery are much lower than the health risks of obesity itself.
- Bariatric surgery can impact emotions that trigger you to eat. That’s why you get mental health support as well as nutritional support before embarking on this journey.
- Its health benefits go beyond weight loss. Bariatric surgery often improves high blood pressure, sleep apnea, joint pain, Type 2 diabetes, fertility and even depression.
- Surgery can cure newly-diagnosed type 2 diabetes. If you have Type 2 diabetes and have bariatric surgery, you may not need to continue insulin shots. One study reported that bariatric surgery causes long-term remission of Type 2 diabetes.
- In most states, government insurance covers the surgery. Many people don’t realize Medicare and Medicaid cover weight loss surgery. Check with your insurance or work with a financial advisor at your healthcare facility.
- You’re unlikely to get a big scar. The two most common bariatric procedures involve three to five incisions that are 1/2 to 1-inch long. Your healthcare team can discuss with you the risk for potential scaring and what you can expect, as well as how to reduce and care for scars after surgery.
- Recovery from surgery is surprisingly fast. You’ll most likely be back at a desk job in two to four weeks and at any job four weeks after bariatric surgery.
- For one to two months after surgery, eating is work. Eating slowly becomes pleasurable again as swelling recedes and you get used to smaller portions. “Learning how to eat after surgery takes practice and patience,” Schulz says. Your healthcare team will let you know what to expect and will be there for any questions or issues that arise.
- You’ll want to minimize liquids during meals. This allows room for solid foods and minimizes discomfort.
- Bariatric surgery is a journey, not a destination. Many people lose half of their excess weight six to 12 months after surgery.
- Success rates are approximately 85% five years after surgery. Bariatric surgery has helped millions of people maintain their weight loss and has changed so many lives. But because it’s been around since the 1970s, it’s not unusual to run into people who did not succeed in keeping weight off. Remember this is a personal journey – one that you will be on for the rest of your life.
Take the time to learn more and ask questions about bariatric surgery, but remember to try and live your healthiest life in the meantime.