The Top Ten Reasons why Weight Loss Surgery is NOT “the easy way out”
By Glenn Goldberg (reprinted by permission of the author)
10. It's very expensive. Many health insurance companies don't pay for the surgery, and even when they do, co-payments and other costs add up quickly. Also, it can become very costly to constantly replenish wardrobes as the weight comes off.
9. Recovery can be very painful. Besides the pain from the surgery wound, patients may experience nausea or severe gastric distress. Patients with sleep apnea may become sleep-deprived, with all of the associated adverse affects, when they must discontinue use of their CPAP machines to avoid disturbing the staples creating their tiny new stomach pouch.
8. Recuperation can take a long time. Patients may be “out of commission” and absent from work for a prolonged period of recovery time. In some cases, patients may not be able to return to work or normal pursuits for up to 10 – 12 weeks.
7. It's hard work and a major time commitment. For optimal results, patients should engage in aerobic exercise for up to an hour daily. For bodies unaccustomed to vigorous exercise, this can be very hard. It's also a real challenge for WLS patients to learn all they must about nutrition so they can assure that their food and vitamins are sustaining their body. Finally, it can be exhausting to consciously, carefully and painstakingly chew every bit of food that enters your mouth.
6. Vomiting isn't fun. Nor is diarrhea. It may take patients many months (and frequent episodes of vomiting or diarrhea) to identify incompatible foods and to learn the practical limits of their newly reduced stomachs or digestive systems.
5. It takes extraordinary courage to consciously limit food choices for the rest of your life (and potentially limit social opportunities built around meals). For many patients, life after WLS means treating food as a fuel, not as a source of drama, excitement, comfort or a central life focus: i.e. eating to live rather than living to eat. While some procedures may be reversible, for most patients WLS is a lifetime commitment, requiring a lifetime of major lifestyle changes.
4. Weight loss surgery can be dangerous. As many as .5% of surgery patients may die from the procedure, and up to 5% may experience debilitating medical complications (especially if they listen to their peers' advice more carefully than their doctor's.)
3. It takes great bravery and strength to deflect other people's judgments and society's myths about obesity. Fat people are often blamed and shamed by family and friends with simplistic advice, unrealistic solutions, and uninformed prejudices. Whether it's for genetic or metabolic reasons, diet and exercise, willpower and discipline have never, by themselves, been enough. Our appetite regulators simply don't work. Without WLS, we don't know when we're full!
2. What gives anyone the right to judge which path is right for another? Is a person who runs a 10K taking a “better” or “tougher” route to wellness than the person who walks vigorously every day? Is working with weights better than water aerobics? Different strokes for different folks. Each of us finds our own right way, and how dare others judge our path to health and longevity! By their reckoning, the most courageous thing would be for us to suck it up and die young.
1. For many morbidly obese people, WLS may be the ONLY realistic alternative for achieving a long, healthy life. The newest research provides irrefutable evidence that body weight is largely a function of genes — just like height or a family propensity for cancer. These genes help regulate appetite and metabolism. People prone to obesity seem to gain excessive weight easily, while finding it difficult or impossible to lose it. That's why diets almost always fail and why WLS is currently the only viable weight loss option for many morbidly obese people, according to endocrinologist David Cummings of the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System. Most people can lose no more than 5-10% off their "natural" body weight by exercising and eating wisely. Decades of diet studies show that more than 90% of people who lose weight by dieting gain it all back within 5 years. "There are exceptions, but when you are speaking of general rules, the only people who are able to lose more than 10 percent of their body weight and keep it off are people who have had gastric-bypass or other bariatric surgery," Cummings notes.