What is Bariatric Surgery?
Bariatric or weight loss surgery is a catch-all term that includes any surgical procedure performed on the stomach or intestines with the goal of inducing significant weight loss. It is one of the only weight loss treatments with a proven track record of success and, for many people, it is the only option for achieving durable weight loss. While any surgical procedure carries some level of risk, bariatric surgery is a safe treatment option for patients struggling to maintain a healthy weight.
There are many unknowns for patients when they begin exploring the risks and benefits of bariatric surgery. With that in mind, we have assembled a list of the five things we most often hear patients say they wish they had known before having bariatric surgery.
What I Wish I Knew Before Having Bariatric Surgery:
There are more benefits than just losing weight
While the primary goal of bariatric surgery is to induce rapid weight loss, there are a number of secondary benefits that stem from the surgery and/or the weight loss itself. These secondary benefits include improved mental health, increased libido, joint pain relief and increased fertility. However, the most important secondary benefit of bariatric surgery is its ability to improve or outright reverse a number of obesity-related co-morbidities, such as heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea and hypertension.
Just how much weight I would lose
Patients are often shocked at how quickly the weight starts to disappear following bariatric surgery. Regardless of which procedure they choose, patients can expect rapid weight loss following their surgery as a result of consuming and absorbing fewer calories, altering gut hormone levels to decrease hunger and promote satiety, and allowing for increased physical activity levels. While the extent of total weight lost varies from procedure to procedure, within three months the average bariatric surgery patient will have lost 20-30% of their excess weight and up to 70% by the end of the second year.
You can expect emotional and hormonal changes
Because bariatric surgery and the ensuing weight loss have the potential to significantly change hormone levels in the body, patients often describe the months following surgery as an emotional rollercoaster. Therefore, it is essential for patients to have a strong support system in place to face the physical and mental challenges that follow bariatric surgery. Whether the support comes from friends and family, support groups, or online forums, optimal outcomes will only come if you have the appropriate level of physical and emotional support surrounding you when you begin this journey.
You might want plastic surgery after your drastic weight loss
While it may seem vain to consider now, patients who undergo bariatric surgery often have follow-up cosmetic procedures when they have met their weight loss goals. The most common procedure patients undergo following weight loss surgery is the removal of loose, sagging skin. It is very common to have excess skin when losing weight as quickly and as extensively as you do following bariatric surgery. While there are certain aesthetic motivations for its removal, oftentimes the procedure is not entirely cosmetic; getting rid of excess skin can improve hygiene, eliminate pockets of moisture and prevent rashes and skin irritations from forming. For that reason, insurance will sometimes ever cover this procedure.
You may need more vitamins after surgery
Because bariatric surgery drastically reduces the amount of food patients can consume, it is essential that they pay special attention to the quality of what they do eat to ensure all of their nutritional needs are met. However, even with perfect dietary diligence, it is very likely that bariatric surgery patients will have to take vitamin and mineral supplementation for the rest of their life to prevent nutritional deficiencies from making them sick. It is very important for patients to work closely with a dietitian or nutritional counselor in the months and years following surgery to ensure their diet plan contains the appropriate level of supplementation to keep them as healthy as possible.