weight loss

Weight Loss Surgery Isn’t All About Losing Weight

May 27, 2016

Are you or someone you know are considering weight loss surgery?  If that is the case, you may want to think about what is motivating you to do so?  There are as many different reasons for considering weight loss surgery as there are patients. Of course, when a patient has weight loss surgery, they desire is to lose weight. As a result of losing weight, you obtain the many health benefits that come with it.

Reasons to Have WLS and the Health Benefits

Co-Morbid Conditions:  One of the reasons patients consider weight loss surgery are the co-morbid conditions that are associated with obesity. The patient who is sick and tired of being sick and tired, the back pain, the hip pain, and the knee pain look to weight loss surgery to minimize or eliminate these issues.  Patients will say “At 50 (or 40 or 30!) I shouldn’t be having this much pain, it shouldn’t be this uncomfortable to be in my body, not at this age.”

Life Event:  Another group of patients are those have had a “life event” that makes them realize they need to take better care of themselves.  Examples of the typical life events are the birth of a child (or grandchild), getting married (or divorced)…such events often prompt a re-examination of priorities. At this point, a person realizes being overweight is about more than just weight, it’s about your health, your life, and being able to enjoy life to the fullest and being  there for the ones you love.

Alarming Medical Diagnosis:  Another prompt that occurs for someone considering weight loss surgery is a recent medical diagnosis.  As an example, a person had their yearly checkup and was told they have diabetes or high blood pressure, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, heart disease, etc.  Such a diagnosis often acts as a wake-up call for many people, especially if they have seen the ravages of such diseases on a parent or other loved one.

Diabetes:  Diabetes, in particular, is a frightening diagnosis for many people.  As a chronic disease, it can wreak havoc on the body over a period of years.  If you are someone who had a “front row seat” watching a parent or sibling suffering from diabetes, then you are (justifiably) concerned about such a diagnosis for yourself.  The complications of diabetes can be quite devastating, including blindness, infections in the feet resulting in amputations and kidney disease which can potentially lead to kidney failure and dialysis.  It is also much more likely that someone with diabetes will develop heart disease or have a stroke.  The longer that a person suffers from diabetes, the more likely such complications are to develop.

Obesity-Related Medical Issues:  In addition to the medical issues we’ve just discussed, there are some other medical problems associated with obesity that many people are not aware of.  These include gallbladder problems, fatty infiltration of the liver, osteoarthritis (no wonder your hips and knees hurt!), depression even some types of cancer (endometrial cancer in women and colon cancer in both men and women).

At this point, you’re hopefully impressed that having a weight problem is about much more than just weight…it’s about your health and the health problems that come from it!  The flip side is weight loss is about more than just losing weight, it’s also about your health and (here’s the good news!) the health problems that will go away with weight loss.

If it all seems like doom and gloom, rest assured it is not! The multiple medical problems that come from being overweight can be resolved with weight loss.  If your BMI is greater than 40, the most effective method of weight loss is bariatric surgery.  Roughly speaking, a BMI of over 40 means that you are about 100 pounds overweight.  If you are overweight by 100 pounds (or more) does it mean you need to lose all 100 pounds in order for the medical issues to go away?  The answer is quite simple….NO!

The truth is a weight loss of 10-20% of your excess weight can have dramatic health effects.  The human body has an incredible ability to recover and recuperate.  For example, the average person seeking bariatric surgery did not gain their excess weight all at once.  It likely occurred over a period of time, 5 or 10 years, and the medical problems associated with obesity have developed over a similar length of time.  What is astonishing is that with bariatric surgery, a great deal of the excess weight can be lost in 12-18 months and the associated medical problems can be resolved in a similar timeframe. In essence, a problem that took 10 years to develop can (with bariatric surgery) resolve in only a year!

One Surgery to Improve Your Health and Life

The marvelous thing about bariatric surgery is that it is the only operation that will improve multiple medical problems.  For instance, if a patient has appendicitis or tonsillitis, an operation to remove the tonsils or appendix may be recommended. That one operation cures one problem. Bariatric surgery can cure (or drastically improve) many different medical problems: diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, heart disease, even lower your risk of some types of cancer, all from one operation!

When you go to the doctor, and certainly if you have bariatric surgery, will you be weighed at every office visit…of course!  However, hopefully, this article has impressed upon you that weight loss is about far more than just your weight.  It’s about your health.  It’s about being able to do the things you want to do, being able to play with your kids or grandkids, taking vacations and traveling.  It’s about both the quantity and quality of your life!



Michael Bilof practices bariatric surgery with Garden State Bariatrics in New Jersey with offices in Millburn, Toms River and Browns Mills, New Jersey. He is currently the President of the NJ Chapter of the ASMBS and section chief for Bariatric Surgery at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, and Deborah Heart and Lung in Browns Mills, New Jersey.

Read more articles by Dr. Bilof!