Why Bariatric Surgery Is More Than Losing WeightFebruary 20, 2023
Bariatric Surgery provides patients with more than losing weight, it can also help improve their health and their lives. People that are morbidly obese often have health concerns or are at increased risk of developing health conditions or diseases because of their excess weight and their current dietary regimen. The most prevalent of those associated with obesity include hypertension, elevated lipids, Type2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The studies and statistics support that obesity shortens an individual’s life expectancy even with prescribed therapies.
Weight Loss Surgery Has Become More Prevalent
Weight loss surgery has become more prevalent during the past decade, in part due to the conveniences of the modern world. There are too many novelty dessert options, sugary beverages, energy drinks and food chains seen on every corner in major cities across the globe. This combined with the demands of long workdays and a struggling economy, makes these options even more desirable. While everyone is working to get ahead, the real price many people pay is putting their health too low on the priority list.
Insurance companies also see the cost analysis of paying for medications and treatments for these chronic concerns and are now more supportive of bariatric surgery as one way to prevent these costs and improve one’s health. At our bariatric practice we educate and counsel our patients to follow a heart healthy diet combined with routine exercise. The post operative meal plan includes low sodium, low fat and low carb alternatives that will facilitate weight loss and ideally regulate blood pressure, improve lipid profiles, and reduce or eliminate prescribed therapies for the above-mentioned health concerns.
While seeing the numbers on the scale is exciting and for many patients marks both small and large victories, this is not the only indicator worthy of attention. As a Registered Dietitian, specializing in weight loss and weight management at a bariatric practice, I feel that creating boundaries with the scale is an important part of the process.
The Scale Has Become The Enemy
For most people that have struggled with weight, the scale has been their enemy and caused feelings of shame and discouragement in the past. I encourage patients to focus on other variables and to avoid letting the scale dictate victory or defeat. Bariatric surgery is a chance to start fresh, learn new habits and to create a sustainable lifestyle. Patients should be proud of the changes they have made without checking to see if their hard work has paid off on the scale. I assure them that it will, but these changes must be consistent to achieve long term goals.
They can focus on other markers that will measure weight loss and physiological changes. One suggestion is to create physical challenges with exercise. This includes setting goals; increasing speeds and inclines on cardio machines and seeing whether they have increased endurance. They can also increase the duration of activities like walking and bike riding.
Many patients notice decreased respiratory distress because of significant weight loss and they report better breathing and sleeping as sleep apnea resolves.
More Than Losing Weight
Another fun way to assess weight changes is to sort through old clothes and enjoy being able to get rid of larger sizes and perhaps fitting into things that they have not been able to wear for a long time. These activities build momentum and self -esteem and provide a sense of accomplishment. I recommend weighing on the scale weekly, or even monthly because often people look at numbers and get a feeling of it’s never enough or so much further to go.
Over the years I have been touched by countless stories of people who now enjoy hiking, visiting public places like beaches, travel more often and can chase after their children without getting winded. These are the moments and milestones that bring joy to people’s lives and create everlasting memories. I recently got a picture from a patient who could not wait to share that she had dropped below 200 pounds and had lost about 120 pounds. While the number on the scale was a milestone, she was also standing in a dressing room, staring in the mirror with a smile on her face. So, while the scale revealed the number, the shopping spree was her real moment to shine.
Another wonderful part of weight loss after surgery is the impact it has on interpersonal relationships. I often tell people not to step on the scale daily, first thing in the morning. For many and most that come to see me before surgery, this is habitual. I point out to them that this is how they start their day. This is what they carry with them and that includes anger, sadness, and frustration. Instead, I suggest they start the day on a positive foot and leave the self -loathing behind.
After surgery, patients often report that weight loss has improved their relationships with other people for so many reasons. They are happier with themselves, more confident and for many that means being more engaging with people and participating in activities. Patients also report that the support from loved ones and friends strengthens bonds and communication as they may not have expressed their needs as openly before. The relationship that changes the most, is the one these patients have with food.
I have been working with this young couple, both of whom have struggled with weight for many years. Their relationship with each other has been centered around food for a long time and their behaviors influence each other. I suggested that they make a vision board and come up with things they want to do alone or together, and the goal was to find activities that do not include food. I also suggested that they influence each other in a positive way by looking for recipes and setting aside time for meal prepping and exercise. I want them to think long-term and to see the importance of being more active and living a healthier, fuller life with less restrictions.
They are too young to experience the aches and pains and physical limitations that accompany being morbidly obese.
The relevance of this story is that they were losing weight according to the scale, but at times with inconsistent or minimal effort and this won’t help them to learn good habits. They have since gotten engaged and I continue to reinforce all the benefits discussed throughout this article, that includes maintaining normal blood values, starting a family without worry of future health concerns and enjoying life to the fullest without restrictions and physical limitations. I want them to see that it is more than losing weight and the vision of life beyond the scale and look forward to the non- scale victories that we find in people, experiences, and places.
Shara Lazar, RD, CDN is joined with the New York Bariatric Group
ABOUT THE AUTHORShara Lazar, RD, CDN has spent many years counseling patients with health concerns such as hypertension & diabetes which led her to help people reduce the risk of developing these health issues & improve the quality of their lives. She joined New York Bariatric Group with eight years of bariatric nutrition expertise & is passionate about fitness. She helps patients to integrate nutrition & exercise into their lives with a practical approach and support. Read more articles by Shara!