Is Bariatric Surgery The Answer For You?

Losing Weight: The Challenge of a Lifetime

At first when I looked and saw the hubmob topic of the week this week, I thought it might be one I had to sit out. You see, anyone who knows me would know that I am the last person anyone should ask for advice on how to lose weight. But then I thought about the fact that since I was in my early 20s, I have subjected myself to so many diets it's not funny. At the end of the day none of these diets did me any good, and that's probably not a surprise to the people who actually know what they're talking about on the weight loss front. The problem is that diets don't work because there's a presumption that once you lose the desired amount of weight you can go "off" the diet, i.e. resume eating exactly the foods that made you fat in the first place.

What Has Worked For Me

About a year ago, my wife and I temporarily separated, not by choice but out of necessity. Suddenly my whole lifestyle changed, and one of the good consequences of the separation is that I lost weight. I lost it in part because when we separated, she got "custody" of our van, and I got custody of my sneakers - a great pair of shoes by Dr. Sholl's. These shoes cost me 30 bucks at Wal-Mart, and they were so comfortable I could go just about anywhere with them. And I did. I became a walking machine! I would walk an average of 7 to 10 miles a day, and the pounds started peeling off.

The other reason I lost weight is because when my wife and I were together, there was always a ton of food in the house. Much of it, I know, is not healthy, and that's where my downfall came. But when I was suddenly on my own, I couldn't afford to have that much junk food around. So I started making better choices in the food I bought. Yes, healthy food is more expensive than junk food, but when you consider the volume of junk food we were buying, cutting all that out of the food budget saved me a lot of money. For the first time in my adult life, I was exercising and eating a healthy diet, which is ideal for a Type II diabetic like me.

Sadly, the reason I know that this change in lifestyle is actually the cause of my weight loss (I lost nearly 60 pounds while separated) because as soon as I got back together with my wife, the pounds started coming back on. This has led me to make some drastic decisions for my future that I will address next.

Image taken from the Casco Bay Surgery Website, located at http://www.cascobaysurgery.com/Bariatric%20Surgery%20Program/patient%20handbook%20-%20LB.htm
Image taken from the Casco Bay Surgery Website, located at http://www.cascobaysurgery.com/Bariatric%20Surgery%20Program/patient%20handbook%20-%20LB.htm

Lap-Band Procedure

The picture above came from the website of the group of surgeons I have chosen to have this procedure. It's called the Lap-Band procedure, and is an alternative to the Gastric Bypass Surgery, that involves stapling the stomach. The Lap-Band procedure works in a similar fashion to the Gastric Bypass, but differs in some important ways. For starters, the Lap-Band is adjustable, which means it can be removed or tightened depending upon the need. I suspect that the Gastric Bypass is also reversible, but it is a much more involved process to do so.

According to the Casco Bay Surgeons website, people who opt for the Lap-Band over the Gastric Bypass Surgery tend to lose weight more slowly. They estimate that a Lap-Band patient will lose 60% to 70% of their excess body weight within a 3 to 5 year period after surgery. So in my case, I weigh just under 400 pounds. My ideal weight is about 200 pounds, so I can expect to lose minimally 120 pounds in the next three years or so. One of the chief differences between this procedure and the gastric bypass is that after a period of time, gastric bypass patients have a tendency to put on weight, though not to the degree that they previously did. With the Lap-Band, because it is adjustable, patients can expect to lose weight over a longer period of time, which makes it plausible that in time, I could get back to my weight when I was 17.

Is It Safe?

Any time you go under the knife, there is an element of risk involved. However, my doctors are experienced Laparoscopic surgeons, which makes the surgery less invasive. This, in my opinion, makes the surgery less dangerous than it used to be. They also monitor patients closely, to ensure they dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's, so to speak. The way I look at it is that in the past 20 years, my weight has doubled, and as I get older, the consequences of that fact will manifest in many serious ways. So doing nothing is probably more dangerous than any danger I could face by going under the knife.

Surgery Is Not For Everyone

If you're just looking to lose a few pounds, or even 20 or 30 pounds, neither the gastric bypass nor the lap-band surgery is for you. They won't even look at you. In order to qualify, patients must be morbidly obese, which means they must have a Body Mass Index of 40 or higher, unless they have health complications due to their weight, in which case, most insurance companies will approve the procedure with a BMI of 35 or higher. The last time I checked, my BMI was a 46, just to give you an idea of how far over your ideal body weight you should be.

The Casco Bay Surgeons also have other criteria. They will want you to meet with a nutritionist, attend an informational meeting to explain the procedure, and they will want you to be screened psychologically, to make sure you are emotionally prepared to handle the rigors of the procedure post surgery. They also will not do the surgery on smokers, and you will need to be tested to ensure you have not smoked for three months before your first appointment.

Surgery Is Not The Easy Way Out

Anyone who thinks that they're going to go into the hospital, have this surgery and just sit back and watch the pounds come peeling off is deluded. The surgery only works if the patient follows the program, and at the Casco Bay Surgeons, they envision a lifetime of support. People attend monthly support groups with other patients, and they have periodic visits to their surgeon for the rest of their lives. They are also encouraged to enter exercise programs, and it is still possible for people to eat the foods that made them fat in the first place. However, there's this wonderful little motivational tool that comes as a side-effect of these surgeries, and that is called the Dumping Syndrome.

Dumping is, quite simply, when you eat too much, you vomit. Now, I don't know about y'all, but I don't particularly like vomiting, so if I know that eating a particular food is going to make me vomit, that's all the motivation I need to push away from the table. Of course, no one is perfect, so I'm sure I will be introduced to dumping syndrome after the surgery, but you can also bet that I'm going to do everything I can to avoid it.

There is much more that interested parties should know about these procedures than I am qualified to relay. As I close, I'll leave you with a piece of advice. If you decide that having gastric bypass or lap-band surgery is in your interest, do your homework. Interview surgeons and find out how long they've been performing the surgery. If you are a male, find out how many men they have performed surgery on (I'm told that it's actually a more complicated procedure for a man to have gastric bypass surgery, so you don't want to be the guinea pig!) Find out what kind of support they provide after the surgery. Asking questions can make this an excellent experience. Not asking them can be a nightmare.

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Ryan Hupfer profile image

Ryan Hupfer 8 years ago from San Francisco, CA

Whoa...great Hub and good luck with everything!

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