Weight loss surgery is the easy way out.
I am very fortunate to have never had someone say this to me directly, but I have heard it said about weight loss surgery in general, and I have several friends who have sadly been on the receiving end of such a comment. Often people will tell an obese person, “You just need discipline. Exercise more and eat less.” Sure, some obese people have lost weight and maintained that weight loss for an extended period of time, but that is the exception, rather than the rule. Statistics indicate that 95% of people who lose weight without surgical intervention gain it back.
The truth is that obesity is a disease just like cancer, diabetes or heart disease. It just doesn’t go away with discipline or even diet. The medical community (for the most part) has recognized that it requires treatment. In 2013 the American Medical Association officially declared obesity a disease in an of itself.
As one who underwent weight loss surgery just five weeks ago, I agree emphatically that this surgery is NOT the easy way out. Allow me to share some of my experience with you.
- Weight loss surgery is surgery … and surgery is never easy. The procedure I had was the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Though done laparoscopically with 7 small incisions, the work done internally was significant. The average person’s stomach is about the size of a football. The surgeon reduced my stomach to the size of a large egg and then re-routed my intestines. Healing and recovery from abdominal surgery takes time and it’s painful. When I saw my surgeon for my one-week post-op appointment, I asked about the pain I had around one of my incisions. He said, “Yes, you can expect pain there. That’s where we inserted the stapler.” Yes, weight loss surgery is major surgery!
- Weight loss surgery requires commitment – commitment before and after surgery. Prior to surgery, I went through several months of medical and psychological testing as well as nutrition classes. All of these determined my fitness for surgery and commitment to the program. In addition, two weeks before surgery I had to follow a strict 800-calorie per day liquid diet. This not only showed my willingness to adhere to the program, but even more importantly, it helped decrease the size of my liver for a safer surgery. (In these surgeries, the liver must be moved out of the way to access the stomach). In addition, for surgery to be successful, commitment to post-op nutrition is very important. This includes a liquid diet after surgery and then the gradual introduction of pureed and soft foods. Even now, I must cut up my food into very small pieces and chew each piece twenty or more times. At this time I can have only proteins and next month I can add vegetables. I know that for the rest of my life I need to avoid sugars and simple carbohydrates. A few months down the road, I may be able to have a small bite of these things, but anything beyond that could lead to weight gain … and would likely make me physically sick. Commitment to regular follow up care is also important.
- Weight loss surgery has financial implications. Most people know that medical care is not cheap. While I am blessed to have insurance and am very grateful for it, my medical appointments, tests, surgery, hospitalization and follow up care cost me several thousand dollars in deductibles and out of pocket expenses. This is not meant as a complaint, it’s just the reality of medical care in general. Weight loss surgery is expensive. In addition, its recovery requires time off from work. I consider myself very blessed in this area, but for many, it is not so easy.
These are just a few responses to the “easy way out” based on my own experience. Others who have had weight loss surgery surely have additional responses. It’s not easy, but I am grateful that surgery was a treatment option for me.
So, here at five weeks post-op, my new favorite number is 61 (27 pounds before surgery, 34 pounds since) and I’m feeling pretty good about that.
Until next time, peace …