If you’re considering bariatric surgery to improve your quality of life or even save your life from the health risks of obesity, you’ve probably heard misconceptions about losing weight with medical intervention.
Undergoing an elective surgery certainly comes with risks, but don’t let the rumors and myths guide your decision.
“I advise patients to ask me about all of their concerns before they commit to weight loss surgery and agree to follow the pre- and post-surgical protocols,” said Dr. Nestor F. De la Cruz Munoz, Jr., Chief of Bariatric Surgery at the University of Miami Health System. “Our goal is for our weight loss patients to feel empowered to make educated decisions and know what to expect in the days and years following their surgery.”
The biggest lie some people believe about weight loss surgery is that it’s an easy and simple way out of the mental and physical prison of obesity. The reality is that the transformation from morbid obesity to maintaining a normal weight is a demanding physical and emotional journey – even with surgical methods. Weight loss surgery follow-up care includes dietitian-recommended guidelines that help patients make balanced, nutrient-rich food choices while reaching their weight loss goals without feeling hungry. Patients are also advised to exercise regularly to stimulate metabolism and develop strength, range of motion and endurance.
“It’s a whole new lifestyle that requires adjustment, patience and dedication for patients and their families,” says Dr. De la Cruz Munoz. “Some patients accept their new dietary restrictions and exercise routines and make amazing transformations, while others resist these behavioral changes and gain back some or all of the weight lost during the initial phase.”
Weight gain (or insignificant weight loss) following surgery is often the result of patients having the wrong expectations. “Some patients mistakenly assume they won’t have to worry about their diet after surgery,” says Dr. De la Cruz Munoz. “Some are even afraid they’ll lose too much weight, get too thin and look unhealthy. But, that’s not how bariatric surgery – nor how the body – works.
“Surgery offers the opportunity for significant and lasting weight loss, but to be successful and healthy, patients need to dedicate themselves to lifelong choices in regards to diet, quitting smoking and greatly reducing drinking, engaging in regular physical activity and promoting their mental health.”
Those considering weight loss surgery may fear that if they go through with it, they’ll never again be able to eat the foods they love. Some assume that eating solid foods will make them vomit. “These are myths, not guidelines we give our patients,” Dr. De la Cruz Munoz says. “Following bariatric surgery, it’s possible to enjoy many of the foods you’ve always loved, but in moderation and in small portions. But this is good advice for anyone who wants to lose weight, and many who maintain a healthy weight without surgery live by this rule.”
Another fear associated with weight loss surgery is that it’s risky and requires a long recovery. The risk of surgical and post-surgical complications is based on factors including the patient’s body mass index, age, gender, other health issues and history with smoking and alcohol. Patients concerned about such risk factors should discuss them with their doctor and learn how to reduce the risk through behavioral changes prior to and following surgery. When weight loss surgery avoids complications, patients often stay in the hospital for only one night. According to Dr. De la Cruz Munoz, serious complications occur in fewer than 3 percent of cases.
“The truth is that these procedures save lives, while obesity poses a significant threat to one’s overall health, raises the likelihood of fatal diseases and detracts from quality of life,” said Dr. De la Cruz Munoz.
Dana Kantrowitz is a contributing writer for UMiami Health News.