Why this underused weight loss tool might be right for you
Only one half of one percent of eligible people choose a weight loss option that helps people lose an average of more than 60 pounds and keep it off for 20 years. So, why aren’t more people using it to lose substantial weight and keep it off?
Put simply, stigma.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about bariatric surgery,” said Amy Paulus, a Nurse Practitioner who specializes in Weight Loss and Bariatric Surgery at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital. “A lot of people feel like they’ll be judged because surgery is perceived as the easy way out.”
Bariatric surgery is recommended for people who are morbidly obese, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of over 40, who were unable to lose weight with diet and exercise, as well as for people who are obese, defined as a BMI of over 35, and have obesity-related medical conditions like diabetes or heart disease to name a few. Today, more than 42% of Americans are obese and might be candidates for bariatric surgery.
“Bariatric surgery is very safe, and the risks of surgery are way lower than continuing to be overweight or obese,” Paulus continued. “Moreover, obesity is one of the leading risk factors for severe COVID-19 hospitalizations. Obesity is a chronic disease, and people shouldn’t hesitate to get the treatment they need to lead long, healthy lives.”
If you’re ready to lose weight, don’t expect to have surgery right away, Paulus cautions. Depending on your insurance coverage and overall health, it may take some time to be approved for weight loss surgery, typically between three to six months. During this time period, you’ll work hand-in-hand with the care team to meet your insurance or health requirements and to prepare for surgery, Paulus said. You’ll also participate in pre-operative classes like those led by Paulus at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital. These classes educate and empower people prior to surgery, and as a result of the pandemic, are currently meeting virtually. “When it comes to your health, knowledge is power!” said Paulus.
“It’s very emotional and stressful,” said Paulus. “But that’s where our team comes in to support you. We work with you to understand your unique challenges. Our team of doctors and dietitians meets with you regularly to make sure you are staying on track and to make any necessary adjustments to your treatment plan. In addition, we offer regular support groups because we believe they are an essential part of long term success.”
The support groups are also open to those considering surgery. “We find that the support groups help people overcome the stigma associated with weight loss surgery and educate themselves about it as a treatment option,” said Paulus. “Knowing you’re not alone and having others who are there to walk with you can make all the difference.”
Surgery is just one tool in your weight loss journey tool belt. To get long-term results, people need to adopt and commit to significant lifestyle changes. “As you recover, the surgery is helping you lose the majority of your excess weight during that first year after surgery,” explained Paulus. “The second year, it’s up to you to sustain that weight loss with the tools you learned and used leading up to and after your surgery.”
Want to find out if bariatric surgery is right for you? Start by taking our healthy weight assessment to determine your BMI.
About the Author
Kristen Johnson, health enews contributor, is a public affairs and marketing manager with Advocate Aurora Health. She previously worked as a speechwriter and staffer on Capitol Hill. She enjoys running marathons, good coffee and exploring Chicago’s many neighborhoods.