Are You a Good Candidate for Bariatric Surgery?

Patients report that bariatric surgery benefits them. Polls show that over 90% are very pleased with the results, even five years later. But “everyone who has a bariatric procedure” is not necessarily the same as “everyone who wants it”. Bariatric surgery is not for every man or woman who wants to lose weight.

One common misconception is that bariatric surgery is a good substitute for lack of willpower. The obese person may have tried a dozen fad diets, none of which produced the desired long-term results. Others have gone the extra mile, pun intended, and combined the diet with an exercise regimen. They find they just can’t stick with it.

Those are tough problems faced by real people who deserve sympathy. But the unpleasant, unvarnished truth is: even after bariatric surgery it’s essential to commit to a long-term healthy lifestyle. That includes the recommended diet and the right exercise routine for a specific person.

There’s no realistic alternative to a lifelong commitment to change. That means a change of eating habits and attitude toward health and weight maintenance. The small percentage of those who report being unhappy five years later with their procedure were unwilling or unable to make that commitment. Choosing to have the procedure already shows a serious desire. One of the best things about bariatric surgery is that it makes that commitment radically easier to keep.

Patients find themselves getting full much quicker. That curbs formerly uncontrollable urges. What you do eat and drink doesn’t pile on the pounds like it used to, either. You consume less but the bariatric procedure also often slows nutrient, and therefore calorie, absorption.

There are different ways to achieve that. The Lap Band or other so-called “restrictive procedure” works best for many, usually those not at the largest end of the BMI scale (>40). Lap Band patients shed fewer pounds more slowly than other options. Though, “fewer” still might mean as much as 150 lbs lost for, say, a woman who weighs 300 lbs.

More invasive procedures like a Gastric Bypass or a Duodenal Switch (two types of “malabsorptive surgery”) make surgical changes to the gastrointestinal tract, but they carry a higher risk of side effects. That’s typically reserved for those at the higher end of the scale. Or, it might be selected for specific medical reasons where a lap band isn’t appropriate.

Make sure not to limit your options, though, solely on the basis of a particular physician’s specialty. Not all bariatric specialists perform all procedures, or have the same level of experience with each one. Get the procedure that’s right for you, not for them.

Selecting the right one for you can only be done in consultation with a bariatric specialist. Once you find one, you’ll be asked a series of questions to find out whether you’re a good candidate for surgery and which type. Questions cover things like your history of weight loss attempts, medical condition, family background, and others. Your specialist will make sure you’re well informed about the likely risks and possible benefits. He or she will review how your life will change, and suggest ways to adjust to them.

Last, but far from least, your physicians will work with you to decide whether you’re likely to stick to a life-long health commitment. If so, and your medical condition warrants it, you could be an excellent candidate for a bariatric procedure. The result will be a huge positive change in your life.