The Stitch

The truth about weight loss surgery

Bariatric surgery is a weight loss procedure that has gained significant popularity in recent years. It involves making changes to the digestive system to help individuals with obesity achieve substantial and sustainable weight loss. While weight loss surgery can be life-changing, it’s essential to understand both the pros and cons associated with the procedure.

A measuring tape resting on an electric scale.Dr. Samer Mattar, a bariatric surgeon at the Weight Loss and Metabolic Center at Baylor Medicine in Houston, discusses the pros and cons.

Pros of weight loss surgery:

  • Significant weight loss: Bariatric surgery has proven to be an effective method for achieving substantial weight loss, especially for individuals with a body mass index (BMI) above 40 or a BMI above 35 with obesity-related health conditions. On average, patients can expect to lose 50% to 70% of their excess weight within the first year after surgery.
  • Improved health: Weight loss surgery often leads to significant improvements in various obesity-related health conditions.

“Patients who undergo bariatric surgery often experience remarkable physical transformations, resulting in improved overall health,” Mattar explains. “Conditions commonly associated with obesity, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and joint pain, tend to improve significantly or even resolve completely following surgery.”

  • Enhanced long-term sustainability: Unlike fad diets and other temporary weight-loss solutions, weight loss surgery provides long-term weight loss sustainability. It helps patients establish healthier eating habits, feel more satiated with smaller portions, and adopt a more active lifestyle.

“Research shows that bariatric surgery is the most effective long-term weight loss option,” Mattar says. “Bariatric surgery works primarily by reducing hunger so patients lose weight stress free, unlike dieting.”

  • Psychological benefits: Successful weight loss through weight loss surgery can have a positive impact on mental health and body image.

“While the primary objective of bariatric surgery is to facilitate weight loss, the procedure offers various other advantages that significantly enhance patients’ lives, including increased self-esteem, improved confidence and reduced symptoms of depression or anxiety associated with obesity,” says Mattar.

  • Quality of life

“As a weight loss surgeon, one of the most rewarding things is seeing patients’ overall improvement in quality of life,” says Mattar. “Patients often express how their relationships, social interactions and overall enjoyment of life have significantly improved. They can actively participate in activities they may have previously avoided due to weight-related limitations, leading to a more fulfilling and engaged lifestyle.”

Cons of Weight loss surgery:

  • Lifestyle adjustments: Weight loss surgery requires significant lifestyle modifications, including adhering to a strict postsurgery diet, taking nutritional supplements and incorporating regular exercise into your routine. Adjusting to these changes can be challenging for some individuals.
  • Emotional and psychological challenges: Some patients may experience emotional and psychological challenges following weight loss surgery. Rapid weight loss can lead to body image issues or a need for additional support to adjust to the physical changes.
  • Potential complications: Although rare, complications such as gallstones, dumping syndrome (rapid emptying of stomach contents) and nutritional deficiencies may occur after weight loss surgery. Proper postoperative care, regular follow-up visits and adherence to dietary guidelines can help minimize these risks.
  • Surgical risks: Like any surgical procedure, weight loss surgery carries inherent risks, including infection, bleeding, blood clots and adverse reactions to anesthesia. While these risks are relatively low, it’s important to discuss them with your healthcare provider and choose an experienced surgeon.

Eligibility for weight loss surgery:

To be considered eligible for weight loss surgery, individuals must generally meet the following criteria:

  • BMI above 40 or a BMI above 35 with obesity-related health conditions.
  • Previous attempts at weight loss through non-surgical methods.
  • Willingness to commit to long-term lifestyle changes.
  • Absence of any medical condition that could increase the surgical risks.

By Tiffany Harston, communications associate with the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery

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