When to Go Surgical for Weight Loss 

Apr 26
Weight loss surgery is available, but not easy

For many very overweight people, there just doesn’t seem to be a future in cutting calories or upping their exercise. They’ve tried and failed with that conservative route, and they may have also failed with drugs such as appetite suppressants and metabolism boosters. But they still have a sincere desire to take off the pounds.

That might be the time to check into something often thought of as a last resort: surgery. If you can pass the vetting by a skilled physician, as well as the insurance company criteria, it can be a good way to go.

There are two surgeries that many people have heard about. The Lap-Band surgery ties off part of the stomach, thereby making it smaller and incapable of holding as much food. It can be adjusted if it is too loose or too tight—and it is much less invasive than the other type of surgery: the bypass, which virtually disconnects a portion of the intestine and “bypasses” it around the stomach. The result of both procedures is the same; however, the bypass involves a major operation, and the patient has much less ability to ingest a lot of food. There is another surgery being developed, according to Dr. Paul Stanish, a surgeon at Community Hospital in Munster and Methodist Hospital in Merrillville. It will actually remove 80 percent of the stomach permanently.

Stanish explains that these operations are not for everyone. The patient has to be considerably and calculably overweight. The patient has to be motivated and must have been an abject failure at other weight loss methods and/or, due to serious health risks, must need to take the weight off quickly and decisively.

“After surgery, hard work is required,” Stanish says. “The surgery is not magic.” Stanish says patients have been known to gain weight back by “grazing” on small amounts of high-calorie foods all through the day.

On the other hand, Stanish says the surgery can be highly successful not only for weight loss but for controlling high blood pressure and diabetes. “And energy level can go through the roof,” he says.

Stanish says he gauges a patient’s age, overall health status, previous surgical history, the ability to exercise, the amount of weight the patient must lose, the insurance company requirements, and his own “gut feelings” about the candidate. For example, if the patient has a weakness for sweets, he may think long and hard about that. Also, conditions such as depression may cause some to gain the weight back. He also cautions patients that there could be side effects from the surgery—not the least of which is a very small chance of death from infection or other causes.

Stanish says patients are often criticized by those who don’t know better that they are taking the “easy way out” if they opt for the surgery. But Stanish cautions that such thinking is wrong. He says for many people, weight loss surgery gives back their health, their activities, their job and their sex life.

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