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HCA Midwest Health

Debunking myths about weight-loss surgery

Separating fact from fiction surrounding weight loss surgery.

June 20, 2024
Two people outside exercising.

Obesity is a rapidly growing public health concern, affecting 42 percent of adults living in the United States and costing Americans a whopping $147 billion annually, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported earlier this year. Diet and exercise have long been the “go-to” solutions to counter this crisis, but with more than 100 million Americans sporting a body mass index (BMI) of 30 – a metric for obesity – or higher, these traditional methods simply aren’t enough to stem the tide.                      

Obesity is a chronic disease linked to heart problems, high blood pressure, hypertension, apnea, diabetes, cancer and other health issues. Bariatric, or weight loss surgery, is one of the most powerful tools we have in our weight loss arsenal. Over the past 30 years, we’ve gained a much more-thorough knowledge of digestive physiology as the number of procedures has continued to climb, yet bariatric surgery remains shrouded in myths, misconceptions and fears that often prevent the people who would benefit the most from seeking help. 

Although using BMI as the lone metric to determine obesity has come under scrutiny, it remains the most commonly accepted standard. Dr. John F. Tann, a board-certified general surgeon and fellowship-trained bariatric surgeon specializing in weight loss surgery with Bariatric and Metabolic Specialists - a part of HCA Midwest Health - helps us separate fact from fiction surrounding weight loss surgery. 

Myth 1: Weight loss surgery is dangerous

Reality: Bariatric procedures are safer than ever, with faster recoveries and fewer risks.

Weight loss procedures have improved dramatically over the years, reducing the risk of major complications. Meanwhile, the obesity epidemic continues to grow with the associated health risks for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and others, far outweighing the effects of weight loss surgery.

“A lot of people think of weight loss surgery in terms of how it was done decades ago, when it was open surgery with large incisions, and the outcome was sometimes less than desired,” says Dr. Tann. “That’s not the case anymore. The tremendous advances in surgical options — minimally invasive and endoscopic techniques, robotics and others — have greatly improved the procedures and outcome. Weight loss surgery today is safer and less invasive with faster recovery.”

Myth 2: Weight loss surgery requires lengthy hospital stays and recovery times.

Reality: Most procedures are out-patient or require a one-night stay.

Because most weight loss procedures can be done using minimally invasive techniques, recovery times are much shorter with fewer complications. Although recovery times vary by patient, most people return to their daily activities in one to two weeks following their weight loss procedures.

Myth 3: Bariatric surgery is a quick, easy fix for fast weight loss

Reality: Surgery is just the first step in your journey to lose weight. 

Bariatric surgery is just one tool in your mission to lose weight, Dr. Tann explains. First comes the motivation to make a change in your life followed by a long-term commitment to sticking to your weight-loss plan until you reach your goal. Tann says the first year is the honeymoon period when most people see rapid weight loss – 100 pounds is fairly routine ­– so your motivation is high and keeping with the program is easier. As the weight loss begins to wane, the real work begins. Most weight-loss programs, especially those accredited by the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), have support teams made up of trained professionals well-versed in what it takes to keep you on track. Team members can provide you with educational materials and other support services to make your journey a success.

Myth 4: People who opt for weight loss surgery lack willpower

Reality: For some extremely obese people, surgery is often the only way for them to lose weight.

This harmful myth often keeps people from seeking the help they need. Dr. Tann says most patients seeking weight loss surgery have tried dieting and exercise and surgery is their last, best hope for a healthy life. The expert panel at the National Institutes of Health reports metabolic and bariatric surgery are about the only way for extremely obese people to maintain weight loss.

Myth 5: You’ll just regain the weight

Reality: Most bariatric patients successfully maintain their weight loss, surveys show.

While it’s not unusual for a person to lose 100 pounds in the first year after bariatric surgery, Dr. Tann says the rate of weight loss does slow but this is not the yo-yo pattern of gain and loss that many dieters experience. Medical research shows most patients succeed with long-term weight loss goals.

Myth 6: Insurance won’t cover bariatric surgery

Reality: Weight loss surgery is often covered. Check with your insurance company.

Most insurance companies, including the major commercial providers, plus Medicare and Medicaid cover weight loss surgery for qualified customers. Dr. Tann says generally, patients with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 35 will qualify for insurance coverage for bariatric surgery, so he encourages everyone to check with their insurance agent.

Myth 7: Weight loss surgery will prevent me from ever getting proper nutrition

Reality: A healthy diet and supplements will meet nutritional needs after surgery

Dr. Tann says certain weight loss procedures can limit the body’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals, so they do need to take nutrition supplements following surgery. He adds that the surgeon and your support team will help you develop an appropriate plan for diet and supplements so that you avoid vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can lead to health problems.

Myth 8: Women can’t have babies after bariatric surgery

Reality: By reducing obesity, which can improve a woman’s overall health, bariatric surgery improves a woman’s chances of conceiving and having a successful childbirth.

Dr. Tann says most bariatric surgeons advise their patients to wait at least a year and a half following surgery before getting pregnant. This allows her body to acclimate to all the changes her body is going through, including extreme weight loss. He adds that woman who are considering the surgery and then have children to discuss the issues with their OB/GYN.

Tipping the scales

With those weight loss surgery myths busted, here’s some other benefits to consider:

  • Fewer allergies and reduced asthma symptoms
  • Improved mood and self-esteem
  • Reduced joint pain
  • Better sleep
  • Improved heart health
  • Diabetes remission

Begin your journey

We offer the support you need to complete a successful weight loss journey. Our weight loss team will work hand-in-hand with you to create a personalized weight loss plan of care that is the right fit for your physical and emotional health. 

The journey to controlling your weight and well-being can be daunting, but at HCA Midwest Health, you don’t have to face this challenge alone. Our network of compassionate bariatric surgeons are here to guide you step-by-step on your journey toward reclaiming your health. Find a physician or take a weight loss quiz at HCAMidwest.com/weightloss.

 

Published:
June 20, 2024