Obesity isn’t just about your appearance. For some people, being obese makes them unhappy about the way they look. But it can also make seemingly simple tasks that others take for granted — such as traveling on an airplane or putting on a seatbelt — a little difficult. And, it can keep you from doing things that make you happy, such as riding a bike, or keeping up with your kids or grandkids.
Perhaps most important of all, obesity can lead to serious health issues, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and certain types of cancer.
- Obesity simply means that you have too much body fat.
- A person is considered obese when they have a body mass index (BMI) over 30. Your BMI is your weight in kilograms divided by the square of your height in meters.
- Overeating and other unhealthy habits — such as eating mainly high-fat foods or not exercising — can contribute to obesity.
- Obesity can be caused by genetics. This means that if your parents are obese, you’re more likely to be obese, too.
- Obesity can also be caused by not getting the recommended weekly amount of physical activity — which is 150 minutes of moderate activity, like walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, like biking.
Though many people don’t realize it, obesity is a disease — a complex, chronic condition that isn’t likely to improve without weight management, medical, or surgical treatment. One of the most effective treatments is bariatric surgery.
How Does Bariatric Surgery Work?
Bariatric surgery is a weight loss procedure. It works by restricting how much food your stomach can hold, keeping your body from absorbing nutrients, or a combination of the two. In other words: the surgery changes the anatomy of your gastrointestinal tract (stomach, intestines, etc.) — and these changes alter your fat metabolism (the way your body breaks down and stores fat for energy) and energy balance (calories consumed vs. calories burned).
Stephanie Sisk, APRN, Program Manager at Stormont Vail Health’s Weight Management Center, explains, “At Stormont Vail Health, most patients lose about 60% of their excess body weight within 6 months to a year of their surgery. Over time, you’ll lose weight, allowing you to live a healthier and happier life.”
There are two kinds of bariatric surgery offered at Stormont Vail — sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypass — and both have proven to be very successful. Both techniques are minimally-invasive, laparoscopic procedures. This means they use a long, thin tube to access your stomach through a small incision, rather than making large cuts.
Minimally invasive bariatric surgeries are considered low risk, and patients are usually able to leave the hospital within 48 hours.
A sleeve gastrectomy (often called “the sleeve”) works by removing 80% of your stomach. What’s left is a pouch that resembles a banana. When your stomach is smaller, it holds less food, so you can’t eat as much.
A smaller stomach actually affects the hormones in your stomach, too, which can affect hunger, feelings of fullness, and blood sugar levels. This is a simple surgery that is effective for nearly everyone. Patients have been shown to lose roughly 80% of their excess body weight within one year.
A few things happen during a gastric bypass:
- Your surgeon makes a small pouch — about one ounce in size — by separating the top part of the stomach from the bottom. This will become your “new stomach.”
- They divide a part of the small intestine and bring the bottom end up to meet the pouch.
- They connect the top portion of the divided small intestine to the small intestine further down so you still get the benefits of the stomach, such as stomach acids and digestive enzymes.
Once the procedure is all done, the food bypasses the stomach — just like its name implies — so you feel fuller more quickly.
A gastric bypass is usually the way to go if you have heartburn or severe diabetes, as a sleeve gastrectomy has the potential to make these conditions worse.
Are You a Good Candidate for Bariatric Surgery?
People with a BMI of 40 or above are usually good candidates for bariatric surgery. You may also benefit if your BMI is 35 or above and you have another chronic condition such as sleep apnea, hypertension, diabetes, or arthritis.
Sisk explains, “If you’ve struggled with your weight your entire life, your weight has gone up and down like a yo-yo, or you have a family history of obesity — you’re dealing with a disease. And this disease can be treated with bariatric surgery.”
Not sure if you’re eligible? A health care provider can help determine if you’re a candidate for bariatric surgery.
What Makes Bariatric Surgery Successful?
Bariatric surgery’s success rate is better than ever, mostly because of improved preparation and follow-up care. Our program at Stormont Vail Health’s Weight Management Center gets you ready — mentally and physically — for your procedure.
At Stormont Vail, you’ll regularly meet with your care team, including your surgeon, dietician, bariatric nurse practitioner, pharmacist, anesthesiologist, behavioral health provider, and endocrinologist (specialist who deals with metabolism issues).
The success of bariatric surgery is very dependent on how you prepare and what you do after the procedure. If you get used to a healthy lifestyle before the surgery, you’ll find it easier to maintain the results. Your provider may recommend starting a high-protein diet to prepare your body for the surgery.
“While on this diet, you can start finding healthy recipes you love, learn about ways to exercise, take supplements you won’t get tired of — all with the help of your weight management team,” Sisk says.
After surgery, you will need to continue these healthy habits — and here at Stormont Vail, your weight management team will be there to support you.
“Sometimes, patients who’ve had bariatric surgery struggle with vitamin deficiency following the procedure. At Stormont Vail, we have endocrinologists available as part of your weight management team to help you make sure you’re getting everything you need to keep you healthy,” Sisk says.
“Patients develop a relationship with their endocrinologist prior to surgery and follow up with them annually to prevent vitamin deficiency,” she adds.
Common Misconceptions About Bariatric Surgery
Bariatric surgery isn’t a very well-known treatment. Since many people don’t know that obesity is classified as a medical condition — not just the result of a person’s eating or exercise habits — they aren’t aware that it can be treated medically and surgically.
Even when people have heard of bariatric surgery, they may think it’s only for people who are severely obese. However, you don’t have to be very obese to be considered for weight loss surgery. If you’re in the right BMI range or you have medical conditions related to your weight, you may be a candidate.
“It’s also important to remember that bariatric surgery is not about getting ready for bikini season — it’s about being able to play with your kids or living a better quality of life,” Sisk says.
Finally, if you’re not a candidate for bariatric surgery, Stormont Vail’s Weight Management Center can still help.
“Our team can assist you with everything from diet and exercise plans to medication therapy to educational classes to get you on the right track,” Sisk says.
Do you have questions about bariatric surgery? Call (785) 270-4440 to set up an appointment with a Stormont Vail primary care provider or call (785) 354-9591 Ext. 21611 to schedule an appointment at the Weight Management Center.