What I’ve learned about bariatric surgery
When I started this journey in April by going into the surgical track at UMass Memorial Weight Loss Center, my BMI was 36. Technically surgery is covered if your BMI is 40+, but if you have any 2 of the co-morbidities that include high blood pressure (I have), diabetes (I was borderline type 2), sleep apnea (I’d just been diagnosed) or thyroid issues (yup), insurance will cover surgery with a BMI over 35. This morning when I weighed myself, my BMI was 30.8. I know BMI isn’t a great measure of obesity, a measuring tape is better, but I still monitor the typical numbers because it’s what I had when I started this.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I absolutely believe bariatric surgery is a good choice for a lot of people. I honestly believed, when I started this, there was NO WAY I could lose the weight I needed to lose without the aid of surgery. And who knows? Maybe I still won’t, but my BMI is now too low to qualify for insurance so I need to either put all that weight back on (not going to happen!) or keep doing what I’m doing. However, along the way, I learned a few things about myself and about bariatric surgery. If you’re considering it, I’m going to “drop some knowledge.”
You still have to make a significant change in your life
The first thing I learned about bariatric surgery is, surgery will absolutely get you to your goal, but if you don’t make significant life changes in the way you eat, you will not stay at that weight. As I say over and over about the LCHF/Keto WOE, it’s not something you can do for a while, get to your goal and return to your old eating habits. You simply can’t. You will gain all the weight back.
I stumbled upon LCHF/Keto as I was trying to find ways to change my eating habits such that the changes would stick. I needed something I’d never done before (because they all failed) and that was easy to stick to. Never in a million years would I have guessed simply dumping carbs from my diet was the answer. Finding LCHF/Keto was a happy accident for me.
Anyway, UMass Memorial Weight Loss Center was great for me in that they really emphasized you have to establish your new eating habits before you have surgery and you have to stick to that habit for the rest of your life.
Bariatric surgery is really just forced fasting
This one took a while to sink in. I first heard of this after reading Dr. Jason Fung’s The Obesity Code. He has an excellent blog post I recommend reading called Bariatrics is Surgically Forced Fasting.
“All of the benefits of bariatric surgery accrue because of the fasting. Studies show that fasting is actually superior to surgery in both weight loss and reduction in blood sugars.” Dr. Jason Fung
This blog post was profoundly influential for me. It took a while to sink in (as witnessed by my many blog posts waffling about the decision to have or not have surgery), but sink in it did.
Now when I type stuff like above, I usually get a round of snide comments along the lines of “you’re ramming your opinion down everyone’s throat.” To that I say, of course, I am! It’s MY blog. But I also say, maybe I’m hitting a nerve. I don’t know. Funny thing is, when I first announced I was going to have surgery, almost everyone said, “Don’t do it! You can do this with diet and exercise!” At any rate, I will repeat, bariatric surgery is safe and if it’s right for you, go for it. Just know that it will fail if you return to your old eating habits.
Bariatric surgery is not the “easy way out.”
Anybody who has had or is considering bariatric surgery knows it’s not easy. I’ll leave it at that. There is nothing easy or simple about having this surgery. It is a major life change and a change that will be with you for the rest of your life. Anyone who thinks it’s somehow an easy way to lose weight and the person choosing to have it is weak willed (which is the implication of such a comment) is simply a jerk. Plain and simple. Keep that opinion to yourself as it just shows your utter ignorance of what it’s like to live with obesity.
If you do choose to have bariatric surgery, I commend you! You’re making a choice for better health.
Addressing the “You can do it on your own!” comments
If you’ve stumbled upon this blog post as you research bariatric surgery for yourself, you are inevitably going to have friends who are “sad” you are making such a “drastic” decision. These well-meaning friends say they don’t want you to have surgery because they “know you can do it!” To that, I say, really? How on earth do they “know” you can lose the weight on your own? Saying that to someone considering surgery is so wrong. Nobody knows what you’ve gone through.
When you are obese, will-power is not the problem. How food affects your body is. I wrote more about this earlier.
My response to people who said this to me (and there were a lot) was, “Clearly, I can’t do it ‘on my own.'” That usually did it. But that begs the comment, “But clearly you DID do it on your own! So I was right!”
Nope. Your initial thought is a spurious correlation. Your saying “you can do it!” and my success is about as realistic as the correlation between the number of people who drowned by falling into a pool and the films Nicholas Cage appeared in. Your saying I could do it on my own had absolutely nothing to do with my success. My hard work and research and planning did. I thank you for thinking so highly of me, but my success without surgery is not about will-power. It’s about finding what worked for me. And it took a while to find that. And I’m glad I did.
My not having bariatric surgery was simply a happy accident. On my path to surgery, I found the root cause of my weight problems. Too many carbohydrates and too few healthy fats. It sounds so simple now. I know it was not simple. I know after the volumes of information and (real) scientific evidence I’ve read, this is my path. I feel like I should be getting a master’s degree or something after all this work. Oh, wait! I am! In all my newfound healthfulness and energy, I am starting a master’s program in a little over a week. And just as I know I will reach and maintain my goal weight, I also know I will reach and maintain this master’s degree. My brain fog has lifted as well since dumping carbs!