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Could Bariatric Surgery Be the Right Weight Loss Tool for You?

January 20, 2020
About two-thirds of American adults are overweight and, in that group, one-third are obese. Elizabeth Dovec, MD, bariatric surgeon at GBMC’s Comprehensive Obesity Management Program, and Timothee Freisen, MD, bariatric and general surgeon, discussed how bariatric surgery can change the lives of people living with obesity with Mary Beth Marsden.

“There are misconceptions about people who have bariatric surgery,” explained Dr. Dovec. “For some people, there’s a stigma attached to it. They say, ‘Why can’t they just eat less and exercise to lose weight like everyone else?’ But obesity is a complex disease and we have tools, including bariatric surgery, that can treat it successfully.”

Dr. Dovec and Dr. Friesen talked about the different approaches to bariatric surgery. The gastric sleeve reduces stomach size and appetite, while gastric bypass makes the stomach smaller but also shortens the intestines so not all nutrients are absorbed, which leads to weight loss and better blood sugar levels. Gastric bypass has been performed for decades, while the gastric sleeve is a newer approach that can work better for people who may have risk factors that make the longer time in surgery required for gastric bypass riskier.

The doctors noted that people between the ages of 18 and 80 could be candidates for bariatric surgery if they have a body mass index (BMI) of over 40 or over 35 if they have diabetes. And while patients do lose a significant amount of weight after surgery, Dr. Dovec emphasized that it’s not a magic wand. “You need to change your habits and what you’re eating to maintain your weight loss,” she said. “Although it might sound counterintuitive, you need to eat more to lose more—three meals a day. Eat protein first so you stay full, avoid carbs and added sugars, and minimize snacking. Surgery is an effective tool, but you still need to make healthy eating changes to lose the weight, keep it off, and get healthy.”
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