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How Weight Loss Surgery Changes Lives

January 20, 2020
More than 40% of American adults are obese, according to statistics gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Being significantly overweight can increase your risk for a wide range of serious health problems, from type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure to sleep apnea, stroke, and arthritis. Elizabeth Dovec, MD, FACS, FASMB, a bariatric surgeon and Medical Director of GBMC’s Comprehensive Obesity Management Program (COMP) talked about why it can be hard to lose weight, what weight loss surgery options are available, and why surgery may be an option you’ve never considered. Her patient, Rick Smith, also shared his weight-loss success and why bariatric surgery was the best health decision he ever made.

“Everyone has tried diets,” said Dr. Dovec. “Some are great, some are dangerous, but restrictive diets are not an effective or long term solution for weight loss. In fact, a lot of people who struggle with their weight are eating too little. They end up hungry at the end of the day, with their body craving fuel in the form of carbs and glucose. That leads to them eating the wrong things, ironically, because they’re trying so hard to do what they think is the right thing — limiting their food intake.”

For people with a BMI of 35 or more, weight loss surgery may be an effective way to lower their weight and improve their health. Dr. Dovec described the two approaches she uses—laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypass — and explained the benefits and risks of both procedures.

“People who have the sleeve gastrectomy lose 60 to 70% of their excess weight on average, while those who have gastric bypass lose 80 to 85% of their excess weight,” she explained. “In addition to the better quality of life patients experience after weight loss, their health also improves significantly. After bypass, 98% of patients no longer have type 2 diabetes. Rather than treating the problem with medication, you’ve taken care of the source of the problem.”

Dr. Dovec said that weight loss surgery is covered by insurance, usually with little to no out-of-pocket cost for the patient. She also emphasized that the reason her patients do so well is that GBMC’s program goes far beyond just offering surgery. She and her colleagues spend a great deal of time educating patients and getting them as healthy as possible before surgery, as well as providing ongoing support and education to help patients keep the weight off.

Rick Smith is living proof of the effectiveness of GBMC’s Comprehensive Obesity Management Program. At his heaviest, he weighed 320 pounds. Today, he weighs 215 and has run six 5K races in the past seven months.

“Before my surgery, I had type 2 diabetes, took six medications a day, and had been hospitalized several times for pancreatitis,” he said. “I went from being a couch potato to falling in love with running, something I never imagined doing. If you’re considering weight loss surgery, I’d ask what you are waiting for. It’s the best decision I ever made. Get your life back before it’s too late.”
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