Weight Loss Surgery: Not just an easy pill to swallow!

I learned something about myself during my visit with the bariatric surgeon the other day.  I am, for quality of life reasons, willing to swallow a pill that may have harmful effects at some point down the road, but I am not willing to subject myself to unnecessary surgery that could damage me for life or kill me right now.  In other words, I am able to turn a blind eye toward the possible side effects of the various weight-loss producing meds that my doctor prescribes for me, but I am unable (at least at this point in my journey) to allow a surgeon to drastically alter my innards so that I might look thinner and feel better–the operative (no pun intended) word here being might.   That being said, I am glad that I investigated the surgical option and did not give in to last minute, negative self-talk which, fueled by the lack of positive feelings about the surgery from my family, urged me to cancel my appointment and tried to make me feel like a fool for ever considering it.   Gaining facts to make an informed decision is never a waste of time.

The surgeon was very kind and informative.  He spent almost an hour describing the procedures and answering all of the questions posed to him by my loved ones and myself.  At the end of the hour, he wrapped up by saying that I should think about it and come up with more questions.  I’m sure he could sense the uncertainty and negativity in the air.  My loved ones were still completely against the surgery, and I was left concerned about the risks and unconvinced that any of the options would solve my problem.

The options, through my eyes:

  • Lap-band:  An adjustable gastric band which makes the stomach smaller.  It aids in weight loss by limiting the amount of food that the stomach can hold, and, therefore, you eat less and feel full sooner.  The least invasive and least risky, but it really only works well for those who eat their meals at the table because it regulates how much they can eat in order to feel full; i.e., those of us who graze on high-calorie foods all day would receive little to no benefit from this method because it allows one to have many small meals throughout the day but does not count your calories for you.  I am a grazer.  Don’t lecture me, but I eat most of my meals on the run and I eat until I am full and beyond.  Lap-band ruled out.
  • Sleeve Gastrectomy:  The only bariatric surgery that is irreversible because it involves removing a large amount of the stomach.  Remodels the stomach into a thin tube.  Weight loss happens in two ways:  1) Tubularizing the stomach limits the amount of food that you can consume at one time.  2) The part of the stomach that is removed produces Ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite.  Less Ghrelin hopefully equals less hunger.  The unfortunate part of this option for me is that liquid calories slip right through the sleeve.  Hello?  According to the doc, ice cream, milkshakes, soda, chocolate, etc. could be consumed without the consequence of feeling full.  Rule that one out!  All the risk of a major surgery, and I could still max out on liquid calories and stay fat.  No way!
  • Gastric Bypass:  First, may I say, SCARY!!  This is the one I really wanted to avoid, and this is the one that was recommended to me when I confessed that I am not a table eater and that I love my liquid calories.  Nothing is removed from the body but things are changed around.   I admit, I do not understand all the intricacies of this operation.  I know that it reduces the size of the stomach to about 1 ounce and that the stomach enzymes will not meet with food until further down the intestinal tract.  Weight loss is produced by forced portion control and malabsorption.  I was about to buy into this one, all risks aside, until the doc informed me that I would never again guzzle a beverage, that I would have to learn to be a sipper and just take little sips of water all day long.  No more than like 4 ounces of coffee could be consumed at once, and then I would have to drink the coffee and wait awhile after that to eat breakfast.  Basically, this operation should never be done on someone who is not willing to completely alter the way they feel about food and beverage for life.  NOT ME!!  Not yet, anyway.

And so, I refer back to paragraph one of this post.  Much to the relief of my loved ones, I have decided that I need to try harder to lose weight the natural way–good old fashioned diet and exercise–with the addition of an old (but new to me) medication called Metformin.  Yes, 125 pounds overweight is a lot, but not enough, even with the diagnosis of diabetes looming in the air, to convince me that surgery is medically necessary.  I hope I never reach it, but I believe for me to risk surgery, I would have to weigh 350 pounds or more.  That’s my story, and, for now, I’m stickin’ to it.