Common Misunderstandings About Bariatric Surgery

Common Misunderstandings About Bariatric Surgery

Alex Brecher

Sometimes it seems like everyone has opinions about bariatric surgery, but how much do you really know? There is a lot of misinformation going around about bariatric surgery, but that can be dangerous for anyone who is considering a procedure or who has undergone one. Even supporters of bariatric surgery patients can benefit from having a good understanding of the topic. These are some common misunderstandings about bariatric surgery, and the truths surrounding them.

Misunderstanding 1: Bariatric surgery makes you lose weight.

Truth: Bariatric surgery doesn’t make you lose weight. Bariatric surgery patients make themselves lose weight. Bariatric surgery is a tool to help you lose weight, such as through these mechanisms.

  • Filling up sooner due to a smaller stomach pouch or sleeve.
  • Being less hungry due to changes in hormone levels in some procedures. 
  • Helping you learn new eating habits, such as eating more slowly.

If you do not change your eating habits, you will not hit your goal weight after bariatric surgery.

Misunderstanding 2: Bariatric surgery is for making you look better.

Truth: Bariatric surgery is not a cosmetic procedure. Plastic surgery is. You will look different immediately after you get plastic surgery, while on the other hand, bariatric surgery changes your digestive system to help you lose weight and improve your health. It can take months before weight loss is great enough for other people to notice it.

Misunderstanding 3: Bariatric surgery is just for weight loss.

Truth: Bariatric surgery isn’t just for weight loss. It can also help improve health. Many people who get bariatric surgery have health risks related to obesity. Examples include arthritis, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. Losing weight can help with these risks, and sometimes the bariatric procedure itself can help reduce health risks.

Misunderstanding 3: Only a small minority of people qualify for bariatric surgery.

Truth: Over 2 million people in the U.S. qualify for bariatric surgery based on BMI or BMI and health risk. However, only about 1% of those who could be bariatric surgery patients actually are. This may be due to stigma, cost, or lack of knowledge about it.

Misunderstanding 4: One type of bariatric surgery is right for everyone.

Truth: There are different types of bariatric surgery. The most common ones are the gastric sleeve and gastric bypass. The gastric band is still done sometimes, but is not as common. Some patients need revisional procedures, too. 

Misunderstanding 5: The risks of bariatric surgery outweigh the benefits.

Truth: Many people believe that bariatric surgery is a high-risk choice that only desperate people would make. In reality, rates of complications may be lower than you think. In particular, the risk of serious complications is lower than in many common surgeries, such as gallbladder.

You need to do your own risk-benefit calculations, but usually the risks are less than many people think they are. It is important to remember that remaining obese can lead to its own serious health risks.

Misunderstanding 6: All surgeons are the same.

Truth: Choosing the right surgeon can help you succeed after weight loss surgery. Experienced surgeons with a history of low complication rates and high patient success rates are usually better choices. Bedside manner matters, too. You can do better when you are comfortable talking to your surgeon and asking questions. It is also best to have a surgeon with a support team that includes a dietitian and mental health professional who are easy to access.

Misunderstanding 7: A weight loss plateau or stall means that you have failed.

Truth: Weight loss plateaus, or stalls, are periods during which you stop losing weight. They are frustrating, upsetting, and very common. In most cases, you can get over a stall by returning to the behaviors that helped you lose a lot of weight before. In some cases, there could be a complication with your surgery, so always ask your surgeon if you suspect something may be wrong.

Misunderstanding 8: People turn to bariatric surgery as soon as they realize they are overweight.

Truth: Most bariatric surgery patients have struggled for years with their weight. They have tried many lifestyle change programs involving diet and exercise, and these programs have not worked for them. Most people look into bariatric surgery only after years of trying to lose weight, and often after losing some quality of life or realizing that they have health risks.

Misunderstanding 9: Insurance doesn’t cover bariatric surgery.

Truth: Bariatric surgery is an accepted treatment for obesity, and many insurance plans cover it, though eligibility criteria may differ depending on your plan and the state in which you live. Potential drawbacks of insurance may including taking several months to get the procedure approved, and possibly limiting surgeons to those within a network.

Misunderstanding 10: You can stop taking bariatric vitamins soon after your procedure.

Truth: Bariatric surgery patients should take vitamins for life. Your surgeon or dietitian may require a multivitamin and possible vitamins such as vitamin D, calcium, iron, or vitamin B12. The BariatricPal Store has many choices of vitamins.

With so many choices, there is no need for taking your vitamins to be a burden.

Misunderstanding 11: You cannot eat tasty foods on a post-op diet.

Truth: It is true that you need to eat a low-calorie, high-protein diet, but there are tons of delicious foods that you can have after surgery. You will need to follow a liquid diet, followed by a progression back to solid foods, but that is short-term. And, there are great-tasting, nutritious options at every stage of the post-op diet. 

The BariatricPal Store has these and many more choices.

Bariatric surgery is a life-changing experience, so it is imperative to find out the facts as you move forward. Getting to the bottom of common misperceptions can help you make the best decisions for yourself regarding weight loss surgery.

Bariatric surgery