If you are considering weight loss surgery, clinically referred to as “bariatric surgery,” you may be wondering how well it works. Perhaps you’ve known or heard of people who have had a bariatric procedure and lost weight only to regain the pounds they’ve shed. This might make you skeptical about weight loss surgery. Does it really work? Will it work for me?
These are good questions to ask. When it comes to bariatric surgery, “success is in the user,” says John A. Dietrick, MD, FACS, bariatric surgeon at Bariatric Surgery at AdventHealth Tampa. He says that bariatric surgery is a tool that sets people up to lose weight. However, they must be committed to making lifestyle changes that will transform the way they look at food, vitamin supplementation and exercise.
Dr. Dietrick says that 85 percent of the patients that he, John Paul Gonzalvo, DO, FACS and Michel Murr, MD, FACS, also bariatric surgeons at AdventHealth Tampa, treat lose weight and keep it off long term. That translates into about 5 in every 6 patients. If these people had decided to lose weight through diet and exercise without the extra help of bariatric surgery, the chance that they would lose weight and keep it off would be less than 4 percent, or 4 in 100.
Why Doesn’t Bariatric Surgery Work for Some People?
About 1 in 6 patients who have bariatric surgery eventually gain back the weight they lost after their procedures.
“Why did they gain back the weight?” asks Dr. Dietrick. “because they weren’t able to make the changes in their lifestyles that were essential for success.” He says, “One common culprit is eating out at restaurants. The food in restaurants tends to be dense in carbohydrates and fats, and the portions are often large.”
Dr. Dietrick explains that it’s human nature to eat everything on one’s plate – not because our parents told us to do this, but because it’s a human survival mechanism. Our ancestors didn’t always know when their next meal was coming from, so they ate as much as they could whenever they could. That’s why people who have bariatric surgery are encouraged to shop for, prepare and serve their own food more often than they might be used to.
Another lifestyle choice that can interfere with weight loss after bariatric surgery is alcohol. “It’s an absolute sabotage in the effort to lose weight because alcohol is a pure sugar,” he continues. A couple of glasses of wine or beer each night can quickly add up to a pound of weight gain over a week or two.
Eating for Bariatric Surgery Success
It’s also human nature not to measure our food. Another change people who have bariatric surgery need to make is eating small meals of about ½ cup in size apiece, five times a day.
Not only the size of the meals but the nature of the food itself in those meals will need to be monitored. Food with lots of sugar, fat and salt tends to taste better to us, but it won’t lead to weight loss. Dr. Dietrick mentions that Americans today tend to eat too many carbohydrate-rich foods – foods with sugar or starches that the body breaks down into sugar. He and the team at Bariatric Surgery at AdventHealth Tampa steer patients towards foods high in protein and lower in calories that will keep them satisfied longer between meals. Because people are not born with the knowledge of which nutrients to eat and how much, the practice’s registered dietitians meet one-on-one with patients to help them learn how to modify their eating habits.
And if you think bariatric surgery means a future of salad, you may be surprised. Dr. Dietrick says that, with the exception of oil and vinegar, salad dressings should be avoided. And because lettuce contains little nutrient value, then skip the lettuce and stick to salad bar options such as tomatoes, yellow peppers, carrots and broccoli that taste good on their own.
Exercise Is Important Too
When you lose weight, you’ll lose both fat and muscle. However, muscle is good tissue – it makes us stronger and burns calories. Dr. Dietrick explains that muscle strengthening is critical in the first year after surgery because it helps patients maintain their muscle even as they lose weight. Strategies to prevent muscle loss include eating more protein and performing strengthening exercises to maintain muscle.
“Because most people don’t know how to strengthen their latissimus dorsi,” says Dr. Dietrick, using the medical name for the largest muscle in the upper body, “we tell them to consider a personal trainer at least to get them started.”
The Help to Move Along Your Weight Loss Journey
A big part of the success of our patients is related to the care they continue to receive after their procedures.
“Patients’ follow up in the office is essential,” Dr. Dietrick stresses. He explains that patients typically meet again with him every three months for the first year after their procedure and then once or twice per year for life. That frequency is important because it allows the team to intervene quickly if patients begin to show weight regain.
During these appointments, patients’ vitamin and mineral levels are measured. This ensures patients are receiving the right level of dietary supplements. After a gastric bypass procedure, food skips the part of the intestine that best absorbs minerals such as calcium and iron. Therefore, patients need to take supplements. There are bariatric multivitamins specifically for people who have had weight loss surgery. The team at Bariatric Surgery at AdventHealth Tampa helps patients find the right bariatric multivitamin as well as iron and calcium supplements to ensure optimal nutrition and health.
“We consider our patients’ success our responsibility too,” says Dr. Dietrick. “Our entire team is committed to them for the rest of their lives.”
If you want to know more about bariatric surgery, schedule a consultation at Bariatric Surgery at AdventHealth Tampa at two convenient locations in Tampa and Brandon. For an appointment, call