Weight Loss Surgery (Obesity Surgery) Suitability

Is weight loss surgery for you? - This is a serious question and one that you will need to consider carefully.  Making the decision to have weight loss surgery is a major life changing decision.  Knowing if you are suitable is perhaps the first thing you need to establish.  A good place to start would be discussing the surgery with your GP. Some people feel that even thinking about weight loss surgery is an admission to failure, that their willpower alone should be enough to lose weight.  This conclusion is not realistic or accurate.  Appetite regulation in humans is exceedingly complex and controlled by many factors, largely chemical and hormonal messengers.  Some people find it difficult to control their appetites, for such people life is a constant struggle against the urge to eat.  Admitting that you have difficulties controlling your food intake takes courage and asking for help can be scary and takes huge personal strength.  Often those in this position only seek help after many personal struggles with their daily life and feel as if weight loss surgery is the last resort.  Obesity is a disease and most patients know that being excessively overweight represents the real threat of major long-term health issues. 

Obesity & Suitability

Obesity is a disease; morbid obesity is a clinical term, which means you face a possible 1 in 7 chance of death.  If your Body Mass Index (BMI) indicates you are morbidly obese your chances of developing a serious health condition such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes is considerable high.  Taking steps to reduce your weight is important for your own life expectancy. 

Other Weight Loss Options

It is important that you have exhausted all the other methods of weight loss over a prolonged length of time before you consider weight loss surgery.  Many patients have tried hundreds of diets, sometimes losing weight and then gaining more pounds than when they started.  This vicious cycle of ‘yo yo’ weight loss is not only hard on your body but also extremely frustrating and difficult to cope with emotionally. 

Diet Diary

Your surgeon will be interested in your dieting history, so keeping a diet diary is a good idea.  Your diet history will tell those health professionals that you have tried other options and are genuinely committed to achieving results in weight loss.

Weight Loss Surgery Criteria

A typical candidate for weight loss surgery (obesity surgery) would usually fit into the following criteria:

  • A Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40+ or 35 or above with other health issues related to excess weight.
  • Many failed attempts at other methods of weight control such as dieting exercise and supplements. 
  • Knowledge of the risks and benefits of surgery and a realistic commitment to    changing lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise.

There are also other factors to take into account such as not being mobile.  Some surgeons will not operate on patients who are not mobile due to the increased risk of blood clots to the lungs and pneumonia.  Not being mobile increases the risks you face as a result of surgery.  Some surgeons also have a cut off point for age, usually about 60 years.  There are other guidelines such as having no history of alcohol or drug abuse and no untreated psychiatric disorder. 

Long Term Weight Control

It is important that as a candidate for weight loss surgery you have realistic expectations.  An understanding that weight loss surgery will reduce your risk of life threatening conditions and improve your overall health by acting as a tool for weight loss.  Health professionals will want to see a commitment to significant behavioural modifications in diet and exercise.  These lifelong changes should not be underestimated and carefully considered if you are to have success in maintaining a health weight.  The surgery will bring about a new way of living, which you should be ready and committed to, these include:

  • Eating smaller amounts of food
  • Making important choices about the types of food you eat
  • Exercising regularly
  • Taking nutritional supplements
  • Limiting your consumption of sweets and food high in fat and sugar

Weight Loss & Relationships

Along with these behavioural changes, many patients experience emotional ups and down and sometimes changes in their relationships with others as they have to accept the ‘new you’.  In some cases some overweight friends have been uncomfortable with their new weight loss.  The changes will bring about challenges not only for yourself but those around you who have been used to interacting with you in a certain way as your ‘old’ self. 

Weight Loss Surgery for You

Your surgeon will want to find out that you are having the surgery for yourself and not for anyone else.  This may seem an odd concept, however it is not uncommon for some candidates for weight loss surgery to have felt pressurised into it by a spouse.  You are the one who will have to take the risks of surgery, live with the possible side effects and commit to aftercare so it is vital that you are having the surgery for you and you alone.

If you have established that you are a suitable candidate for weight loss surgery you will probably be considering how your life might look post surgery.  Typical questions patients have are about exercise, diet and emotional issues.  Often GP’s and surgeons talk of ‘lifestyle changes’ what are these lifestyle changes?  You will need to be aware of the changes you will need to make in your diet, the supplements you will need to take, the amount of exercise you will need to do and be aware some of the emotional challenges you may face.  Of course it is also a good idea to be aware of the positive changes you will experience post surgery and to keep those in mind, however keeping a balanced view is best.  Knowing that although in the long term your life will be changed for the better in many ways, there will be challenges to face and changes and new habits to be learnt.  You can find information in all sorts of places, some information will be helpful and informative, other information will be unhelpful or in some cases inaccurate.  When researching weight loss surgery and if it is right for you, use a variety of sources.  Of course your surgeon and health professionals are the best source of information but there are also support-groups and journals and magazines.  Sometimes speaking to others who have had weight loss surgery is helpful but their advice can be based on their own experiences, which could be different for you.  Although it is a good idea to speak to others who have had surgery, do not be too influenced by their views and always check other sources if you are unsure about anything they have told you.  In particular be wary of information you receive from the media.  Often news stories about weight loss surgery are sensational and extremes, which make the surgery sound either life threatening or a miracle cure.  Chat rooms are a great source of meeting like-minded people who are sharing similar experiences, they can however be bad places for accurate facts.

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