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6 Common Misconceptions About Weight Loss Surgery

May 05, 2023

If you knew one small surgery could change – even save – your life, would you get it?

The answer might seem obvious, but it isn’t always the case with weight loss surgery.  Less than 1% of eligible candidates move forwards with the procedure, which can improve everything from blood pressure to joint pain.

So we asked Nicholas Dugan, MD, bariatric surgeon in Shelton, to help us clear up six common misconceptions about weight loss surgery that might be keeping you from a healthier life.

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1. It’s too dangerous

Once a more difficult procedure, bariatric surgery hasn’t quite shaken the bad rap it used to have.

“Bariatric surgery used to have a much higher complication rate, but we’ve come a long way in the past 15 years or so,” says Dr. Dugan.

In fact, complications today are ten times less likely than they once were, thanks to minimally invasive techniques such as laparoscopy and robotic surgery.

“These days, the risk of a major complication is no higher than with a knee replacement or gallbladder surgery,” Dr. Dugan notes.

Although any surgery carries some risk, in this case, the bigger risk might be not getting the surgery.

> Related: 5 Tips to Start Your Weight Loss Journey Off Strong

2. Or too painful

Minimally invasive techniques haven’t only reduced risk, they’ve reduced pain, too.

“Bariatric surgery can be done with just a few incisions, and you can go home the next day,” says Dr. Dugan.

Worried about missing work? Most patients are back to work within five to ten days, depending on how physically demanding their jobs are.

3. It’s a cosmetic surgery

That one struck a nerve. “To say bariatric surgery is cosmetic would be inaccurate,” Dr. Dugan says. “For some, this is a life-saving procedure. It reduces the risk of premature death.”

There are too many benefits to count, but some other health benefits include improvement or remission of:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Cholesterol
  • Sleep apnea
  • Joint pain
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome

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4. I’ll just gain the weight right back

“While it’s true that some patients will gain back most of their weight, long term studies show that the average patient maintains 60-65% of excess body weight loss 10 years after surgery,” says Dr. Dugan.

If you’re worried about gaining the weight back, Dr. Dugan has these five tips:

  1. Maintain a normal three meal per day eating habit, and avoid grazing throughout the day
  2. Avoid processed foods. Instead, aim for solid, whole foods such as chicken, fruits and vegetables
  3. Eat protein first, then fruits and vegetables, and carbohydrates such as rice and pasta last
  4. Maintain a steady, sustainable exercise routine
  5. Follow up with your surgeon yearly, and at the first sign of weight regain

5. It’s not worth it

If you’re eligible for bariatric surgery, it’s worthwhile.

“For gastric bypass, the average weight loss is 70-80% of a patient’s excess weight. It’s closer to 50-70% for the sleeve gastrectomy, but those outcomes are a little more variable,” Dr. Dugan says.

Ideal candidates are anyone with a body mass index (BMI) above 40, or those with a BMI between 35-40 with comorbidities. Most commonly, those comorbidities include hypertension, diabetes, sleep apnea and high cholesterol.

6. I didn’t earn it

Weight loss – and weight gain, for that matter – don’t look the same for everyone. Some people have metabolic disease such as insulin resistance or diabetes, which can make weight loss difficult. Others have genetic predisposition to weight gain, which can be difficult to overcome.

In cases like these, diet and exercise alone are not enough. “Some people can eat and exercise the same as someone else, but never be the same weight. Surgery has been proven to be the most effective weight treatment we have – there is over 50 years’ worth of research to support that.

“Obesity is not a lifestyle choice, it’s a disease,” he adds. “No one would say its cheating to take insulin when you have diabetes, or to have surgery to remove cancer. The same goes for bariatric surgery.”