Education for Bariatric Surgery Success
Psychologists have proven that people who are well prepared for the realities of their weight management program are typically more successful than people who go into a program full of hope but a bit fuzzy on the details. This is especially true for people who chose bariatric surgery because, unlike a low-calorie diet that you can quit at any time, the change in gastric function resulting from weight loss surgery procedures is usually difficult to reverse. Furthermore, food inevitably plays a major role in the lives of people who become heavy enough to qualify for weight loss surgery.
What do I need to know for my weight loss surgery to be successful?
The most important thing you need to understand is that bariatric surgery is not magic. It is a tool that can help obese individuals lose weight more quickly and effectively, and with a lower potential for weight regain, than if they were following a low calorie diet and exercise program. However, to lose weight safely and sustain a lower body weight in the long term, you must make a lifelong commitment to a new healthier lifestyle and learn to adopt different eating patterns.
Secondly, you need to understand the benefits and the risks associated with the various weight loss surgery procedures. You also need to aware of behaviors that can reduce or prevent side effects. Weight loss surgery has become much safer over the past decade due to the development of newer, less invasive techniques. However, any type of surgery increases your risks of undesirable side effects. Listen carefully to the risks and benefits your surgeon and his staff detail. Ask questions until you are comfortable with what you can expect from potential side effects, post-operative recovery time, and types of lifestyle changes required. Doing so will lessen the anxiety you feel if you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation. It also helps establish behaviors that promote post-surgical success.
Many side effects or adverse reactions associated with bariatric surgery, such as food becoming lodged in the opening to the new smaller stomach, nutritional deficiencies, or even dehydration, can be prevented by proper self-care after surgery. Knowing what types of side effects can occur, which side effects can be prevented and how to prevent them, and when to seek medical treatment can help you be a successful weight loss surgery patient.
Thirdly, you need to know how much weight you are likely to lose after the surgery and you need to have a realistic view of how much weight loss can and will change your life. For example, if you are 200 pounds overweight, losing 150 pounds will have a profoundly positive effect on your health, mobility, and overall quality of life. But will losing less than your total excess body weight make you happy? Or will you still feel fat and long to be a size 2? Do you expect weight loss to magically resolve all the challenges and disappointments in your life? Or do you accept that a healthier body and improved quality of life will help you begin to pursue your dreams, but that it can’t guarantee you will achieve them?
Researchers associated with the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have shown that people who have unrealistic weight loss goals and exaggerated expectations of how much losing weight will change their lives are much more likely to become discouraged and regain weight than people with more modest but realistic expectations. Weight loss surgery patients who feel discouraged because the success they achieved was less than they hoped for and takes more work than they had initially imagined are likely to cut corners when it comes to their self care routine. This short-cutting can put them at risk for a variety of side effects, including weight regain and addiction transfer.
If you can increase your awareness of the ways you use food to address issues other than hunger, you can develop strategies for meeting these needs without eating after your surgery.
Finally, you will need to develop an understanding of the role that food has played in your life and to devise strategies for filling the void that will be created in your life when overeating is no longer an option. Food is a commonly used to relieve stress, boredom, or emotional distress. Try to identify which types of skills you need, such as stress management, anger management, and/or social skills. Are you willing to acquire these skills to deal with your emotions without turning to food? Do you have a pre-surgery plan that addresses some of the skills you need? Do you have a post-operative support plan? People who do not seek satisfactory substitutes for food have been known to replace food with other undesirable and addictive activities like gambling, recreational drugs, and alcohol.
Being well educated about all aspects of bariatric surgery before you undergo such an operation can greatly improve your odds of success. Consider time spent preparing for surgery an investment in your future success.