Over 200,000 bariatric procedures are performed in the U.S. each year, making it an increasingly popular option for sustainable weight loss. However, these surgeries come with some major considerations and lifelong impacts.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover the pros, cons, types of procedures, key questions to ask, and more to help you determine if bariatric surgery is the right choice for you.
There are a few types of weight loss surgery options to choose from:
Each surgery has its own benefits and downsides. On average, gastric bypass patients lose the most weight initially but sleeve gastrectomy has higher patient satisfaction long-term.
Let’s start with the potential benefits of bariatric surgery first.
For those struggling with severe obesity, bariatric surgery can help patients achieve significant, sustainable weight loss results better than diet and exercise alone.
In addition to the numbers on the scale dropping, bariatric surgery has positive impacts on obesity-related conditions:
For qualifying patients, bariatric surgery gives your body additional support to achieve health and wellness goals that lifestyle measures alone cannot provide.
While bariatric surgery represents a significant upfront investment, studies show healthcare savings of $4,000 to $6,000 per person in the first 2-4 years post-surgery. Over 3-5 years, it evens out cost-wise and leads to net savings after that timeline.
These reductions come from less frequent doctor’s visits, lab testing, and medications needed for obesity-induced conditions like diabetes and heart disease that improve after surgery.
Cost-effectiveness analyses found that bariatric surgery has a high return-on-investment over a 5 to 10 year period.
For qualifying candidates, weight loss surgery can significantly reduce mortality risk from obesity-related diseases:
While no surgery comes without risks, bariatric procedures can add years back to your life, especially for those diagnosed with obesity at a younger age.
However, bariatric surgery is certainly not all sunshine and rainbows. There are some major cons and considerations to think through first.
While the upfront surgical procedure happens relatively quickly, maintaining long-term weight loss requires permanent lifestyle changes. These include:
Without diligently sticking to these new habits, patients risk weight regain, nutritional deficiencies, or even the need for additional surgery down the road.
As with any major procedure, bariatric surgery comes with risk of complications - some with severe or lasting consequences. These include:
In the first 6 months post-op, patients follow strict liquid or pureed diet protocols to allow stomach and intestines to heal without further damage.
Rapid weight loss after surgery also commonly leads to some hair loss and anemia. Proper nutrition and lab work helps reduce this side effect.
While the risk of complications is relatively low (around 10 to 15% on average), be sure to understand the potential downsides before surgery.
For those who undergo bariatric procedures but then revert back to unhealthy eating habits down the road, weight regain is unfortunately fairly common. One study found over 30% of patients regained at least some lost weight between 2 and 10 years post-op.
The more that diet and lifestyle habits deviate back toward old patterns, the higher the chance of regaining weight. In some cases where significant regain occurs, revision surgeries may be required to jumpstart additional weight loss.
By sticking closely to post-op diet protocols focused on high protein, nutritious bariatric foods (like specially formulated protein shakes), regularly exercising, and taking bariatric supplements long-term, patients give themselves the best chance of maintaining results.
Beyond the major physical changes happening internally during rapid weight loss, bariatric surgery brings along some mental and emotional challenges as well. These include:
Therapy, support groups, open conversations with close friends and family, and self-care practices help address the mental side effects of surgery. Finding healthy coping strategies early makes success more sustainable long-term.
While bariatric surgery can jumpstart weight loss unlike anything else, it comes with good and bad lifelong effects to consider. Discuss all pros and cons openly with your bariatric team and loved ones to determine if the benefits outweigh the risks in your situation.
Surgery serves as a powerful tool, but not a quick fix all. Success after bariatric surgery requires consistent hard work and commitment to permanent lifestyle changes. For those who put in the effort though, the lasting impacts make all the difference.