Weight loss surgery is not for everyone, acknowledges bariatric surgeon Scott Steinberg of Surgical Weight Management in Decatur, but for those for whom it’s appropriate it can be a lifesaver, he said.
Steinberg, who has performed more than 1,500 such surgeries, said that those whose weight is 100 pounds or more above their ideal weight or have a body mass index of 40 or greater should consider surgery. “It’s not appropriate for those who only need to lose 20 or 30 pounds,” he said. But surgery, he said, has put many who are extremely obese, particularly with related health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and sleep apnea, on the road to better health.
“Even if this isn’t what a patient’s primary physician recommends, the patient should take charge of his or her own health and get a second opinion before rejecting surgery as an option. Modern techniques are very safe and highly successful,” Steinberg said.
He acknowledges that surgery is no “quick fix,” that a great deal of commitment and dedication on the part of the patient is required. Bariatric surgical patients must do some of the same things those on non-surgical weight loss programs must do—limit food intake, make nutritious food selections and exercise. Those alone, however, fail more often than they succeed, Steinberg said, adding that 95 percent of extremely overweight people who try to lose the weight without surgery regain all they lost and often gain more within a few years.
Most people who have weight loss surgery tend to have their most significant weight loss within the first year, but without making major lifestyle changes over the long-term, patients can plateau or, in some case, regain weight, he said.
One of Steinberg’s patients, Kenisha Sardin-Vallery, a young mother of three, opted for the surgery after she was told that unless she lost weight she probably wouldn’t live to see her children grown and settled into independent lives. “That stopped me in my tracks,” she said. “I knew I had to do something.”
There are several types of bariatric surgery and the type Sardin-Vallery had involves having a gastric band placed around the stomach to reduce its size. The manufacturer has an Internet support site, REALIZE mySUCCESS, that Sardin-Vallery said she finds very helpful.
Before the surgery, Sardin-Vallery weighed 263 pounds. In addition to the morbid obesity, she suffered from type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and high cholesterol. She was taking six prescription medications and sleeping with a breathing machine. Now, she’s almost half her former size, needs no medication and sleeps without the device.
The path to success was not entirely smooth, however. She had been very close to her grandfather, who also had type 2 diabetes. When his health started to fail, the stress prompted a bout of emotional overeating. “I was eating comfort foods and things in quantities I knew I shouldn’t,” Sardin-Vallery recalled.
With encouragement from her grandfather and health-care providers who were following her progress on REALIZE mySUCCESS, she got back on track and continued to lose even after her grandfather died.
Sardin-Vallery recalled what she said was a wonderful moment this past August. “My bariatric surgeon said something to me that nearly knocked me off my feet. He said, ‘You’re healthy’ and told me my goal now is weight maintenance, not weight loss. I’ve never heard that in my life. I wish my grandfather was around to see this. He would be so happy for me. When he learned I was having surgery, he told me to do whatever it takes to get healthy. Well, I’ve done it,” she said.