Let me start by saving I am not a physician. Anything I’ve written in this or my previous column about my bariatric weight loss surgery (WLS) is purely from my personal experience and/or research. I am not giving any professional or medical advice or information. Please consult a surgeon who specializes in WLS here.
Since my first article was published, I have been getting many inquiries about my surgery and subsequent complications and recovery. I have also received many questions from people about their own weight issues, some who are interested in a possible surgery of their own.
Your BODY Mass Index (BMI), most often influences the potential need for WLS. BMI is a calculation based on your weight and height. There are a variety of health related complications associated with different levels of your Body Mass Index. To calculate your BMI you should talk with your physician and check your estimated BMI online.
Prior to my surgery I weighed 370 pounds and had a BMI of 55. Below are BMI definitions recommended by the World Health Organization:
BMI less than 18.5 - Underweight
BMI between 18.5 and 25 - Healthy weight
BMI between 25 and 30 - Overweight
BMI between 30 and 40 - Obese
BMI between 40 and 50 - Very obese, morbidly obese
BMI over 51 - Super morbidly obese
Many people who have had the surgery expect it to be an easy miracle that solves all of their problems. The surgery in and of itself is most times (unless you have complications) the easiest part of the process and just the beginning of a lot of changes, dedication and hard work that must become part of the rest of your life.
One of the most common reasons for the weight loss surgery (WLS) not being very effective is either overestimating the amount of exercise you get or underestimating the number of calories you consume. Either of these will be a sure sabotage to the benefits from the surgery (which must be maximized in the first year before your stomach stretches). This can be done either intentionally or unintentionally. I would suggest starting an exercise and eating journal. Keep these meticulously and be sure to examine the results objectively. Your doctor will want to see these as well.
Warning: Do not start or increase an exercise routine without consulting your personal weight loss doctor. Exercise is one major key to successful WLS. Walking is by far the easiest exercise in the initial stages of weight loss especially for people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. I was off of my asthma medications and apnea machine within two months. Secondly you can add some basic weights to your routine. As you may have heard or read, the more muscle mass you have on your body the more calories you burn (even in a resting and sleeping state).
Another common mistake or misconception is that once you have had the surgery your issues with food are behind you once and for all. If you had a problematic relationship with food (comfort eating, binge and purge or subconscious overeating) before you had the surgery you will, most likely, still have those problems after you are out of the hospital. People oftentimes do not seek the professional help (before or after the surgery) they need to fundamentally change their relationship with food as a crutch, coping mechanism or drug of choice in their life. Both Weight Loss Support Groups and Overeaters Anonymous can be invaluable sources of information, ideas and encouragement.
I am listing some websites that contain additional information, research, tips and support:
TYPES OF OBESITY (OBESE, MORBIDLY OBESE OR SUPER-MORBIDLY OBESE)
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT BARIATRIC OR WEIGHT-LOSS SURGERY
METHODS OF WLS SABOTAGE:
MAXIMIZING WEIGHT-LOSS SURGERY BENEFITS:
PSYCHOLOGICAL ISSUES AND WEIGHT LOSS SURGERY:
I hope that my story about my surgery experience provides some insight and gives you an idea about some of the potentially fatal complications. When I first started discussing the bariatric procedure with my chosen surgeon, he had a series of in-depth consultations with me to discuss potential issues. This included the risk and statistical likelihood of complications. I listened to him superficially. In my mind they were just theoretical percentages. I truly wished I had paid more attention so I would be fully aware of the impact of the lifelong decision I was making.
After 11 years of people asking me questions, telling my story, and seeing friends and family members who were obese, morbidly obese, or super morbidly obese, I have never told one person they should get the surgery. I have told them that if they have negative health impacts of being overweight it might be something they should discuss with their physician or more importantly a board certified Weight Loss Surgeon.
Andre Cramblit is a Karuk Tribal Member from the Klamath and Salmon rivers in northwest California and the Operations Director of the Northern California Indian Development Council. He lives with his wife Wendy and son Kyle in Arcata, California.