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Published on May 18, 2018

weight-loss success

A Team Approach to Bariatric Surgery

When it comes to making significant life changes – such as undergoing weight-loss surgery – team support along the journey offers the encouragement and accountability needed to stay on track and stay committed throughout the highs and lows.

“A team approach is always better when you’re trying to make lifestyle changes,” says Dawn Flickema, MD, a physician at Avera Medical Group Integrative Medicine. “Seeking out people who are going to be supportive and help you maintain healthy habits is an important part of long-term weight loss success.”

Patients undergoing bariatric surgery at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center Bariatric Institute have not only the care of a bariatric surgeon, but also an entire team working on their behalf, including: a behavioral health counselor, integrative medicine physician and health coach. Together, they make sure patients are ready – body, mind and spirit – for the changes required to reach their weight loss goals.

The Mindset for Change

Bariatric surgery is much more than a procedure. It’s a treatment combination that includes surgery, nutrition, exercise and fundamental changes in behavior. And it’s only successful, in the long term, when a patient makes the personal commitment to maintain healthy lifestyle changes.

For that reason, the preparation starts months before the actual surgery takes place– giving patients time to develop the mindset needed to embrace a new lifestyle.

“It’s important to prepare both the mind and body,” says Flickema. “The most successful patients have the right mindset before going into surgery.”

To achieve that mindset, a counselor specially-trained in bariatric issues helps patients identify any unhealthy eating behaviors and thought patterns. And together, they develop strategies to overcome those obstacles.

Set Up for Success

Prior to surgery, patients also meet with a health coach and physician from Avera Medical Group Integrative Medicine to work toward goals of optimizing nutrition, ensuring adequate vitamin and mineral levels and losing 5 – 10 percent of their bodyweight before surgery.

“Experiencing some weight loss success before surgery helps boost their confidence that the journey is going to be successful and that they’ll be able to achieve their goals,” says Flickema.

She describes how it also provides safety benefits during the actual surgery. Weight loss prior to surgery has been shown to decrease post-operation complication rates. It also helps remove fat from the liver, which is the detoxification center of your body. That means the liver is able to work more efficiently at detoxifying medications and anesthesia associated with the surgery.

Ongoing Support for Long-Term Weight Loss

Maintaining weight loss is a lifetime journey, and patients continue to have support as they recover from surgery, follow a strict diet and slowly return to eating solid foods.

In addition to follow-up visits with the bariatric team, the integrative medicine team can continue to offer health coaching, nutritional support, and guidance on the use of acupuncture and essential oils to help with common weight-loss related issues such as sleep, stress management, cravings and more.

“Over time, patients come back and they’re really happy because they feel so good. Our holistic approach helps them find and maintain that new state of health and well-being.”

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