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Published on February 07, 2019

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Understanding the Basics of Bariatric Weight Loss

By Andrea Hanson, MS, RDN, LN, Avera Bariatric Dietitian

When making lifestyle changes for the better, it’s no surprise that diet and exercise are important. However, if your end goal is weight loss, diet and exercise alone might not always be enough.

As a member of a professional bariatric team, I’ve had the privilege of guiding many patients as they face the idea of using this tool in their effort to make changes. Tackling weight loss alone can be challenging, which is why we provide services like bariatric surgery.

It has helped many people achieve weight loss goals and improve lifestyle.

Surgical Procedures

People considering a surgical weight-loss approach have several options:

  • The adjustable lap band is a minimally invasive procedure where an adjustable band is placed around the upper portion of the stomach to regulate the amount of food consumed at one time.
  • Gastric bypass involves bypassing most of the stomach and attaching a small remnant of the stomach to part of the small intestine.
  • The laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy removes approximately 80 percent of the stomach, limiting the amount of food that can be consumed at any given time.

Since each procedure decreases the amount of food consumed, people will see weight loss. They also will feel a decrease in hunger as the body adjusts to the new normal. However, with gastric bypass procedures, the recovery also includes a malabsorption element.

Since the stomach is where a majority of fat and calories are absorbed, when food bypasses it, it can lead to additional challenges in health and recovery.

A thorough review of the procedures can help a person better understand which might be best for them.

The Cost of Weight Loss

Getting insurance coverage for bariatric surgery can be a stressful process, so it is important to be your own advocate and talk with your insurance company about criteria required to qualify for surgery.

Most companies will require a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater, or a BMI of 35 or greater with additional risk factors such as diabetes, sleep apnea or hypertension. Self-pay options or payment plans are also available in some cases. When a person works with a team, like the one I’m a part of, they can get guidance on these issues and a better understanding of options and approaches. Our experience can be shared.

What Leads to Success

Bariatric surgery is a long process that unfolds over several months. The surgery itself is just a single small component toward healthy lifestyle change. Bariatric surgery is only one of the many “tools” that a person will use to achieve their goal. Pairing it with healthy eating, exercise, smoking cessation and improved sleep will increase the chances of success when it comes to weight loss.

People who work with our team, which includes surgeons, psychologists, dietitians, health coaches and many others, often do better because they’re in the midst of experienced professionals who can answer questions and provide support. Much of the hard work will be yours to achieve, but having help is always a good idea.

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