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Squelching Myths about Weight Loss Surgery

Weight loss surgery is in the news almost daily. You may hear everything from glowing reports of saved lives to horror stories about surgeries gone wrong. No doubt you know people who have had the surgery or you know someone who knows someone who has had the surgery. And like the game of gossip, reports get distorted. Here are some myths about weight loss surgery that you may have heard — and that are ripe for righting.

You'll never regain your weight

Weight loss surgery is only a tool — the amount of weight you lose and how much of that weight loss you maintain is up to you. Most patients do regain some weight — some as much as a 20 to 30 percent, and others even more than that. When you go through weight loss surgery, you have no guarantees that you'll be thin your entire life. But if you eat a healthy diet and follow a good exercise routine, your chances of not regaining weight are greatly improved.

You'll never be hungry

After your weight loss surgery, you will experience hunger — but not right away. Soon after surgery, many patients experience what is described as head hunger, which is like withdrawal symptoms from food. After your body adjusts to eating such small amounts, you'll feel only very mild sensations of hunger for many months.

A year or two or more after your surgery, you'll definitely experience hunger. But unlike before your surgery, you'll only need a small meal to satisfy that hunger. You'll definitely be able to eat more at one sitting than you could eat right after your surgery — but try to eat for only 20 minutes and limit your snacks.

Weight loss surgery is the easy way out

Nothing angers a weight loss surgery patient more than hearing someone say that weight loss surgery is the easy way out. There is nothing easy about it. Consider the following:

  • You have to go through rigorous physical and psychological testing to ensure that you're an appropriate candidate for surgery.
  • You may have to fight with your insurance company so the surgery is covered.
  • You may face complications from the surgery.
  • You have to endure about four weeks of liquids and pureed foods — not fun!
  • You have to learn a whole new way of eating — and there are consequences if you don't follow the rules. You may throw up, suffer dumping syndrome, experience nausea, and get food stuck in your stoma (the opening from your new small pouch to your small intestine) — and that hurts!
  • As your system adjusts to the surgery, you may have a real problem with nausea.
  • You may lose a lot of your hair for a three- to five-month period after the surgery.
  • When you realize that you can no longer use food for comfort, you have to adjust psychologically and find new ways of coping.

You can't get pregnant after weight loss surgery

Many patients have trouble getting pregnant prior to surgery and find that they're very fertile following surgery. This is good news if you want to have children — or it may be bad news if you don't.

Contrary to popular belief, pregnancy following weight loss surgery is very possible. Patients are much less at risk during pregnancy because their other health problems have lessened or disappeared. After your weight is back to normal, and assuming you don't have any other health problems, you can expect to have a normal delivery.

If you're a woman of childbearing age, use two forms of birth control for one year following surgery. During that first year, you aren't eating enough to nourish yourself plus a growing fetus, so you don't want to get pregnant then. Besides, you want to concentrate on your own weight loss during that first year. Better safe than sorry.

You'll be happy after surgery

Unhappy people come in all shapes and sizes. Losing weight does not guarantee happiness. That said, you will find many rewards — both physical and emotional — when you reach a normal weight. You'll have a stronger sense of self-esteem, and your health problems will be much more under control. But weight loss surgery won't solve all your problems, and you don't want to go into it thinking it will.

Weight loss surgery is very risky

Many people associate weight loss surgery with a very high risk of death, but that is just not the reality. The death rate associated with weight loss surgery is considered to be one-half of 1 percent, when an experienced surgeon performs the surgery.

Also consider the health risks of staying morbidly obese. You may be at far greater risk staying that way than you will be having surgery.

You'll have a great body

Following weight loss surgery, you'll lose a lot of weight in the form of fat, but you won't necessarily have a great-looking body. As you lose weight, your skin won't necessarily shrink along with your body, which may leave you with lots of sagging skin. Exercise will tone your muscles and help you lose even more weight, but it will do nothing for your skin. You may need to resort to having plastic surgery to deal with excess skin — this just depends on your own body and how it responds after surgery.

You may not have the perfect body, but you'll be healthy!

Weight loss surgery will save your marriage

Actually, the opposite is true. The divorce rate among couples in which one has had weight loss surgery is higher than the average. Many couples are not able to weather the drastic change that happens when one spouse loses a tremendous amount of weight. Your spouse may become jealous of the new attention that you're receiving. Or you may find that with improved self-esteem, you're no longer willing to endure treatment that you don't find acceptable. Or, with a whole new appearance, your personality may change — and your spouse may not like that new personality.

You have to pay for weight loss surgery yourself

You may have to pay for your own weight loss surgery, but weight loss surgery is often covered by insurance. Even though, in recent years, insurance companies have become more demanding in their screening of patients, the vast majority of surgeries are covered.

If anyone where you work has had weight loss surgery, check with him about what experience he had with insurance coverage. You'll get a sense of what, if anything, you may be up against.

If you have the same insurance company as one of your friends but you aren't on the same plan, your insurance could be entirely different. One company may list the surgery as an exclusion for its employees, while another company that uses the same insurance company may not. Just be sure to talk with your insurance company beforehand so you know what costs, if any, will be involved.

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