New Jersey bariatric surgeon explains risks and rewards of weight loss procedures
The first option in getting into and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is incorporating a good diet and exercise routine into your daily living.
In some cases, weight loss surgery becomes an option or necessity for those who need to turn that healthy corner to not just stay healthy but alive.
There is a roadmap of sorts to follow to try and exhaust all options before surgery is an option in trying to turn the corner and thrive in healthy living.
"The problem with having the extra weight or being in the overweight/obese category is that it comes along with having a higher likelihood of developing medical conditions -- like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, arthritis, lung problems -- so the goal with healthy eating and exercise and weight loss surgery is to help people lose the weight, get down to a healthier weight category and therefore reduce the chances of developing some of those medical conditions," Dr. Dena G Arumugam, M.D., Bariatric Surgeon, General Surgeon at Jersey Shore University Medical Center with Hackensack Meridian Health, tells Townsquare Media News.
On the dietary front, Dr. Arumugam encourages you to incorporate less processed foods into your day and week, meaning foods that have less sugar or any kind of added or processed sugars, and then cutting out things like soda and sugary juices.
Food-wise, high-lien proteins are your best bet so that means including some fish, eggs, chicken, turkey, and low-fat beef, and also, Dr. Arumugam recommends cutting out a lot of the carbs and starches as well.
"Those are good places to start for healthy eating," Dr. Arumugam said. "Increase the amount of vegetables you eat, fruits are good too but they have sugars in them but natural sugars are obviously better than processed sugars."
Much like lifting weights or other fitness goals, you're not going to lose excess weight or see dramatic results overnight -- unless you're Tim Allen's character in Santa Claus 2.
Be patient and trust the process.
"I would say, start out small, make small changes that are easy for you to achieve. If you drink a lot of soda, cut out the soda or if you drink a lot of juice, cut out the juice, if you don't exercise at all, then start with small amounts of exercise -- that means 10-minutes a day. I tell all my patients, that everyone has 10-minutes a day, an hour a day going to the gym is hard, but if you can put in 10-minutes a day -- some fast walking or some weight lifting or something like that -- in your house, then do it, because you're going to find that the 10-minutes, after a few weeks, is too easy for you and you want to do more, it's the same with dieting, make the small changes with the ultimate goal that there are just big lifestyle changes," Dr. Arumugam said. "Healthy weight loss happens over time, those are not things that are going to happen overnight, those are not healthy weight loss plans."
Whether your goal is to lose a few pounds, many pounds, or are trying to turn the corner into a healthier lifestyle overall, know that it takes time and is possible.
If or when surgery does become an option for you, there are a few things to consider before making that decision.
"As far as surgery goes, we encourage our patients to try to lose weight prior to surgery, they don't necessarily have to, that's why they're there, that's why they're trying to get surgery because it's hard for them to lose weight," Dr. Arumugam said.
Once you commit to this option of having weight loss surgery, it's important to note, that there is a process involved here as well.
"The process takes anywhere from 2-6 months or so, depending on insurance, and during that process -- we talk to the patients about the potential for changing some of those lifestyle habits to lose some weight prior to surgery, we have them get evaluated with a nutritionist as well which helps with that process, and then we put them through a thorough medical workup," Dr. Arumugam said. "We want to make sure that their heart is healthy enough, their lungs are healthy enough and any other pertinent medical conditions will not interfere with the safety of the surgery."
That's the pre-operation process, then comes the operation itself.
"As far as the different types of surgery go, all surgeries are done laparoscopically now, so we do them with little tiny incisions which makes the recovery a lot faster, easier, there's less pain, less chance of infections, and usually just a one night stay at the hospital," Dr. Arumugam said. "There are three main types of surgery we do for weight loss: the gastric banding, the sleeve gastrectomy, and the gastric bypass."
The sleeve gastrectomy involves, "cutting and stapling about 70-percent of the stomach, removing it from the body -- and by doing that, we're decreasing the amount of food that someone is able to eat in a given time because the stomach volume is smaller, you feel full very quickly, and it also decreases the hormone that tells your brain you're hungry, so you actually feel less hungry after surgery."
The gastric bypass involves, "changing the anatomy of the intestines, we actually re-route the intestines so that the way that your body digests and absorbs nutrients changes and that's where the weight loss comes into play."
While it has a track record of working well, the gastric bypass is not as popular now as the sleeve gastrectomy, and there's also a risk it could lead to other health problems down the line, as it has there is a risk, "for more potential complications for the rest of your life after the anatomy has changed on the inside."
There's also more to the risk vs. reward in getting any type of weight loss surgery as well.
"The main thing is that we look at whether the operations can improve your medical conditions and how well the weight loss is going to be and for those two operations that we're still doing today, the bypass and the sleeve, the weight loss results are very similar. We expect people to lose about 65-percent of their excess weight -- that means if they're 100-pounds overweight, about 65-percent of that/about 65-pounds, and the two operations are fairly similar there and with that reduction, we see a lot of improvements in diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep apnea, things like that," Dr. Arumugam said. "As far as the risks go with the surgery -- the main risks are things like poor healing on the inside where you could get serious infections inside the abdomen, intestinal blockages, scar tissue, blood clots -- things like that that we worry about. Generally speaking, weight loss surgery is very safe actually, serious complications happen 1-2 percent of the time, so pretty infrequently."