While there are a lot of options out there for those struggling with obesity, bariatric surgery gives people the best opportunity to lose weight and keep it off. Nevertheless, having surgery is often a very tough, scary decision.
“I think most patients fear the uncertainty and what it will mean for them long-term,” says bariatric surgeon Gary Korus, MD, FACS.
Some of you are probably afraid of undergoing something as serious as surgery. Some of you may wonder if you’re a candidate.
Some of you also may be facing pressure from family and friends not to have surgery, which can present another challenge. You are finally reaching a decision to improve your own health – which is something you should be supported and congratulated for – but the people that you would hope for the greatest support from throw obstacles in your way.
Here are a few steps that you should take to make the best decision for you and gain the support you need.
Attend an information session
Being able to get good information about what to expect, what’s realistic, and what’s not realistic with regards to bariatric surgery is very important. Information sessions at Penn are free, and if you attend, you are by no means committing to having surgery. Plenty of people come and then decide it isn’t for them or schedule a consultation months down the road.
Information sessions are just a way for you to get a sense of all of your options, meet some of the Penn Medicine surgeons and staff, and see what bariatric surgery entails. Then if you decide to pursue surgery and come back, it’s easy.
“It’s easy to talk to those patients because they’ve taken the toughest step. Which is the first one to recognize that what they have tried hasn’t worked and that there is a better way,” says Dr. Korus.
Bring supporters and those who are doubtful to an information session
Family, children, friends – the more the merrier.
“The more people who know the process,” says Dr. Korus, “the more support that patients have individually and the greater chance there is for them to succeed.”
In fact, Dr. Korus says he often sees patients come to an information session with someone – a mother, spouse, brother, sister – and then that person ends up having surgery too.
“I’ve actually operated on five people who work together in one office. Every year this group goes on a vacation together. They sent me a picture of all five of them on a cruise together after surgery. So it’s like one person, then another, then another,” he says.
Even if your other family members don’t end up getting surgery too, it still affects the entire family. There’s strong evidence that the families of patients who have weight-loss surgery get healthier. There is a theme in the house about better eating, paying attention to nutrition, exercising and being more active.
“A couple of Saturdays ago, I went to Dr. Slattery’s Fitness Now,” recalls Dr. Korus. “It’s an activity for all patients – not just bariatric surgery ones. There was a couple there with all of their children, exercising, doing planks, walking. Dr. Slattery charges $1 a visit, and if you show up at each visit, you get your money back.
Getting exercise to be part of the family’s culture can make a huge difference.”
Talk to a bariatric surgeon
Schedule a new patient appointment to get the opportunity to really talk to a bariatric surgeon. Try to be honest and genuine during the appointment. You want to get to know each other since he or she will be your partner in your weight-loss journey. You should tell your surgeon about your fears and your background, so you can get more personalized information to help in your decision. From there, you’ll be able to really compare the benefits with the risks.
Something to remember
Weight-loss surgery is a lifelong commitment. It requires hard work from you, a lot of support from those around you and a strong, open relationship with your entire care team. But just thinking about and researching it is healthy: It means you're taking the opportunity to examine your life and wellbeing.
Ready to take the first step?