Here is a news flash that is going to astound you, shock you, turn your world upside down…are you ready?…The gastric band may NOT be for everyone. I can literally hear that pin drop. I know…you are stunned aren’t you? Here comes another shocker and you’d better sit down for this one: living with the band can take some effort.
So what am I getting at?
I recently had the opportunity to attend an excellent weight management conference. The topics were fresh and noteworthy and the information applicable to our daily practise. There were people from all over the province from all disciplines: doctors, nurses, dieticians. Some were very familiar with the gastric band and some not at all. The speakers were for the most part terrific, the location beautiful and the lunch deeeelish! :). Only one thing however really irked me about this day. One of the speakers chose to use his hour as a platform to promote his favorite surgical weight loss method while misrepresenting other methods, the gastric band in particular.
Now I am all for freedom of speech but I generally get really annoyed when someone, particularly someone who is perhaps by some considered to be an ‘expert witness’, takes advantage of a situation to not only self-promote, but to shamelessly bash something that they are clearly for whatever reason either biased against, or are not properly educated on (and I believe that this fellow fit quite nicely into both of these categories).
Anyone who is fully immersed in the field of bariatrics, who is ‘up on’ current literature and who is open-minded, has to realize that: there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to choosing a surgery to treat this chronic disease. Just as some of us choose flip-flops over stilettos (sorry honey), some people will choose one weight loss surgery over another. The important thing, in my mind, is to be properly educated on all your choices.
To be very honest, when I first started in this field I was completely biased against gastric bypass. My sister briefly considered it and I dissuaded her 100% (which I don’t regret, nor does she..it was not for her). The idea of her taking such a risk, of permanently altering her body, of adopting a lifestyle where she would be so limited in what she could eat, and so dependant on life long supplementation was abhorrent to me. Today however I believe that for some people this is a reasonable weight management choice and the ‘right’ choice.
Pro’s and (possibly one) Con
Obviously I am biased towards the gastric band (so maybe I am no better than that ‘expert witness’…say it isn’t so!!!). I couldn’t be working with banded patients daily, and writing this blog if I didn’t believe in it 100%. Yes, weight loss is generally slower with this type of surgery (that would by some considered to be the one ‘con’). However the ‘pros’ in my opinion FAR out weigh the ‘cons’. The surgery is minimally invasive. The risks as well are minimal. You are not dependant on a large number of supplements in order to meet your nutritional needs. Post operatively, when your band is well-adjusted and you have learned how to properly eat with the band (here comes the broken record: “small bites, chew well, eat slowly”) you can lead a happy and healthy lifestyle, enjoying a wide variety of foods, enjoying the pleasure that dining with friends and family brings, without having to worry about being nutritionally deficient. Yes on the occasion when you may not be paying attention, you take too big of a bite, or perhaps don’t chew enough you may ‘yak’ (that would be a term I’ve taken from my 13 year old..love it). However, people who are successfully living with the band know that once you have ‘mastered’ Dr. O’Briens 8 Golden Rules, (and I encourage everyone with the band to review these occasionally..or read my blog ‘Demystifying the 8 Golden Rules’…and I’m NOT self-promoting here…really!! I am not like ‘him’!!…I’m just trying to help, honest!!) the pay off is enormous.
Just an Aside…
When I refer to the one possible ‘con’ of the band, that being that weight-loss may be slower with the band than with other forms of bariatric surgery, I personally don’t see this as a true ‘con’. To be honest, my job would be SO MUCH EASIER if the weight came off more quickly. Patients wouldn’t get frustrated…they wouldn’t take their frustration out on poor lil’ ol’ me…and I would go home every day in a good mood!
The Tortoise and the Hare
I truly believe that the idea of the tortoise and the hare applies to the band 100%…slow and steady wins the race. Too rapid a weight loss can have many negative side effects. It can deprive the body of the essential nutrients it needs to be healthy and function properly. It can result in such things as gallstones, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, hair and muscle loss, fatigue to name a few. One area that I think needs to be examined much more thoroughly are the psychological issues that can develop from too rapid of a loss. (I had one patient who lost over 100 pounds with gastric bypass. She went down to a ‘normal size’. Yet every day when she passed a mirror she didn’t know who this person was. She proceeded to regain all of her weight and is now losing sensibly as a banded person).
It’s a Personal Choice
In the end it comes down to personal choice and that choice has to be based on education. What is SO important is that you are fully aware of what you are embarking upon and happy, committed and prepared to live with this decision. You need to continue to see your choice as a method of fighting your disease and not as a weakness because of some perceived personal failing. Obesity is a chronic disease that can be managed successfully, perhaps with a little help from a ‘friend’. And it is so important for individuals who are fighting this disease, and for society to recognize and support this.
Yours in Health (and non-biased freedom of speech :))