Almost all bariatric (weight loss) surgery patients ask the same question at some point in their journey:
“Does weight loss surgery hurt?”
You may have wondered the same thing if you’ve ever considered weight loss surgery.
After all, you read the term surgery, and you instantly think of cutting.
However, today’s advancements in bariatric surgery mean there is very little cutting.
Most weight-loss surgeries involve tiny incisions and a serpentine camera, with all the action taking place inside your abdomen.
As far as feeling pain is concerned, you will be under the effects of anesthesia the entire time.
You are unlikely to feel much of anything during the surgery, especially if you take the time to choose a reputable bariatric surgeon.
When asked about the discomfort associated with bariatric surgery, Elizabeth Wolinsky, who underwent both lap-band and gastric bypass surgery, told Women’s Health Magazine, “I thought [it] would be a lot more painful and a lot longer recovery period.”
She added, “And while the recovery was longer, it wasn’t more painful. As far as surgeries I’ve had, it was pretty easy.”
The fact is, weight loss surgery involves comfort-inducing technologies. Your bariatric surgeon takes every precaution to ensure a pain-free experience.
If you are thinking about bariatric surgery, pain is only one sensation you might be wondering about.
What follows are ten other feelings you are likely to experience as you go from your initial consultation to the day of surgery and beyond (to recovery).
That’s when you will begin losing the excess weight and feeling wonderful about life in your new, slimmer body.
Let’s start with a few weeks or months before your consultation. That is typically when you begin to feel the first sensation ripping through your body.
One aspect of becoming a patient of bariatric surgery is that you must undergo certain lifestyle changes if you want the results you expect.
It’s normal to automatically assume the worst.
You may suspect that you will be forced to live on rabbit food and water for the rest of your life.
However, the changes that are required for life beyond weight loss surgery are not that drastic.
Instead, there is a focus on health, so the changes you can expect consist of smaller meal portions, healthier foods, chewing slower, and enjoying your meals instead of rapidly chewing them down.
If you think you’re going to miss food desperately following surgery, and that all of the required lifestyle changes are impossible to commit to, you might want to read Tonya Killmon’s story.
Tonya underwent the vertical sleeve gastrectomy, which limits your stomach volume, allowing it to hold very little food. This, in turn, makes you eat less and consume fewer calories, resulting in rapid and long-term weight loss.
When asked if she misses being able to eat like she used to, Tonya told the Daily Press, that, before surgery, she never realized how much she turned to food for comfort or boredom.
Tonya said, “Now, after surgery, I am learning that food is fuel for my body, not a coping mechanism. I just need to eat to live – not live to eat. I have realized that eating healthy is good and I feel so much better. Food is not comforting anymore. Eating is not something you do when you’re bored.”
Though she does claim that she isn’t perfect and that her cravings are not something she can just turn off, she added, “I now have the motivation and will to just say no.”
For instance, it’s a common misconception that bariatric surgery is cosmetic in nature and thus not covered by insurance.
You should know, however, that while extreme weight loss is sure to transform your appearance, the most important benefits of the surgery affect your health, and are not simply cosmetic in nature.
That means that insurance will cover some or all of the tab, in some cases.
The presence of other conditions that are aggravated by obesity like high blood pressure or diabetes can increase the likelihood that your insurance company will cover the weight loss procedure.
Your feelings of anxiety revolving around upcoming lifestyle changes and finances can be mitigated by discussing them with your bariatric surgeon.
Your surgeon can answer your questions based on experience and facts, not conjecture.
For instance, to alleviate your anxiety about what the future holds, you may ask how much weight you can be expected to lose.
When asked that question, your bariatric surgeon may tell you that people who opt for the sleeve gastrectomy, which is just one procedure available, go on to lose 40%-80% of their excess weight (individual results may vary).
Do a Google search for true bariatric patient stories. You will find every level of story, including horror stories, amazing life-changing stories, and all kinds in-between.
Though there are far more positive stories available on the internet revolving around bariatric surgery, we as humans tend to focus on the scary ones. These are the true accounts (supposedly) that tend to keep us awake at night.
As you read these stories, you may focus on potential side effects that are on the list beside bariatric surgery on a variety of websites, like internal bleeding, malnutrition, and weight regain.
It is true that bariatric surgery is an actual surgery. Even though it is minimally invasive and involves tiny incisions and a laparoscopic camera, complications can occur.
However, The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) reports that the chances having a major complication during or after weight loss surgery is around 4.3%.
Here is what that statistic doesn’t tell you. The complications associated with staying obese are far more dangerous than a bariatric procedure, where all the stops are pulled to ensure your safety.
In other words, the risks of weight loss surgery are infinitesimally low compared with doing nothing at all.
The risks of staying obese include diabetes, stroke, heart diseases, and early death. Obesity can also make the symptoms of illnesses like COVID-19 more severe.
Once you put things like that into perspective, any fear you may be feeling begin to melt away. Especially when you begin to focus on all the positive changes you are sure to experience as a bariatric surgery patient.
This is a common fear that revolves around bariatrics, that you are somehow cheating by signing up for surgery.
And that you simply haven’t tried enough to lose weight before opting for a bariatric procedure.
This is called “resistance,” which is essentially your mind’s way of trying to talk you out of improving your life.
Here’s another way to frame it: You cannot become a bariatric surgery patient without first trying every method possible to lose weight. In fact, weight loss surgery is reserved for those patients who cannot lose weight any other way.
If your surgeon cleared you for surgery, you have been given a tool to finally do what you’ve wanted for some time – lose the excess weight to get more out of life.
That’s not cheating, that’s choosing health and a longer, happier life!
If the anxiety and fear don’t deter you, your next step is to schedule a consultation with a qualified bariatric surgeon.
If the consultation goes well and you are cleared for surgery, this is when you may experience a rollercoaster of emotions.
You will have all this information coming in, and you may feel overwhelmed at times.
For instance, right after your initial exam and testing, you will be asked to complete a special program that educates you about the surgery and the lifestyle changes that are required.
These include dietary and exercise changes that make extreme weight loss possible.
Even if you conducted research beforehand, you are probably going to find yourself learning much more about weight loss surgery and what is involved than you ever thought you would.
However, all of this is good, and if you can manage the overload for a little while, you will soon see that all the learning was well worth it.
All the programs and education, and meetings with your surgeon, are preparing you for a successful weight loss procedure.
As the day of the procedure looms, your anxiety may increase, but again, discuss your feelings with your surgeon.
It’s likely that your surgeon will encourage you to relax, particularly on the evening before surgery.
That’s because your life is about to change for the better. Your weight loss journey is all downhill from here.
That’s right. You won’t feel a thing during the surgery because you will be administered an anesthetic that renders you unconscious during the procedure.
Ah, you may be thinking, but what about after you wake up?
Like any surgery, you may feel some discomfort upon waking. You may feel extra soreness, for instance, at the points of incision along your abdomen.
This soreness is completely normal. Your surgeon can help with any pain you feel using over the counter or prescription medications.
As with any surgery, you may feel icky as you recover, but this is your body undergoing the healing process. Keep your eyes on the prize, which is your smaller waist. All the new clothes you will get to wear when the results of your weight loss are finally realized.
Depending on the type of surgery you have, your body has been altered in some way.
Because of these alterations, you may experience a range of physical changes.
For instance, 85% of patients who undergo Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass (RNYGB) surgery experience extreme bouts of diarrhea, according to the ASMBS. They call this condition the dumping syndrome.
Dumping syndrome doesn’t just arise out of nowhere, however. It usually comes about as a result of poor food choices on the part of the patient.
Eating refined sugars, fried foods, dairy, and some fats can cause mild-to-severe dumping syndrome symptoms.
Mild symptoms include sweating and flushing, and you may feel slightly lightheaded.
Moderate symptoms may include nausea and active audible bowel sounds. You may also have loose stool, complication, and embarrassing gas.
More severe symptoms can include cramping and the desire to lie down until the symptoms have subsided.
Other potential side effects of surgery include constipation, wound infections, blood clots, and leaks at the surgical site.
But once again, we only have to look at the ASMBS statistic that says that less than 5% of bariatric patients experience serious complications on account of surgery.
Talk to your surgeon about your risk of side effects for an earnest and fact-based answer.
These hormones regulate hunger and satiety (feeling full).
For instance, after surgery, though you may want to eat, you may not feel very hungry.
Your doctor will put you on a liquid diet for a short while. Therefore, you can obtain the nutrients your body needs, and to ensure you don’t have cravings as your body continues to heal.
Your cravings for food may change as your body adjusts to the alterations made by surgery. For instance, some patients find that their sense of smell changes and that they no longer crave foods like fried foods, bacon, dairy, bread, and rice.
Instead, your body will begin to crave healthier foods, which are the ones that give you the most fuel for a zestful life.
To help aid in your nutrition, your surgeon may recommend certain vitamins and supplements which help your body absorb the necessary nutrients you aren’t getting from food, such as iron, vitamin B12, folate, Vitamin D, and calcium.
Weight loss surgery is no easy fix. It will still be challenging to shed the maximum amount of weight.
To aid you in your weight loss journey, your surgeon will give you guidelines for adopting the lifestyle changes necessary for long-term weight loss.
These lifestyle changes help you commit to better nutrition and getting regular exercise, such as the 150 minutes per week that is recommended by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
While you will have help in these areas, you still need to find the mental fortitude necessary to make your body move, to commit to healthier eating, and continue convincing yourself the entire purpose of all this to get the most out of life!
In addition to being forced to find your mental toughness, you may find yourself struggling with a range of negative emotions following surgery. Not everyone experiences these bad feelings, but some do, so they are worth mentioning.
The “After” images you see of post-bariatric patients often depict them smiling and appearing overjoyed for the camera. A woman may beam with delight as she holds up a pair of oversized jeans that no longer fit her as she displays her narrower waist.
That elation is a common result of surgery, yet it is possible for you to experience some negative emotions after undergoing weight loss surgery, such as depression.
Feeling down in any way may seem to be an incongruent reaction to weight loss surgery. Why would you be depressed if you are able to shed a majority of your excess weight?
A Yale University study in the Obesity Journal claimed that 13% of patients reported an increase in Beck Depression Inventory six to 12 months after gastric bypass surgery.
Notice that was for surgeries like gastric bypass, not necessarily for procedures like the sleeve gastrectomy, which is considered the safer and premier method of weight loss for the morbidly obese.
The Beck Depression Inventory is a numerical rating that measures self-esteem, social functioning, and eating disorder behavior.
While it is true that most bariatric patients do experience an overall life improvement after surgery, for a small percentage of people, depression can worsen.
The reason why depression occurs is speculative without the input of a mental health professional.
However, you must consider that you are about to change your life in a very big way. At the end of the day, you are having weight loss surgery to improve you life, and become healthier.
But others around you may suddenly pay attention to you, and that can add stress to your life.
Co-workers may wonder what kind of work you had done. Family members may be concerned if you are being healthy about your weight loss. And everyone may start to marvel at your new figure, asking how you did it.
For some bariatric patients, this newfound spotlight on their very being can manifest into overeating, alcohol abuse or drug abuse.
Others may experience a range of other negative emotions, like rage.
Are these negative emotions guaranteed? Absolutely not.
You can mitigate or alleviate any negative emotions you feel during your recovery by working with your surgeon. Your surgeon can point you to qualified counselors and other professionals. They can teach you coping mechanisms that don’t involve eating or turning to other substances for solace.
You will be able to stay on track while keeping your mental fortitude strong enough to continue on your weight loss journey for as long as it takes to be successful.
After the first month, your life will more or less return to normal. The weight will be falling off, and your medical problems (if you had any) should be much easier to control.
You will be able to eat regular foods, just in smaller portions.
As the weight comes off, you will begin to feel lighter. Also, you will have far more energy to move around.
Instead of wanting to hide away from the world, you may suddenly desire to experience all that life has to offer.
It sounds cliché to say that weight loss surgery gives you a new lease on life. But that’s just what it feels like. You have been given a new body, and the world is wide open.
What will you choose to do once the weight has been discarded? What if you have an entire world to discover with renewed energy and a suddenly increased zest for life?
As your doctor will be sure to remind you before the procedure takes place, weight loss surgery is only a tool. It is not a fix-all to losing a significant amount of excess weight.
Your doctor will help you shed the pounds. He keeps them off by putting you into contact with qualified dieticians and fitness experts.
At the beginning of your weight loss journey, adopting new diet and exercise habits may seem insurmountable. Lifestyle changes are difficult, there’s no two ways around it.
But as the weight comes off, you will find yourself more driven than ever to drop the weight and keep it off for good.
You will find yourself wanting to eat right. Also, you want to exercise so you can see an even slimmer you in the mirror.
The Obesity Action Coalition recommends that patients cleared by their bariatric surgeon should introduce physical activity into their daily routines, working up to 60 minutes of exercise six days per week. That level of intensity is necessary, the coalition says, for promoting post-surgery weight loss success.
You often see patients after surgery joining gyms and going through fitness boot camps or mud runs. That’s because they are so eager to achieve their weight loss goals.
Not only that, but post-surgery patients now have the energy and physical capabilities to push their bodies to the limit. And they have a great time doing it!
The most amazing thing about bariatric surgery is that a majority of patients learn to love themselves again.
And if you ask most patients if they could go back in time and do it all over again, most would do so in a heartbeat.
To them, the mild anxiety, fear, discomfort, and any other negative sensations they felt pale in comparison to the vast improvements to their quality of life.
In fact, 95% of bariatric patients say their life has improved because of surgery.
Post-bariatric patients now report more desire to be active. Those who did take medications now take fewer. And those with associated conditions, like diabetes and hypertension, find that their conditions have diminished or have gone into remission entirely.
Is the road easy? No. Once again, bariatric surgery is a tool to losing excessive amounts of weight, not a magic wand.
But bariatric surgery is an excellent choice if you want to be healthier instead of obese.
You now know the range of sensations you may experience as you prepare for, undergo, and recover from weight loss surgery.
Remember, however, that no two patients are alike, and everyone’s bariatric surgery experience is unique.
You can alleviate negative emotions and ensure you have a more positive experience, despite any discomfort you may feel, by choosing a surgeon you know you can trust.
Like most looking for a weight loss surgeon, you have searched Google and scoured the bariatric surgeon review sites and read all the patient testimonials.
But you may not know exactly what you are looking for.
Be sure to search for a bariatric surgeon who has a proven track record. Also, he should have an entire collection of five-star patient reviews. Those reviews have come from patients who have finally been a chance to live life to the fullest.
It might also help to choose a doctor like Dr. Moeinolmolki of Healthy Life Bariatrics in Los Angeles, California.
Dr. Moein is an expert in both bariatrics and post-surgery body contouring. It means that you can achieve your weight loss goals, and your body shape objectives afterward, all under one roof.
Start on your weight loss journey and tame any negative feelings along the way by scheduling a virtual consultation with Dr. Moein today by calling (310) 694-4486.