Weight loss surgery can seem like a miracle. A single procedure that produces weight loss, restored energy, heightened confidence, and better health? A weight loss solution that doesn’t involve starving oneself? What other word captures that better than “miracle”?
“Tool,” answers Dr. Luis Reyes. “Weight loss surgery is not a miracle – it’s a tool. It’s one of many tools we use to help patients reach and maintain a healthy weight.”
Dr. Reyes, a surgeon at Valley Care Clinics Weight Loss Surgery Center, has been performing weight loss surgeries for over fifteen years. In his experience, patients with “miracle mentalities” tend to be the least successful. They will lose weight, sure, but more often than not, they gain it back within a few years.
Why does this happen? Dr. Reyes explains: “Weight loss surgery alone won’t give you your health back. But it will jump start your transition to a healthy lifestyle. Successful weight loss surgery patients keep the weight off post-procedure because they adopt different habits, not just because they got surgery.”
To illustrate this point, Dr. Reyes recounts the case study of Mrs. C. He learned about this patient while training for gastric balloon surgery. The gastric balloon, one of the newest FDA-approved weight loss procedures, gave Mrs. C a head start on a healthy life. This is her story:
When Mrs. C first came in, she was forty-five years old, five feet two inches tall, and weighed 185 pounds. Her body mass index (BMI), a measure of body fat based on height and weight, fell at 35. A healthy BMI ranges from 18.5 to 25.
None of this was news to Mrs. C. She had been overweight for years, unsuccessfully trying every diet and exercise regimen under the sun. Now, at 60+ pounds over her recommended weight, she had high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and signs of depression – all health problems commonly associated with obesity. She was ready for a change.
Mrs. C’s surgeon first spent a great deal of time ensuring the patient was committed to living a healthy postoperative life. “She understood that the surgery was not a quick fix. That’s always a promising sign,” Dr. Reyes recalls.
The surgeon also made sure Mrs. C was a good fit for the gastric balloon procedure. Patients who do best with this surgery are usually 40 to 100 pounds overweight, don’t have any gastric or intestinal health conditions (these make the surgery risky), and are motivated to lose weight. Mrs. C fit all the criteria. After a two-week counseling period, she was ready for surgery.
The gastric balloon procedure places a balloon into the stomach for a few months. It works by reducing patients’ appetites. Successful patients use their time with the balloon to gradually adopt healthier habits.
Mrs. C’s procedure went smoothly. While she was under anesthesia, the surgeon inserted the balloon into her stomach using a minimally invasive endoscopic procedure. The balloon was then pumped full of saline solution until it reached the size of a grapefruit.
Mrs. C began losing weight almost immediately. Within a few months, she felt lighter, more energetic, and more confident than she had in years. Critically, these changes allowed her to commit to the harder work of getting healthy.
While the balloon helped her lose weight, a team of doctors and nutritionists helped Mrs. C make sustainable lifestyle changes. “They took a common sense approach to eating and exercising, which is exactly what I encourage my patients to do, too,” says Dr. Reyes. “We all know that fruits, vegetables, and nuts are healthier than steak, wine, and cheese. The hard part is making it your habit to choose what’s healthy.”
Mrs. C got through the hard part by taking advantage of her resources. She leaned on her healthcare team to keep her on track. “She also went to a support group each month,” adds Dr. Reyes. “We have similar support groups that I encourage all patients to attend. It’s easier to stick with a new routine when you have a buddy.”
Six months later, Mrs. C’s balloon was removed. She had lost over 40 pounds.
It’s been several years since Mrs. C’s balloon removal. She has lost 60 pounds since her surgery: 40 during the balloon months, the additional 20 pounds in the years since. Her BMI is now normal, as is her blood pressure and her sleep. Best of all, she just feels good. For Mrs. C, weight loss surgery was the bridge she needed to cross over into healthy living.
Dr. Reyes wants all his patients to have the same experience as Mrs. C. That’s why he is adamant about de-bunking the idea that weight loss surgery is a miracle cure. “Weight loss surgery really helps, but keeping that healthy weight means living a healthy lifestyle, and that can be hard. Luckily, we’re here to help.”
To learn more about Dr. Reyes and weight loss surgery (including the gastric balloon), visit the Valley Care Clinics Weight Loss Surgery Center.