Illustration of plate with measuring tape

Is Surgery My Only Hope for Weight Control?

Maybe so, but first try these courses of action, experts suggest.

June Allan Corrigan Health & Wellness

Illustration of plate with measuring tape

The ups and downs of living with excess weight, especially obesity, can be defeating. However, you must address the situation to avert all the associated comorbidities. Many people who suffer with this condition ultimately conclude that surgery is their last and best hope — but that isn’t always the case.

“Most patients actually do reach out to us as their last resort,” says nurse practitioner Heather Lewis, FNP-C, a member of robotic bariatric surgery specialist Dr. Bobby Bhasker-Rao’s team at Lite Life Surgery in Rancho Mirage. Patients sometimes tell Lewis that they’ve tried Weight Watchers and Lindora, or they’ve been on phentermine or tried some of the other new drugs approved for weight loss, but nothing seems to work.

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If a general practitioner refers a patient to Bhasker-Rao’s practice for dietitian counseling, Lewis is in the habit of recommending they first try community resources such as the Renker Wellness Center, which offers an obesity course. If you or someone you know is diabetic, Eisenhower Health’s diabetic education class should be considered. Yet another program worth investigating is Mind Over Body, an eating disorder treatment center in Palm Desert that addresses binge eating and compulsive overeating among other conditions.

Experts say they can never overemphasize the value of education and psychological counseling. Even among candidates who do their homework and prepare themselves in every possible way, there are still situations where weight loss surgery may not be the answer. “It’s not for everyone,” Lewis concedes. “If you look at the literature, people who go without support — even after they have bariatric surgery, two years post-op — they regain all their weight and often more. They go back to habits they had before.”

Regular meetings with a dietitian, an app to log food intake, exercise plans customized by a personal trainer — these are the kind of tools you need to succeed.

Regular meetings with a dietitian, an app to log food intake, exercise plans customized by a personal trainer — these are the kind of tools you need to succeed, and a practice like Bhasker-Rao’s provides them. “I’ll meet with them monthly if they need somebody to talk to for support,” Lewis explains. “We have a team that works with them. If you just provide weight loss surgery, and you do no follow-up with these patients, they will continuously fail in the future.”

The bottom line is surgery is not a shortcut to guaranteed weight loss. There is work to do whether an individual opts to undergo a bariatric procedure or ultimately decides against it. It’s best to exhaust all the resources available before committing to surgery because preliminary and postoperative care is part of the process to achieve and maintain results.