When dieting doesn't work, weight loss surgery can help

Author: Sarah Barber, Senior Marketing Specialist

Over the last 30 years, obesity has become the most prevalent disease in the world, and more people suffer from the health effects of obesity than from any other disease.

Morbid obesity, which is typically defined as having a BMI of 35 or higher, is a result of neurochemical changes that occur after a person gains a substantial amount of weight. As a result of these chemical changes, diets are often unsuccessful for patients with morbid obesity and surgical intervention has been shown to be the most effective treatment option. 

“Often by the time patients get to my office they have spent years researching medical weight loss options,” said Dr. Michael Kia, DO, FACOS, FACS, bariatric surgeon at McLaren Greater Lansing. “Something changes or develops in their life that drives them to take the next step to getting better. Maybe it’s a recent diabetes or hypertension diagnosis, or they can no longer do something they enjoy."

The first step to getting long-lasting help is meeting with your primary care provider to discuss healthy lifestyles and explore weight loss options. If it’s determined that seeing a bariatric specialist is your next step, your primary care physician can refer you to the McLaren Greater Lansing bariatric program.  

To qualify for coverage through most insurance plans, the person considering surgery would have a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or higher and have participated in dietary programs for 6 months.

“On average we spend 6-8 months with each patient on education, weight counseling, nutrition, behavioral modification, and physician counseling before considering surgery,” said Dr. Kia. “The surgery is just one part of the many changes that will happen to our patients when they make this positive change in their life.”

The two most common weight loss surgeries are Roux-en-Y Gastric bypass and the Sleeve gastrectomy. Both surgeries work by correcting the abnormal communication signals that have developed during the disease of obesity. However, each has its own distinct advantages in the treatment of morbid obesity and the different health conditions that can develop. In meeting with the bariatric team, you can discuss the different options to determine which is best for you. 

“Weight loss surgery has become safer in the United States than gallbladder removal, hysterectomy, or even joint replacement. It is one of the safest procedures that is performed,” said Dr. Kia. “The surgery is laparoscopic, which means we make very small incisions in the abdomen.  Patients can expect a 7 to 10-day recovery before they can return to work and general activity.”

After surgery, patients adapt and adjust to a new way of eating. We have to tell people to remember to eat after surgery,” said Dr. Kia. “Set a timer to eat a healthy snack. The brain will forget to eat.” 
By changing the biochemistry of how the brain thinks about food, patients no longer go through cravings and experience the feeling of being full without an emotional aspect.

“We are giving the patient a start-over,” said Dr. Kia. “An opportunity for the brain and the body to reset before the disease began. It’s not a guarantee, but it is a new beginning.”

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