I am hearing and reading of more and more people considering lap banding or gastric sleeves for weight loss. There are anonymous posts on diet and exercise pages all the time asking about what people who have had them think, and it concerns me that it is becoming such an easy idea. I am not judging anyone considering this, but I would like to think this has not become the back stop, or easy way out. I always thought I would never even consider something as drastic as surgery unless I had no other option, and I realise this is the case for some, especially for health reasons.
For those of you who don’t know much about these procedures, both of these options restrict what you can eat, both in volume and restrict your diet choices. This means things like not drinking with your food and no bread, rice etc. I won’t go into detail too much, I would need to do some research since I don’t have one and don’t know all the ins and outs. But, what I am hearing is that people just don’t understand what they need to do to lose this weight, or the side effects of it, which if this is a successful option for you would be the least of your concerns, but for some this surgery is not a holistic approach!
I think at the end of the day all the people we see out there losing large amounts of weight are asked the same question. “How did you do it?” I have been asked this question over and over again (I only lost 43kgs/94pounds – with no surgery). And most of the time the answer is so straight forward: eat less and move more, sometimes the answer is just eat less, or a dietary change, eat healthier.
What does sleeving or banding do? It, primarily restricts how much you can eat! Now, having said that I know many people who say “I’ve tried everything”. I’ve heard them say they have tried dieting (calorie restriction), exercise, personal trainers, meal replacements etc and nothing works. If all we’re doing at the end of this expense and trauma is restricting the content they can eat, have they really tried everything?
I know there are all sorts of reasons for gaining weight, and it might not necessarily be that you just need to stop putting so much in, but there maybe metabolic disturbances, psychological issues etc. What I’m hearing is a common issue with these procedures is that people have had the banding done, lost the weight rather quickly and learnt nothing in the process. The band or sleeve has restricted what they could eat, but once they got to their goal weight and they have the band adjusted (not so sure what they do about the sleeve), but they are gaining the weight back. Once the band is released their appetite increases and they eat more as a result, what have they learnt? This needs to be a lifestyle change.
Having said that, these procedures work brilliantly for some, and are sometimes necessary where a persons health is at risk. But, my concern is that we aren’t looking at this holistically. Not only do we need to facilitate people losing weight, but we also need to educate them. Referrals to a dietician, and maybe even someday we can have some kind of health care cover a personal trainer consult. If obesity is really a big deal like we keep hearing (which I don’t doubt by the way), then what are we doing about it? We discovered all the medical drains from smoking, and the full extent of the harm caused not only to the smoker but to passive smokers, and what happens, we have campaigns on tv, on billboards, and on the radio. But if obesity is also threatening peoples lives what are we doing? Are we being proactive about it? What support is there (free support), for those who are honestly motivated? People who are misinformed, people who just need a little education.
I remember when I first starting getting serious about my weight, I thought I had tried all sorts of things but I just didn’t have the motivation and I didn’t have the knowledge. I was eating large meals three times a day, I would eat large fast food meals and a snack could almost be mistaken for a meal. I was shocked when I started calorie counting and realised just what I was truly consuming. A large fast food meal could easily make up the caloric content for close to what I should be consuming for an entire day, not to mention the other nasties hidden inside. This is the insight I needed into what would become step one: Eat less. What does a sleeve or band do?
With all this in mind there are also side effects. Loose skin after losing weight rather quickly, hair loss, vitamin deficiencies etc. Again, my knowledge is limited. I am reading a lot of posts these days from people asking about loose skin, and quick-fixes. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with loose skin (I know it can leave us with low self-esteem), but after all, women everywhere have children and end up with loose tummies. Losing weight quickly will risk this being an option, and the only way I could see this being minimised is by exercising/toning and I believe some skin products can help but I’m not sure how much they truly effect the elasticity. As for hair loss and vitamin deficiencies you would have to seek your doctors advice on the causes and ask for supplements. The last side effect I could see being a problem is diet restrictions, you may have to give up certain foods forever, and how much the affects you will depend on the individual. Again talking with a dietician/nutritionalist will be the key, and look into exercise, but you should really consider doing all of these before considering surgical interventions.
At the end of the day surgical options do little more than make you eat less, and require you to move more if you want to minimise loose skin. If both of these things are what will help you shift that weight, why not try that first? There is no big secret to weight loss, it’s as basic as that. Calorie deficit and get a little more active.
The question I used to get all the time was “how do you control hunger pains?” I had all sorts of strategies, I would keep a water bottle handy and drink lots of water, I would drink coffee or tea, chew gum (which isn’t a good idea to do all the time as it stimulates peristalsis and can cause bowel cramps – plus I find it makes me hungry), find a distraction.
People also say all the time they don’t have time for exercise, as they have kids and a busy lifestyle. While losing weight I was nannying for a family of six kids. This involved school drop offs in all directions, lots of after school activities and housework (cooking, laundry etc). I took opportunities taking the kids to the park, jumping on the trampoline, playing tennis and helping one of the kids train for the beep test. There are lots of little things you can do at home while waiting:
- Squats or running on the spot while waiting for the toaster or jug
- Get up 10mins earlier and do some push ups or sit ups
- Do some pushups, squats, sit ups, star jumps (anything) after the kids go to bed
- Squats in the shower (I do this sometimes)
- Drive a little further away from a destination to walk a little further
- Take the stairs at work – I sometimes take them two at a time for increased strength
- Sit on the floor and do some ab work while watching tv
- Sit on a stability ball at the computer
The lists are endless. I challenge anyone who is currently trying to improve, to try something new every day. Nothing drastic, eat a little healthier, have smaller meals, and move at least 10-15mins more a day. Don’t look at your progress each day, but set goals for a month and then compare. You won’t notice it straight away but stay motivated and you will after 4 weeks.
I am not a doctor, and I am not recommending either way as both of these options have proven effective for different people. I am merely pointing out the options, and some holes in the system that I think need to be considered. I would love anyone interested to guest post on their experiences regarding this issue. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
We have so much influence now, with advertising reaching all kinds of places including a mass saturation on facebook and all social media I think it would be nice to get back to basics. Just because we can do/buy things doesn’t mean we should.
I hope I haven’t offended anyone with this post, I merely wanted to offer some considerations for anyone who might be interested in these options, especially with all the enquiries I’ve noticed lately on social media. I like to try natural options first! Kind of like trying a massage for a headache before taking medication.