Bariatric surgery is on the rise with an estimated 177,000 surgeries performed last year, nearly four times the number performed four years ago. But even with this surge in surgeries, there are still a lot of misconceptions about it.
You’d never know now, but nurse Kathrine Carr struggled with her weight for most of her life. At 5 feet, 7 inches, Carr’s weight peaked at 252 pounds.
"I completely understand what it was like to be that heavy person. To have trouble shopping in regular clothes," Carr said. "I tried every diet possible."
Then five years ago, she opted for bariatric surgery and her battle with the bulge turned into fighting stereotypes, and our first myth.
"Probably the biggest one I heard was I was taking the easy way out," Carr said.
Dr. David Podkameni, medical director at the Bariatric Program at the Banner Gateway Medical Center, said nothing could be further from the truth.
"You still have to diet. You still have to exercise. It's not going to work by itself," Podkameni said.
Myth 2: You can't have surgery if you have diabetes. People who undergo bariatric surgery are three- to four-times more likely to have their Type 2 diabetes go into remission, compared to those receiving intensive medical treatment alone.
Myth 3: Weight loss surgery will make you lose weight. On average, patients lose about 60 percent of their extra weight.
"Bariatric surgery is just a tool over the whole process," Podkameni explained.
Myth 4: The surgery is all cosmetic.
"It has to do with change in metabolism. It has to do with influencing remission of diabetes, treating sleep apnea, treating high blood pressure, hypertension," Podkameni said.
Our final myth: Weight loss from surgery is permanent. Some regain is likely; for Carr it’s been 20 pounds, but she’s still lost 100 pounds and kept it off.
One way bariatric surgery helps change metabolism is by affecting the hormones that control hunger. After surgery, levels of one of these hormones, ghrelin, drops dramatically so patients don’t feel as hungry.