Destigmatizing Bariatric Surgery

September 11, 2020

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Aram E. Jawed, M.D., FACS, FASMBS contributes to topics such as Bariatric Surgery.

Are you struggling with your weight but think of weight loss surgery as a last resort? Do you think people will judge you for undergoing surgery to lose weight rather than shedding the pounds on your own?

You’re not alone. Despite the advancement of health care and our society, there are still negative views around bariatric surgery.

“It’s still stigmatized as the last resort or the easy way out,” says Aram E. Jawed, M.D., FACS, FASMBS, bariatric surgeon at JFK Medical Center. “Some people are ashamed of getting it done, ashamed to tell their family and ashamed to tell other people. I have a lot of patients, after they get it done, they don’t want [to publicize it]. They’re happy that they’ve had surgery because they are healthier, and look and feel better, but they still feel like society will look down upon them for having it done, which is a shame.”

Outdated

While it’s true that diet and exercise are important for a healthier lifestyle, some people just aren’t able to keep the weight off on their own. That’s not due to any personal failings, says Dr. Jawed; it’s biology.

“I believe we all have stomachs larger than they need to be,” he says. “For thousands of years, we were roaming, hunting and gathering, working for our food physically. Our large stomachs helped us survive because we needed to eat large amounts of low-calorie food in order to do all the physical activity that was required at that time. Today, nobody is working for their food. People are more sedentary, and they’re eating higher-calorie food, which is a 180-degree flip.”

As we evolved, our bodies created defense mechanisms against hunger and starvation, including slowing down metabolism. These same defense mechanisms work against us when we attempt to diet. But because society evolved so quickly when technology boomed, Dr. Jawed says, our biology doesn’t know how to react to this drastic change in diet and activity. “Now all of a sudden, we need a defense against overeating,” he says.

Defense Against Obesity

That defense can come in the form of bariatric surgery. During procedures such as vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG), part of the stomach is removed, making it smaller and allowing patients to feel fuller more quickly. VSG also eliminates the portion of the stomach that produces the hormones that stimulate hunger, so cravings are reduced.

“VSG patients will tell me it’s like they’ve had surgery on their brains instead of their stomachs,” says Dr. Jawed, “because the cravings and hunger pains are gone and you feel satiated with small amounts of food.”

Gastric bypass and the lap band are two other forms of bariatric surgery done today. If you’re looking at bariatric surgery as an option, surgeons can help you decide which procedure is right for you.

“Our bariatric surgeons can help you figure out which procedure will help to update your body, to not only prevent it from giving you so much hunger all the time or having your life revolve around food, but also allowing your body to work for you by changing metabolic set points so you can burn the food you eat instead of store it as fat,” Dr. Jawed says. “It’s time to change your biology instead of trying to fight it.”

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