In my mind, you can compare the three types of bariatric surgery with the three bears in the tale of Goldilocks. Here are the players:
- Baby bear = lap band surgery
- Mama bear = gastric sleeve surgery
- Papa bear = gastric by-pass surgery
I believe Baby bear (a.k.a. Lap Band Surgery) is best used for someone who has about 50-60 pounds to lose. It is minimally invasive, few risks, and is somewhat effective, as long as the person continues getting the band properly adjusted for the months and years after surgery. It is also the least expensive of the three surgeries.
Mama bear (a.k.a. Gastric Sleeve Surgery, relatively new) is for folks who have more significant weight loss needs. It is still pretty safe, as you are actually just removing a portion of your stomach, and not completely rerouting your plumbing. After surgery, you will still be able to absorb all the nutrients you need without any extra help or worries. Your stomach size(at least in my own mind) is comparable to the size of a toddler’s stomach size. The surgery is done laproscopically, and you just end up with a few small scars on your tummy. You will end up losing more weight with this surgery than you would with the lap band, but less weight than with the gastric by-pass.
Then, there’s the granddaddy of them all, the Papa bear (a.k.a. Gastric By-Pass Surgery). Undoubtedly, you will lose more weight with this surgery (and quicker) than with the other kinds. However, it is a more intensive surgery that comes with higher risks. You have to weigh those risks out in your own mind and decide if you believe it is something you are comfortable with. In this surgery, the surgeon completely by-passes your stomach (hence the name) and sews the “pipe” directly to your intestines, and also creates a small pouch for your “new stomach area”. As I said before, you will lose more weight and lose it quicker with this surgery, but your body is not as able to absorb the nutrients it needs from the foods you eat. In addition, it is the most expensive of the three surgeries.
In June of 2010, I chose to have the Mama bear, gastric sleeve, surgery. I needed to lose over 100 pounds, and I very seriously considered having the by-pass. But, in the end, I was too afraid that there would be complications, and I was concerned about not being able to absorb nutrients very well afterward. It seemed to me that the gastric sleeve was the right choice. As of right now, I’ve lost about 80 pounds. I still have more weight to lose, but having this surgery has been an excellent tool to move toward my goal weight. It has brought back the hope that I can really achieve my goal, rather than the continual defeat and failure I experienced before the surgery. It has also aided me in proper food choices, especially right after my surgery; that helped toward establishing good eating habits, and being aware of what I was putting into my body. My weight loss journey is not over, but I am a healthier and happier person because of it.
I chose to establish a diligent exercise regimen after healing up from surgery, but not everyone does that. In my next blog, I’ll tell you why those other people have made a poor choice. Does exercise really matter? Yes, it does.