We all easily overindulge during the Christmas holidays and compensate by promising ourselves that come January, we’ll start a new regime to lose weight. New Year’s resolution aside, we should look at the bigger picture of making sustainable, lifelong changes and not just following a crash diet. For some people, it can be difficult to do it alone and there’s nothing wrong with investing in that extra support.
Leading bariatric surgeon Mr Ahmed R Ahmed shares his advice on how to make those lifestyle changes. Of course, weight loss surgery is an option for some patients but Mr Ahmed works alongside a team of experts (not just surgeons) who are there to support someone ready to take control of their health and wellbeing. Mr Ahmed explains more…
Why may someone start to consider bariatric surgery for the New Year?
I think that for a lot of people, December is a month of celebration, festivities and quite often people indulge in a lot of food and drink. There’s also a lot of programs featured on TV and social media about losing weight and getting into shape with a fitness regime so it tends to be what a lot of people focus on. It’s especially difficult when people are being bombarded with promotions for January-time.
For an obese person who feels incapable of losing weight alone, how can WLS help?
For someone to have bariatric surgery, they must meet certain criteria. The common scenario is for people to overindulge and then everybody suddenly goes on a crazy crash diet in January. Choosing to follow a fad program is highly unlikely to be successful for long-term weight loss. Of course, they will lose weight in the short run, but it will be impossible to sustain and to keep the pounds off. In fact, in my experience, 99.9% of those following a crash diet will have regained weight a few months later as they fall back into their old habits. Working alongside a dietician or having WLS can really help with significant weight loss, which lasts long term.
How long does the process take, from the first consultation onwards and how would this fit into a New Year’s resolution goal timeline?
This really depends on the individual case. First of all, we work as a team with a holistic program. We have a team of specialist dieticians, psychologists, psychiatrists, obesity and endocrine physicians as well as personal trainers.
The first assessment is with myself. Next, depending on what option is chosen, I may request our clinical psychologist or dietician (which is mandatory when it comes to making a decision as to whether someone is the right candidate for weight loss surgery) to also see a patient. We first want to ensure that non-surgical options have been tried. However, if we feel that someone is an appropriate candidate for surgery and that is their chosen option, then we can prepare the patient for a procedure in around 2 weeks.
For those choosing surgery, they will have check-ups during the following year. We usually see them a week after the procedure, then every 3, 6 and 12 months. Then it becomes once a year.
What is the criteria for someone to have weight loss procedure/surgery?
There are different bariatric procedures, which are generally recommended for different BMIs. The lowest body mass index we can treat is 27. The general rule of thumb is:
- Gastric balloon – BMI of 27+
- Gastric band – BMI of 30+
- Gastric sleeve/bypass – BMI of 35+
What does a psychiatrist look for during their assessment?
As it is standard procedure to have a psychological assessment prior to surgery, the expert will:
1. Make sure the patient understands how the surgery will change their behaviours to food.
2. Check that the patient does not have a co-existing mental illness, such as an eating disorder, bipolar disorder or active schizophrenia.
3. Ensure that the patient understands and agrees to comply with the changes needed after surgery.
What advice can you give to someone whose New Year’s resolution is to start a weight loss journey?
The New Year is a good time to reflect on our physical and mental health. If it is something that someone has been considering for a while, it’s the perfect opportunity to discuss their options with a specialist. An important thing to remember if considering bariatric surgery is that the aim is to cause approximately 25-30% total body weight loss and the surgery cannot make someone “skinny”.