For many, obesity can’t be controlled by diet and exercise, and can’t be willed away. It’s a disease—and the second‐leading cause of preventable death in the United States. You can take a stand to control your weight, change your life, and possibly even save it. Weight‐loss surgery is a proven treatment for severe obesity and can help you achieve your goals in life.

“RESOLVED, That our American Medical Association recognize obesity as a disease state with multiple pathophysiological aspects requiring a range of interventions to advance obesity treatment and prevention.”

– AMA Resolution 420, June 2013

It’s a Disease

In June 2013, the American Medical Association (AMA) declared obesity a disease— one that affects 78 million people,2 or over one‐third of Americans. The AMA joins the World Health Organization, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists in recognizing obesity as a disease.3 The AMA’s declaration may focus the attention and broaden the efforts of doctors and patients to prevent and treat obesity.

Environment, lifestyle, genetics, and medical conditions all can contribute to or cause obesity. If dieting, exercise, and lifestyle modification haven’t made a difference for you, weight‐loss surgery (bariatric surgery) may bring about the change you need.

  1. AMA. Related Conditions: Obesity [Internet]. Chicago: American Medical Association; c1995-2011. New - Promoting Healthy Families; [cited 2013 October 4]; [about 1 screen]. Available from: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/public-health/promoting-healthy-lifestyles/obesity.page
  2. CDC. Prevalence of Obesity in the United States, 2009–2010 [Internet]. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; c2013. Prevalence of Obesity in the United States; [cited 2013 October 4]; [about 1 screen]. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db82.htm
  3. OAC. News [Internet]. Tampa: Obesity Action Coalition; c2013. Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) Applauds American Medical Association’s (AMA) Decision to Classify Obesity as a Disease; [cited 2013 October 4]; [about 1 screen]. Available from: http://www.obesityaction.org/newsroom/news-releases/2013-news-releases/obesity-action-coalition-oac-applauds-american-medical-associations-ama-decision-to-classify-obesity-as-a-disease
What is Weight-Loss Surgery

Weight‐loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, is any surgical procedure that alters the digestive tract to restrict the amount of food a body can take in.

Here are the most common types of weight‐loss surgeries:

SLEEVE GASTRECTOMY (Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy): This procedure consists of transforming a stomach from a pouch into a long tube, or “sleeve.” The result is a stomach that is one‐third as big, which makes the patient feel full after a very small meal, and restricts food intake by allowing only a small amount of food to be consumed in a single sitting.

Bypass ROUX‐EN‐Y GASTRIC BYPASS (Gastric Bypass): This procedure routes food past most of the stomach and the first part of the small intestine. In addition to restricting food intake, a Roux‐en‐Y Gastric Bypass reduces nutrient absorption.

ADJUSTABLE GASTRIC BANDING (Gastric Band): This procedure utilizes an adjustable band that is placed at the top of the stomach to create a small pouch. This reduced size makes the patient feel full after a very small meal. Gastric Banding has been shown to result in less weight loss than with Sleeve Gastrectomy and Gastric Bypass.1

  1. Hutter MM, Schirmer BD, Jones DB, et al. First Report from the American College of Surgeons Bariatric Surgery Center Network: laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy has morbidity and effectiveness positioned between the band and the bypass. Ann Surg. 2011 Sep; 254(3):410-20.

Weight-Loss Surgery Benefits

Weight‐loss Surgery May Be the Answer

The effects of weight-loss surgery (bariatric surgery) extend beyond weight loss itself. Weight-loss surgery has been shown to improve—and even resolve—medical conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and joint pain.1 In addition, weight-loss surgery has been proven to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers1 in both men and women.

Significant Sustained Weight Loss2

The health benefits of weight-loss begin almost immediately after surgery and continue over time. Following surgery, most patients lose weight rapidly and continue to do so until 18-24 months after surgery2. Then, weight loss begins to settle as a patient reaches a stable weight. As with all weight loss methods, it is not uncommon following weight-loss surgery that some degree of weight regain will occur; however, few patients will regain all of the weight they previously lost.2

Improvement or Elimination of Most Obesity‐related Conditions3

Complications from obesity can compromise your lifestyle and even put your life at risk. But weight‐loss surgery may lead to benefits including improvement or elimination of most obesity‐related conditions,3 such as:

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

  • Obstructive sleep apnea (breathing disturbances during sleep)

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

  • Dyslipidemia (high cholesterol or triglycerides)

  1. Griffin TM; Guilak F. Why is obesity associated with osteoarthritis? Insights from mouse models of obesity. National Institutes of Health. PMC2748656, Sep 2009.
  2. Sjöström L, Lindroos AK, Peltonen M, et al; Swedish Obese Subjects Study Scientific Group. Lifestyle, diabetes, and cardiovascular risk factors 10 years after bariatric surgery. N Engl J Med. 2004; 351(26):2683-2693.
  3. Elder KA, Wolfe BM. Bariatric surgery: a review of procedures and outcomes. Gastroenterology. 2007; 132(6):2253-2271.
Discussion Tips

Talk to Your Doctor or a Weight‐loss Surgeon

If you’re ready to take a stand and commit yourself to talking to your doctor about weight‐loss surgery, this site can help you. It’s not always easy to start the conversation—you may feel embarrassed, choose to procrastinate, or think “if it were such a big deal, my doctor would have brought weight‐loss surgery up to me.” What is important is that you are ready to discuss with your doctor how weight‐loss surgery can help resolve your health issues. If you are ready, then now is the time to talk to your doctor about how weight‐loss surgery can help you overcome obesity. If you would prefer to speak to an expert who specializes in weight‐loss surgery and obesity management, start by using our tool below to find a weight‐loss surgeon.

Doctor Discussion Guide

To start the conversation with your doctor, bring a list of your thoughts and questions to your appointment. If you’d like, print out the list of questions below and bring it with you, and write down your doctor’s answers in the spaces provided.

Here are some questions you can ask your doctor:

  • Is this the right time for me to consider weight-loss surgery?

  • Which type of weight-loss surgery is best for me?

  • How could weight-loss surgery affect other health conditions I have?

  • How will weight-loss surgery help me lose weight?

  • What are the risks of this surgery?

  • Will you refer me to a member of the American Society of Bariatric Surgeons?

  • What type of follow-up care will be necessary?

Surgeon Discussion Guide

These common questions were developed to help you prepare for your initial visit with your weight-loss surgeon (bariatric surgeon) and his/her staff so you can obtain detailed information about weight-loss surgery.

About Me

  • Am I a candidate for weight-loss surgery?

  • Which weight-loss surgery is best for me? Why?

  • What is the process to move forward to be considered a candidate for surgery?

  • Who makes the decision of which procedure is best for me?

  • What are the risks of having weight-loss surgery?

  • What are the risks of not having weight-loss surgery?

About the Doctor/Surgery

  • Are you board‐certified by the American Board of Surgery?

  • Are you a member of the American Society of Bariatric Surgeons?

  • How many weight-loss surgeries do you perform each year?

  • How often do your patients have complications? What side effects are most common?

  • Does laparoscopic surgery decrease the risk of complications?

  • How long does the operation last?

  • Will I have a lot of pain?

  • How long do I have to stay in the hospital?

  • Will I have a tube coming out of my nose after surgery?

  • Will I have a drain?

  • How long does it take to schedule surgery?

  • How do I prepare for surgery?

  • Why do you require I see a nutritionist before surgery?

  • Why do you require I see a psychiatrist before surgery?

My Recovery/Post-operative Care

  • How soon will I be able to walk?

  • How soon can I drive?

  • How long will I need to take off from work?

  • Are there special dietary requirements/vitamins/supplements after surgery?

  • Why is exercise important?

  • I’ve heard people regain weight following surgery. Can you tell me why, and when does this happen?

  • Are there certain foods I won't be able to eat?

  • When can I start exercising after surgery?

  • Can you refer me to a dietician after surgery?

Coverage

  • Does insurance cover weight loss surgery?

  • Does Medicare cover the procedure?

Your weight-loss surgeon will have questions for you as well. If you’d like, before your appointment, write down the answers to the following questions your weight-loss surgeon may ask you.

  • What are your weight loss goals?

  • What other medical conditions, if any, do you have?

  • What are the factors that you believe affect your weight?

  • What diets or treatments have you tried to lose weight?

  • What do you think might prevent you from losing weight?

  • During what periods of your life did you gain weight?

  • How is your daily life affected by your weight?

  • What do you know about weight-loss surgery?

  • How did you come to consider weight-loss surgery?

  • What do you eat in a typical day?

  • How much activity do you get in a typical day?

  • What would your life be like if you were at a healthier weight?

  • Are you ready to make changes in your lifestyle to lose weight?

  • Do you have support in place (family/friends) who can help you during and after surgery?

  • Are you ready to start your weight-loss surgery process now?

PRINT

Print out this guide and bring it with you when you visit your doctor or a weight‐loss surgeon.

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Find a weight‐loss surgeon

If you’re ready to take a step toward weight loss, talk to your doctor or find a weight‐loss surgeon (bariatric surgeon) in your area now.