Around 40% of all U.S. adults are classified as obese. It’s predicted that nearly half of all adults will be obese by the year 2030. With the obesity pandemic worsening, doctors and scientists continue to stress that being overweight can be a serious health burden. The good news is that treatment is available. The most effective treatment we have for morbid obesity is weight loss surgery, otherwise known as bariatric surgery.
Yet of the 20 million people who qualify, only 1% go on to have a weight loss procedure.
According to a recent U.S. survey published in the Journal of The American Medical Association (JAMA), stigma may be partially at blame for this super low turnout of active bariatric patients.
The stigma of weight loss surgery is multi-faceted and includes several myths about bariatrics, which is a branch of medicine that involves the cause, prevention, and treatment of obesity.
Researchers at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine in New York randomly called a group of 948 English-speaking adults and asked them a series of questions.
The first question wanted to know if the person thought most people had weight loss surgery for cosmetic or health reasons. 49.4% of recipients said yes, indicating they thought bariatric surgery was a cosmetic rather than health-based surgery.
The second question asked if they thought weight loss surgery was akin to taking the easy way out. 39.1% of the survey takers answered in the affirmative to this question.
And the third asked if health insurance should always cover weight loss surgery procedures. Only 19.2% of survey takers answered this one affirmatively.
The answers to these questions show a clear bias against weight loss surgery. Let’s examine the stigma attached to bariatrics in greater detail as it relates to these three questions.
Weight Loss Surgery is Cosmetic in Nature
Nearly half of all survey takers held this claim, that bariatrics is used for cosmetic reasons. While it is true that weight loss surgery will help your waist (and the rest of you) shrink, WLS is aimed at improving your health, not your looks.
The health benefits of weight loss surgery for the morbidly obese have been well documented. Not only does losing weight cut your risk of early death, but dropping a majority of your excess weight after surgery can help treat obesity-related ailments like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, arthritis, and stroke.
Compared with adults who don’t have surgery, bariatric patients end up living longer, have less instances of high blood pressure, as well as lowered rates of cancer and type 2 diabetes.
WLS is Taking the “Easy Way Out”
Over 40 percent of the survey recipients held this unfortunate claim. This is very telling. It says that, despite the high rates of effectiveness for long-term weight loss in obese individuals versus traditional diet and exercise, many Americans still believe willpower is to blame for the obesity epidemic.
The truth is that obesity has nothing to do with willpower. Obesity is a complex and chronic disease, just like cancer, and has many causes and subtypes.
This way of thinking follows the fallacy that obese people merely need to eat right and exercise regularly and the weight will eventually come off. Those who have tried to lose weight through conventional means know otherwise. Some weight may come off, but it usually comes back – oftentimes with a vengeance.
If only we could educate these individuals on the effectiveness of weight loss surgery. Procedures like the gastric sleeve and gastric bypass reduce the size of your stomach and also suppress the hormones responsible for hunger. These bodily changes help the weight come off rapidly and for the long-term.
But what about the myth that bariatric surgery is somehow easy? Most patients will tell you that bariatric surgery is far from easy. There might be discomfort for at least a week or two as you recover at home following your procedure. Then there are the new lifestyle habits you must adopt to continue losing weight and keep it off for life. While weight loss surgery can help the weight come off, it’s not an easy way out by any means.
However, while there may be aches and pains and a tad bit of struggle, the benefits of weight loss surgery make the procedure well worth it.
Should Insurance Pay for WLS?
Insurance providers aren’t keen on paying for procedures that are solely cosmetic in nature. As we’ve already covered, WLS is aimed at health, which makes it a prime candidate for insurance coverage. Medicare and Medicaid currently cover bariatric surgery in 48 states. This proves that WLS procedures are valuable medical treatments rather than elective cosmetic procedures.
Unfortunately, some insurance companies also hold this stigma, which is clear given how complex and arduous the process can be for filing a WLS claim.
But you don’t have to rely on insurance to have weight loss surgery. There are many ways to fund the surgery you need, which include opting for financing using medical finance companies like CareCredit and Prosper Healthcare Lending.
Fear of Surgery and Complications
This is another common stigma the survey takers didn’t ask about, but it’s one that should be discussed. Fear of complications keeps many people from seeking out life-saving bariatric surgery, but it shouldn’t. While it is true that a rare few patients experience complications following their procedures, the risk of complications is lower than the risk to your health that comes with not taking any action at all. Obesity is a killer, but weight loss surgery could help to save your life.
So, let’s recap. Weight loss surgery isn’t easy, obesity is not about willpower, and insurance companies could be doing more to ensure people can get WLS when they need it. And lastly, you can mitigate your chances of experiencing complications by choosing the best bariatric surgeon in Los Angeles.
At Healthy Life Bariatrics, home of esteemed bariatric surgeon Dr. Babak Moeinolmolki, we never want you to be deterred from having surgery because of a baseless stigma. If you feel you qualify for weight loss surgery, having a bariatric procedure could be the best thing you ever do for your health and quality of life.
Contact us today throughout L.A., Encino, or Glendale to schedule a consultation with Dr. Moeinolmolki. We offer telehealth consultations for your convenience. Call (310)861-7844.