Healthy Living

Medical Weight Loss Programs: Medical vs. Surgical

Aug 4 2023

Losing weight can be a challenging journey for many individuals struggling with obesity or excessive weight gain. With so many medical weight loss programs, knowing what is right for you can be difficult.

But first, what is the difference between being overweight or obese?

In the United States, more than 41 percent of the population is considered obese. Obesity can lead to heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer, which are among the leading causes of premature, preventable death.

Being overweight or obese both refer to having excess body fat. However, there are a few key differences. Being overweight is defined as having a BMI over 25, whereas to be considered obese, your BMI needs to be above 30. Obesity is considered more critical and has higher health risks compared to being overweight.

How is BMI calculated?

Body mass index (BMI) is calculated by taking your weight divided by the square of your height, which you can determine quickly with The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s BMI calculator. However, it is important to note that your BMI doesn’t diagnose body fatness or your health as an individual.

What is medical weight loss?

This method is a non-surgical approach to weight loss that focuses on using a combination of personalized strategies and interventions to help individuals lose weight. Patients who participate in medical weight loss programs typically have a BMI over 30 or are overweight with a BMI over 27 accompanied by weight-related medical issues, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or other chronic health conditions.

Some of the components of a medical weight loss program include:

  • Nutritional guidance: Health care professionals work with individuals to develop a balanced and sustainable eating plan that promotes weight loss.
  • Behavioral counseling: Behavioral therapy helps address emotional eating, triggers and unhealthy habits, promoting positive changes in attitudes towards food and exercise.
  • Physical activity: Exercise recommendations are provided based on individual fitness levels and preferences, encouraging regular physical activity to support weight loss efforts.
  • Medication and supplements: In some cases, health care professionals may prescribe medications or recommend supplements to aid in weight loss, under close monitoring.

What is surgical weight loss?

Surgical weight loss is typically only performed on individuals with a BMI above 35, regardless of any health-related issues. People with a BMI over 30 may also be eligible if they haven’t been able to achieve substantial or long-term weight loss.

Gastric bypass

This operation is performed using the laparoscopic or robotic-assisted technique. In a gastric bypass, the stomach is made smaller by creating a small pouch at the top of the stomach. The smaller stomach is connected directly to the middle portion of the small intestine, bypassing the rest of the stomach and the upper portion of the small intestine.

This procedure results in a smaller stomach and lets food bypass part of the small intestine. The feeling of being full comes much quicker than when your stomach was its original size, which reduces the amount of food you eat. Fewer calories are taken in, and because part of the intestine is bypassed, fewer calories are absorbed.

Sleeve gastrectomy

Sleeve gastrectomy, also known as gastric sleeve surgery, is a restrictive procedure that limits the amount of food you eat by reducing the size of your stomach. This procedure is performed using a laparoscopic or robotic-assisted technique. During the gastric sleeve procedure, a thin vertical sleeve of stomach is created. This sleeve typically holds between 50 to 100 milliliters, or about the size of a banana. The remainder of the stomach is removed.

By creating a smaller stomach pouch, a sleeve gastrectomy limits the amount of food that you can eat at once, so you feel full sooner and stay full longer. As you eat less food, your body will stop storing excess calories and start using its fat supply for energy.

SADI/duodenal switch

The single anastomosis duodenal-ileal, or SADI, procedure combines the conveniences of the gastric sleeve with the malabsorption of a partial intestinal bypass. This allows for better weight loss than the sleeve alone and a higher chance of long-term sustained weight loss. This procedure has a very low rate of complications while providing more weight loss, on average, than the sleeve and bypass.

The duodenal switch is similar to the SADI procedure but is reserved for those individuals with the most significant burden from obesity. Generally, this means a BMI greater than 60. It combines a gastric sleeve with a shorter intestinal bypass than the SADI. This procedure will produce the most aggressive weight loss and improvement in medical conditions.

Similar to the gastric sleeve, a gastric band limits the amount of food the stomach can hold, helping you eat less and feel full sooner.

Choosing what’s right for you

While both medical weight loss and surgical weight loss are viable options for individuals seeking to address their weight-related health concerns, they differ in terms of approach, eligibility criteria and outcomes. Consulting with a health care professional about your options regarding weight loss programs will help you determine the most suitable path based on your medical history, BMI and personal preferences.

Making an informed decision and committing to long-term lifestyle changes are crucial for achieving and maintaining your weight loss goals. Ultimately, a weight loss program that can help you lose a safe amount of weight while also giving you the tools to maintain a healthy weight going forward will set you up for long-term success.

Learn more about the weight loss services we offer at Bon Secours.

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