I participate in many forums and act as a mentor to people researching weight loss surgery as well as those who have just been banded. In this regard, I receive many questions from those thinking about having lap band surgery. The following questions were so thought- provoking for me that I wanted to share them with this community.

“It seems that a given number of people gain weight again after the first few years, thus “forfeiting” the intended effect of the lap band. How common is this?”

We are all patients and it will take medical professionals to help assess what’s right for each of us and if any of our individual issues should be addressed prior to you having any sort of weight loss surgery.

Let’s look at what failure and success really are. The lap band, with a moderate amount of input from the patient, can help us achieve somewhere around half of the weight loss we are looking for. When we fully commit to the permanent lifestyle changes required to attain and maintain a normal healthy weight our weight loss can be “results not typical”. The choices are ours. What I can tell you from my personal experience is that the lap band can control the volume I am physically able to eat at one sitting, but it doesn’t know what that food is so the choices are mine. Binge eating, or eating that whole bag of chips or that entire cake or pie is physically impossible for me at a single sitting. Were I to graze at it all day long, I’m sure I could find a way “to get it all down”. I do not choose that behavior any longer. Occasionally my emotional state will lead me to make poor choices, but I have much better control after 6 years of experience with my lap band. We have to understand that deep emotional eating issues are NEVER resolved with a surgery, but may require other forms of intervention, such as counseling. Anyone can figure out how to “eat around” a surgery and regain their weight either completely or partially. It’s not that the surgery is no longer “working”, it’s that the person has chosen to no longer work the surgery.

“In line with this, some studies say that our bodies have memory, imprints of what our most significant self image was/is, and therefore need time to “adapt” to significant, rapid, weight loss. My own experience is that, even the times I lost significant weight, my mental image hadn’t changed and I didn’t really recognize the woman in the mirror as myself. I was only happy with the esthetics, but it was like they belonged to someone else. I invariably gained all the weight back, and more. The question then becomes based on the principle that the lap band, and/or other surgeries help us lose weight “reasonably” quickly, do our minds, or “internal memories” adjust adequately to these changes? Is the speed of the weight loss “dangerous” to our body image, because we have trouble “keeping up”?

Regarding body image and losing weight so quickly that our minds can’t keep up with the changes- this is another entire emotional issue. Even after 6 years and maintaining a 250 lb weight loss I frequently do not recognize the person staring back at me in the mirror. This is REALLY when I count on my support system. I reach out for people to help me understand who I am looking at. While I am fully aware of the changes, the old adage ” You can never be too thin or too rich” always comes up for me.Looking at a before picture and a current picture of yourself offers some help in wrapping your head around the idea that the person in the mirror is really who your today and you then choose to be that person. What helps is that with lap band surgery the weight loss is not as rapid as with other surgeries, but it is steady.

To summarize:

  • Surgery alone will not get you sustained weight loss. You need to participate in the process and work the surgery.
  • Emotional eating frequently needs to be addressed with a professional.
  • Understanding how the surgery works and what is required of you before you have surgery will help you achieve better results.
  • Body image issues are always tough whether or not they are connected to weight loss and may require professional intervention.
  • A good, strong support system can help you achieve and maintain great results.