Help with Gastric Banding
July 27, 2006 5:01 PM   Subscribe

Two-fold question: 1) Can you share your personal anecdotes about gastric banding surgery? 2) How would you feel if you found out your (now skinny) significant other had surgery to lose the weight?

I have been overweight my entire life. Both of my parents are obese (my father is morbidly so). I've been on a weight loss plan for the last year (food and exercise) and I haven't had much success. I've tried WeightWatchers (online and meetings), SlimFast, the No-S diet, etc., etc., etc..

According to my excellent physicians, I am a perfect candidate for gastric banding surgery. I've done some basic online research about this surgery and I'm not as opposed to it as I thought I would be. I'm interested in any anecdotes anyone on MetaFilter can offer - do you know someone who did it? How was the surgery? How was the recovery time? Pain? What's their average meal now? How often do they eat? I understand that all answers will vary, I just want some personal anecdotes!

Also, I am female, single, young, and actually not ugly. I need to lose about 80 lbs. to be in a good place. How would you feel if you found out that your (now super hot and skinny) girlfriend had gastric banding surgery to lose the weight? Would it affect your impressions? If I have it, what should be my guidelines for telling a significant other? Obviously, I'd wait until things were getting more serious - this isn't first date conversation - but when?

If you have other questions you'd like to ask me, or if I've left something out, please email me at
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My sister has undergone this, having been overweight since forever (and, I gather, having been on just about every diet under the sun). I understand the process was not pleasant, but she is very happy with the results, both in terms of looking well and feeling well.
posted by pompomtom at 5:14 PM on July 27, 2006

I have no experience with the procedures, but there has been recent news about a fairly high risk of side effects; be sure you're okay with that. See, for example, here or here.

As to your second question, I wouldn't really care at all.
posted by raf at 5:23 PM on July 27, 2006

It would not freak me out. I might have some concerns for your long-term health—I don't know what the ramifications of this are, and would want to be informed.

When to tell? Before you get married or move in together; before your new SO meets the family (who might wonder "how is she so skinny and hot, when her folks are so big?"). To be more specific than that is a judgment call.
posted by adamrice at 5:29 PM on July 27, 2006

Based on the question, I don't think either of the articles raf point to would apply. Banding does not involve removing a portion of the intestine and reattaching it to the stomach after it has been stapled. I have heard there are less surgical complications, but that the diet and lifestyle changes are similar and just as hard to acclimate to. The main concern is overeating, as well as not changing your eating or exercise habits. I would recommend joining a support group before and after if you decide to go this route - they will be able to give you a better idea of what to expect and be great resources if you have any troubles.
posted by blackkar at 5:37 PM on July 27, 2006

A friend had stapling done recently, and lost a bunch of weight... adapting to her looks (she is much lighter, but her face looks much more ... severe?) is taking some time. Her SO is quite happy with it, though.

I gather recovery was a little slow and annoying, but she seems ok, now.

I assume from the phrasing of your question that you're talking about SO's you don't actually already have... and I'm not sure it's actually their business.

Any moreso than any other weight loss would be.

If one ended up going *though* some of that recovery with you, I suppose it would be a different story...
posted by baylink at 5:42 PM on July 27, 2006

A friend of the family underwent gastric bypass maybe four years ago, and recently they have been regaining weight - which confuses me. They aren't anywhere near where they were pre-surgery (ie obese), but they would now be classified as "overweight".

Does that mean that the new, super-small stomach area can continue to expand with high food-intake?

I thought it was nearly impossible to get enough calories to gain weight after bypass, but apparently not...
posted by rsanheim at 5:47 PM on July 27, 2006

Also, the friend said the plastic surgery afterwards to remove excess skin was pretty tough. It was painful and there was a lot of surgery - though I think she had quite a bit more then 80 lbs to lose.
posted by rsanheim at 5:48 PM on July 27, 2006

If someone had had it done just to improve health and quality of life, no big whup. But I might find it a bit off-putting if a putative hunnybunny had had it done to be "super hot and skinny," same as if she'd had fake boobs put in, had her labia retouched, or had other needless cosmetic surgery done. I wouldn't care about the procedure itself in that case but I might worry about dealing with appearance insecurities for the long term.

No, I don't think you're coming from that place. I'm just talking more generally.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:03 PM on July 27, 2006

How would you feel if you found out that your (now super hot and skinny) girlfriend had gastric banding surgery to lose the weight?

I wouldn't care, but a) I have my own weight issues, so I understand, and b) there is more to being hot than being skinny.

That said, most guys definitely wouldn't care at all, and a lot of guys would disagree with b).
posted by bingo at 6:09 PM on July 27, 2006

Gastric Bypass May Beat Gastric Bands. FYI. Though note that the study concludes that either is "satisfactory".
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 6:10 PM on July 27, 2006

rsanheim: the "pouch" made during a gastric bypass does expand to hold a moderate amount of food after a year or so. Most people stop losing, or gain back a little weight at this point. The good news is that for many people it's alot easier to get back on track - they just have to go back to the post-surgery eating regimen.

I point people to ObesityHelp for info on this stuff. Their boards are very active and they don't mind if you post newbie questions.

Excess skin can be an issue after rapid weight loss, surgery-induced or not. Being young and having <100 lbs to lose will help you there. But, if you think you'll want cosmetic surgery (to flatten your stomach or whatever), start saving for it now - it's not usually covered by insurance.
posted by cabingirl at 6:11 PM on July 27, 2006

A woman I know well had an early version of a gastric band, some 10 or 11 years ago, when she was 43. She lost some weight, but about 6 years ago, she went through a radical mastectomy, and as part of her reconstructive surgery from that, she had a muscle from her abdomen flapped to reconstruct her breast, and that led to a tummy tuck, complete with a manmade new navel. She has some laproscopic scars from the banding operation on her torso. So she's "had it all" if not for purely the weight management issues.

She has problems eating fatty foods, meats, and raw vegetables, and she always will. She eats slowly, and takes her time. Typically, she eats three reasonably sized meals a day, and she likes to snack. She probably ingests 1/3 to 1/2 her total daily calories in snacking, which she recognizes is bad practice, but she can't eat enough in normal mealtimes to feel satiated until the next meal. She has gained back most of the weight she lost in the first year after the banding surgery, and she recognizes that she is again, obese. But she makes the point that, were it not for the banding surgery, she might very well be even more obese, or have already succumbed to complications of a potentially greater weight than she actually carries now.

She has problems doing a lot of physical activity, because of badly healed broken bones in her left foot and ankle, but she continues to try yoga and spinning classes from time to time. She has yet to find a routine of physical activity that she can maintain consistently.

So what I take from her experience is that for people approaching middle age, with a serious weight problem, banding or gastric bypass may be an option of last resort, given the likelihood of progression to other serious problems like heart disease and diabetes. But it is not a cure for obesity, and in time, many people do manage to gain significant weight back. The cost of the surgery, the significant surgical risk, the certainty of lifelong issues with eating the surgery intentionally creates, and the fact that many people do apparently regain the weight they initially lose, makes me wonder if it is a realistic option for a younger person, at all.

As for my attitude about it, I wasn't around when she was making the decision to have it done, and all I've ever seen of the procedure directly are the scars on her torso. I wouldn't have cared about her weight issues directly, if I had been around at that time, and she had lost and regained much of the weight by the time I came to know any of this about her, so although I knew her when she was 18 and very svelte, I know her now only as the mature woman she has become.

And now, I don't give a damn about her waist size, I'm just happy her pretty blue eyes are in the world.
posted by paulsc at 7:53 PM on July 27, 2006 [4 favorites]

There are so many side effects in a full-on gastric bypass that I wouldn't recommend it unless a doctor told you you had to lose weight or you would die in the next few years AND you had already tried everything else.

Not so familiar with the band procedure. It's reversible so if you have side effects you could theoretically have them undone.

I will say that a friend's wife had a bypass and turned out super-hot. Her husband is fine with it -- because he also had the same surgery. She had some problems with the scar tissue in her second pregnancy, however.

I hate to sound like a shill, plugging the same thing on every weight-related thread, but at the beginning of 2006 I decided that if I couldn't put a serious dent in my weight problem this year I would have surgery in 2007. I hate the idea but something's got to be done. In April, this book came out. After following that plan for about three months, I have determined that I will not be undergoing surgery in 2007. Try it, it'll cost you $25 for the book and a smallish bottle of extra-light olive oil and you'll know in a week or two whether it's working for you.
posted by kindall at 8:08 PM on July 27, 2006

I did a story last year on gastric surgery, touching on both the lap band and the bypass stuff. The lap band, from both doctors' and patients' reports, was generally much safer and less dramatic. But it does require more discipline, both according to doctors and patients. One man I interviewed had lost about 80 pounds and gained much of it back because the lap band stretches. (He would eat slightly more than his portion size, have some "dumping" issues, and then continue to eat increased portions until the band stretched out.)

Laparoscopic surgery is not nearly as invasive as gastric bypass. It's pretty standard, and my understanding is that your discomfort issues would be more along the lines of pain caused by breaking the occasional rule. Again, it's a question of discipline. (But I can tell you that I've heard very nightmare-ish stories about gastric bypass.)

As for the significant other issue, I think it's just a question of explanation -- ie, getting past the negative stigma associated with these surgeries. Having a procedure like this doesn't make you a bad person or someone who can't stick to a diet and exercise routine, but a lot of people see it that way. Most people seem to know very little about it and many are a bit judgmental because of negative media reports they've encountered. So ... you would just need to find a guy who was open-minded, which you would probably want anyway. If he wouldn't be okay with the lap band stuff, you wouldn't want to date him in the first place.

Good luck!
posted by brina at 8:10 PM on July 27, 2006

I am not against cosmetic surgery whatsoever, and I don't mean to freak you out by this, but a friend of my boyfriend's family died from complications from this surgery a few months after she had it done. That's all I know. Then again, a good friend of mine had it done and, while she's lost a lot of weight and is happy to be thin, she still can barely eat more than a cup of yogurt and a handful of nuts without feeling stuffed. Which I think is sad if you like to enjoy food, cooking, etc. Is there any particular reason you prefer this surgery over Liposuction? I don't know all the pro's and cons, but it seems (marginally) less invasive and (again marginally) less likely to have drastic consequences.
posted by np312 at 11:10 PM on July 27, 2006

It's only indicated for people with a BMI over 40 or if you have a life-threatening or disabling condition related to your weight. About a third of people who have it develop serious anemia or gallstones.

"death rates following bariatric surgery were much higher than previously thought (30-day, 90-day, and 1-year mortality were 2.0%, 2.8%, and 4.6%). Being older than 65 significantly increased the one-year mortality rate to 11.1%"

Try eating the diet required by people who have the surgery first.

It would have to be something life threatening before I subject myself to a elective surgery that could result in my stomach leaking acid into my abdomen.

Seriously, your quality of life might not improve.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 11:48 PM on July 27, 2006

adamrice: It would not freak me out. I might have some concerns for your long-term health—I don't know what the ramifications of this are, and would want to be informed.

I concur.
posted by robcorr at 11:54 PM on July 27, 2006

A friend of mine had the gastric band done when she realized she had suffered renal problems, back problems, and finally a heart attack by age 45. She told me "I didn't have the surgery to look good. I just wanted to live."

I met her last month in Paris and she was extremely happy with her life. We went to some good restaurants and she really enjoyed eating, but told me that the most important change the surgery had made in her life was how she now approached the entire idea of food. She really gave a lot of thought to eating as a life giving - and life threatening - act, and told me "I actually like food now more than when I could eat loads of it."

She didn't resent her restrictions - no more fried, cripsy food, no fatty meats, no cheese - but she made a big celebration of the flavors of what she did consume - chinese shrimp dumpling soup, Morrocan tangines, dutch herrings. She never finished a full portion but she made sure to herself that she was satisfied. She was one of the best dining companions I have had the pleasure to hang with.
posted by zaelic at 2:35 AM on July 28, 2006

A guy I know had it done last year. He loves it. Like zaelic's friend, he said it changed his relationship to food for the better. He did say that the small portion sizes and the need to eat slowly and really chew food, instead of eating fast and swallowing chunks whole, took getting used to. (He has a great story about scarfing a take-out burrito at his usual pre-surgery speed. It came back up, of course, in reverse-peristalsis waves. The gods took pity on him - all the lights he hit on the way home were red, allowing him to fling the door open and vomit on the road, leaving a trail of partly digested burrito all the way home. "God knows," he added, "what the people driving behind me must have thought..."
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 8:29 AM on July 28, 2006

My stepdad had a gastric bypass about two years ago and has been really happy with the experience. He had significantly more than 80 lbs to lose and it wasn't always easy, but he's gone from a severly overweight grouchy angry man, to a downright jolly skinny guy, and everyone's pretty grateful.

The surgery and recovery went well for him. I think he took about 8 weeks off of work afterwards. In the beginning, his food choices were very limited, and he'd eat, like, a few bites of whatever non-meat, non-fried, non-dairy, non-fatty thing my mom had cooked, and be completely full. He lost a ton of weight in the first few months. After that, the weight loss became more graudual, but he got down to his target weight about a year ago and has remained there since then. Things are quite a bit more relaxed now and he's reintroduced pretty much all foods back into his diet, but still, he eats very little and can't drink any liquids an hour before or after eating (which can get very frustrating, although perhaps not as frustrating as being 200+ lbs overweight).

My parents also have a neighbor who went through the same thing, but she had a very emotional relationship with food, and unfortunately, the surgery doesn't always help in situations like that. There are ways to 'game the system' so to speak (eating many, many small meals and constantly snacking, for example), and after initially losing the weight, she slowly gained it back. Also, she had a lot of health problems because she refused to follow the diet guidelines. You really need to have a lot of willpower and motivation in order to make this work.

If you have any more questions or anything, feel free to e-mail me and I can them on to my stepdad.
posted by logic vs love at 1:09 PM on July 28, 2006

My wife did the band around the first of the year. Overall I'd recommend it. It took awhile to get the amount of restriction tuned properly, but it's had a tremendous and positive impact on her life.

There was an article in the Sunday New York Times magazine a while back, a personal tale of a woman who went through the surgery which impacted my view of the procedure. Prior to the article I was opposed, but after reading it I came to understand differently.

Overall I'd say go for it.
posted by Elvis at 9:11 AM on August 9, 2006

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