Myth or fact: It’s healthier to lose weight slowly?

Myth or fact: It’s healthier to lose weight slowly — I might lose weight too fast after bariatric surgery. 

As a bariatric surgeon, one of the most common fears I hear from patients is that they are afraid of surgery because they don’t want to lose weight too fast. Maybe you have heard that rapid weight loss from surgery can lead to protein and vitamin deficiencies, muscle loss and weakness, thinning hair, brittle teeth, and saggy skin. This could naturally lead you to conclude that merely slowing the rate of weight loss will decrease your chances of encountering these problems.

I often hear these concerns from patients, who then tell me they would rather lose weight “naturally” through dieting, or perhaps want gastric band surgery because they’ve heard the weight loss is not as quick.

While it is true that surgery causes more rapid weight loss than traditional diets, and complications can happen, there is no evidence to suggest that the rapid weight loss caused by surgery itself is dangerous — especially if it’s properly monitored by your surgeon.

The speed at which you lose weight after bariatric surgery is always evaluated with other factors such as:

  • Age
  • Activity level
  • Starting weight
  • Eating habits
  • Vitamin intake

Limiting side effects

Eating well and taking your vitamins will limit your chance of nutritional deficiencies. Adequate protein intake and physical activity are important to minimizing loss of muscle mass after surgery. Extra skin has everything to do with your age and elasticity of your skin, your weight, and how it’s carried. Thinning hair is very common and depends on the individual. Fortunately, many patients experience a return of hair thickness nine to twelve months after surgery. However, these aren’t always easy changes to make.

Other changes throughout the journey

As you progress through your weight loss journey, you’ll often hear your team at Erlanger say, “weight is just a number.” We say this because the number on the scale—and how rapidly that number falls—is less important than the other changes you will experience. For example, you’ll hear us ask questions such as:

  • How are you feeling?
  • What can you do now that you couldn’t do before surgery?
  • What medical conditions have improved or resolved since surgery?
  • How many medications have you been able to eliminate?

Weight loss is merely a great side effect to the goal of helping you live a happier, healthier life. If you find yourself discouraged or tempted to compare your weight loss to others, just remember the number on the scale is perhaps the least important thing in bariatric surgery.

So, is it healthier to lose weight more slowly, without the help of surgery? It’s safe to declare this a myth.

The team at Erlanger is here to ensure a safe surgical journey, and while we will be checking your weight, it will be one small part of how we monitor your progress after surgery.

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