Why are people turning to weight loss surgery?

NEW SERVICES: Bendigo hospitals prepare as admissions for weight loss surgery surge across Australia.

NEW SERVICES: Bendigo hospitals prepare as admissions for weight loss surgery surge across Australia.

The number of Australians admitted to hospital for weight loss surgery has more than doubled in a decade.

But with so many weight loss options out there, why do people choose surgery?

Why turn to surgery?

Bendigo surgeon Janine Arnold said her bariatric patients had tried everything else but had struggled to maintain a healthy diet and exercise.

“When you are overweight and are told ‘go and get on a diet’, well, a diet is a temporary thing. Even the latest fad diets in the media (do not provide) a sustained lifestyle change,” she said.

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Once a diet was over, people of any background could struggle with weight-gain, Dr Arnold said.

Surgery could be an option for people with a body mass index over 40 as well as for those with a BMI over 35 and who had two or more weight-related ailments such as diabetes, sleep apnea or heart disease.

While there were less complications for those who thinned down without surgery, Dr Arnold said procedures like those she was about to begin at St John of God could be a catalyst both for weight loss and new habits. 

Former patients could not eat as much (both in the volume and types of food) and often felt an emotional kick-start when they saw weight begin to disappear.

EXPERT OPINION: Janine Arnold says bariatric surgery could be an option for some who struggle with their weight.

EXPERT OPINION: Janine Arnold says bariatric surgery could be an option for some who struggle with their weight.

Can surgery really change people’s lives in the long-term?

Bendigo’s Jinie Fox had a series of surgeries over four years. She said surgery could work, even if it was not a magic bullet.

“People need to do their homework, because surgery is a tool, not a miracle cure,” she said.

Jinie said internet chat forums included stories of people who had put the weight back on.

“Often there’s a honeymoon phase for the year after surgery. But if you have not changed your eating habits you will put that weight back on,” she said.

Dr Arnold said she provided patients with a dietitian and a psychologist both before and after surgeries.

SUCCESS: Jinie Fox lost nearly half her body weight with the assistance of bariatric surgery. Pictures: DARREN HOWE

SUCCESS: Jinie Fox lost nearly half her body weight with the assistance of bariatric surgery. Pictures: DARREN HOWE

Surgery changed Jinie’s life

Jinie’s surgeries saw her shed half her body weight in four years.

“It gave me back my life. I used to be on arthritis medication for my feet and ankles. Once I started losing the weight I didn’t have that pain,” she said.

Jinie still occasionally had pain in parts of her body, but nothing like the arthritis she used to get in her ankles.

She had rediscovered bush walking and found joy in acts that required standing for long periods, like watching this year’s Easter Torchlight Procession.

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