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Bariatric Surgery

Get the inside scoop on bariatric surgery from Dr. Caroline Cederquist, a board certified bariatric physician. Find out what this group of procedures entail, and receive advice from our world-renowned expert in medical weight loss.

Weight Loss Surgery vs Medical Weight Loss: Which Should You Choose?

“Eat less, move more” is often the name of the weight loss game, so why consider surgery? Learn what bariatric medicine and surgery are and why you might choose one over the other.

Weight Loss Surgery vs Medical Weight Loss: Which Should You Choose?


Eating less and moving more is the guiding principle for weight loss most people are accustomed to. However, while these components are essential for health and weight management, it may not always be the simple solution for losing weight.

Weight loss surgery and medical weight loss programs can be solutions for those who feel like they have tried all other options and still have a significant amount of weight to lose.

Wondering what medical weight loss and bariatric weight loss surgery entail? How do you know if you need bariatric surgery for weight loss? Discover the ins and outs of weight loss surgery, medical weight loss, and who they can best serve.

What Are Bariatric Surgery and Bariatric Medicine?

Bariatrics refers to the branch of medicine that is concerned with treating overweight and obese patients through weight-loss strategies and preventative lifestyle changes.

It's important to understand that while bariatrics literally means "large," it is also a field of study that emphasizes the science and the importance of healthy weight loss that encompasses a broad range of medical practices.

Bariatric medicine can include both bariatric surgery and alternatives to bariatric surgery like medical weight loss. Medical weight loss is supervised by a physician and medical professionals to offer nutrition counseling, treatment for obesity-related conditions, safe weight loss medications, counseling, and lifestyle support.

Bariatric, or weight loss, surgery can be offered either in place or after medical weight loss. Before having bariatric surgery, most insurances require going through a medical weight loss program first. 

Surgery involves altering the digestive pathway to shrink the stomach or bypass a portion of the intestine. In turn, the weight loss procedure can change how the body digests and absorbs food. 

Medical Weight Loss Vs. Weight Loss Surgery

While medical weight loss and weight loss surgery are usually offered in the same clinic, there are some differences between these options for weight loss. While your doctor and medical team will ultimately help you determine which option is best for you, here are some standard differences between medical weight loss and weight loss surgery.

Medical Weight Loss

Medical weight loss is more than just trying to eat healthy and exercising on your own. You have the supervision and support of a multidisciplinary team of doctors, nutritionists, and behavior health specialists. The program provides nutrition counseling, treatment for obesity related conditions, safe weight loss medications, counseling, and lifestyle support.

Those who qualify for medical weight loss usually have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher (being obese) or a BMI of 27 or higher, as well as a medical issue like diabetes or high blood pressure.

Weight loss can be anywhere from 1 to 4 pounds of weight loss per week, depending on body weight. After goal weight is reached, a maintenance phase of a lifestyle of a healthy diet and exercise is encouraged. Some programs require participants to stay at an in-house facility or resort, while others may just have regular check-ins with health professionals while living at home.

Weight Loss Surgery

There are different types of weight loss surgeries, including gastric bypass surgery and sleeve gastrectomy. However, they all have the same goal of helping people lose a significant amount of weight by altering part of the stomach/digestive tract. 

The criteria for bariatric surgery includes:

• A BMI of 40 or higher
• At least 100 pounds overweight for your height
• BMI of 35 or greater with obesity-related diseases

According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, weight loss surgeries can, in addition to helping people lose weight, help treat and prevent diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and high cholesterol. They can also help improve the quality and length of life for many people. 

While there are exceptions, most people keep the weight off after surgery with significant health gains that were not seen alone with diet and exercise. In fact, 90% of patients after bariatric surgery lose 50% of excess body weight and keep this extra weight off long-term.

While there are some potential risks for bariatric surgery, these surgeries are considered much more low risk compared to earlier years. Now, these surgeries can be done laparoscopically with minimal invasive incisions.

Bottom Line for Bariatric Surgery for Weight Loss

Both medical weight loss and weight loss surgery can help people lose a significant amount of weight that may not be achieved through individual efforts. Medical weight loss and weight loss surgery have qualification guidelines depending on a person's BMI and comorbidities.

Both options have guidance and support from a medical staff. If bariatric surgery is desired, medical weight loss is usually done first, then surgery may occur after this process. 

There are different types of bariatric surgeries that all have their pros and cons. Determining which option is best for your needs will be done with your individual healthcare team.

Remember, if not ready to make the medical plunge and desire weight loss assistance, bistroMD is inspired and dedicated to your desired success! BistroMD delivers well-balanced meals scientifically-proven to facilitate weight loss. In fact, bistroMD's founding physician, Dr. Caroline Cederquist is board certified in medical weight loss.

References:

Bariatric surgery procedures. American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. Published May 2021. https://asmbs.org/patients/bariatric-surgery-procedures

Benefits of bariatric surgery: ASMBS. American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. Published September 2020. https://asmbs.org/patients/benefits-of-weight-loss-surgery

Weight loss surgery vs. medical weight loss: Which one is for you? Soma Bariatrics. Published August 30, 2019. https://www.somabariatrics.com/blog/compare/weight-loss-surgery-vs-medical-weight-loss-which-one-is-for-you/.

Sydney Lappe's Photo
Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on November 07, 2012. Updated on August 25, 2022.

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