For severely obese individuals who have exhausted other weight loss options, weight loss surgery is now an effective way to attain a healthy weight. Natural weight loss methods – diet and exercise – are recommended for maintaining optimal health over the long term, but bariatric surgery may be the kickstarter for a lifetime of healthier habits.

Patients interested in bariatric surgery have several options. Three of the most common forms of weight loss surgery are gastric bypass, gastric banding, and a newer procedure called sleeve gastrectomy. Here’s what you can expect from each:

  • Gastric bypass: Gastric bypass drastically reduces the size of your stomach, making you feel full after consuming only small amounts of food. The surgery also reroutes the passage of food through your body so that it bypasses the majority of your stomach and upper small intestine, where nutrients are absorbed. As a result, the body takes in fewer calories.
  • Gastric banding: During this procedure, also known as “lap-band” surgery, a surgeon places an adjustable band at the opening of the stomach that restricts the amount of food that can be consumed. Gastric band patients tend to lose less weight, more slowly than patients who choose to undergo gastric bypass.
  • Sleeve gastrectomy: Sleeve gastrectomy alters the shape of your stomach into a narrow tube. In its new form, the stomach shrinks and is less likely to return to its original size than after gastric bypass. Sleeve gastrectomy also causes the stomach to produce less of the hormone that induces hunger, helping you to feel satisfied with less food.

As with any medical procedure, there are pros and cons to each option, and the decision shouldn’t be made lightly. Gastric bypass is the most effective option when weight loss is the only factor considered. Patients tend to lose weight rapidly, for up to two years after the procedure. Many manage to maintain significant weight loss for a decade or more.

However, gastric bypass has a higher complication rate than other forms of bariatric surgery. Gastric banding is a safer option, but is more reliant on the patient’s ability to make healthy eating choices following the procedure. Sleeve gastrectomy carries the lowest risk, but also the smallest reward. Weight loss for patients who choose that procedure is generally less dramatic.

With any weight loss surgery, there is the possibility of the stomach stretching over time and returning to its original size. If you choose to proceed with bariatric surgery, take advantage of all medical, nutritional, and counseling services available to you, both before and after surgery. The more you are able to help your body and mind adjust to your new lifestyle, the better your results will be.