This question gets asked a lot “Is bariatric surgery cheating?”. I want to give you my input on this question. 

No. 

To me, this question really doesn’t make sense. What are you cheating? Who are you cheating? When you cheat, you’re breaking the rules—and what are the rules for weight loss? Fundamentally, there is only one rule to weight loss: create a consistent calorie deficit. Weight loss surgery isn’t cheating, and it’s not a shortcut. Creating a calorie deficit is the main purpose for weight loss surgery. I want to debunk this notion that weight loss surgery is cheating. 

It’s more than just eating right and exercise.

Obesity isn’t something that you give yourself; it is something that you have. We all know a person who eats terribly, never exercises, and still somehow maintains an “ideal” weight. Their genetics and metabolism support a slender physique. (This doesn’t mean that they are inherently healthy—a bad diet and lack of exercise will eventually catch up with them, though it may not be through weight gain.) You, unfortunately, have the genetics, the metabolism, and quite possibly a mental state that promotes excessive weight gain.

A bad diet and lack of exercise will catch up to everyone – even your skinny friends.

Photo by KoolShooters:

Your weight loss has never been as easy as “eat less and exercise” implies. But you’ve probably tried that. In fact, you’ve likely tried it all: personal trainers, group classes, spin classes, every diet under the sun, counting “points” and calories, new fitness equipment, shakes, and pre-packaged meals. And yet, you are still at a weight you don’t like and that isn’t healthy for you. If “eat less and exercise” is the rule you’re supposed to follow, you did! You played by the rules and ended up no better than before (or in some cases, even heavier and more unhealthy).

Let’s take a different tack with this and say you didn’t exhaust all of your other options before weight loss surgery. Then your bariatric surgery is cheating then, right?

 NOPE.

 Again, the basics purpose of weight loss surgery is all about limiting your calorie intake so you will lose weight (though there are many other positive aspects like limiting the risk of death by 40%.) Weight loss surgery is simply one form of every other legitimate weight-loss program out there. It is more aggressive than counting points or the keto diet, but its purpose is no different: to help you lose weight and build a heathier life.

In many ways, weight loss surgery is a more effective weight-loss program than a lot of the other ones you tried. It can improve type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, and quality of life. It’s also a procedure that you can’t easily give up on. Yet bariatric surgery requires some hard work and lifestyle changes, and if you don’t implement these things you can completely fail at losing weight. As with any other program, if it’s going to succeed, you have to work at it.

Maybe bariatric surgery is cheating because it’s too fast and easy?

With bariatric surgery, it’s not out of the ordinary to lose 70+ pounds in less than a year with no “real work” on your part. You won’t see this very often in other legitimate weight-loss programs. That still doesn’t mean bariatric surgery is cheating or wrong; it’s just different. You have a tool that allows weight loss to occur at  a faster pace than usual (for a limited time). And instead of thinking of the speed of weight loss as a shortcut or a cheat, instead think of it as a jump-start to being able to do what you want. 

Anyone who has been successful at losing weight and keeping it off with bariatric surgery knows that it requires a lot of work and dedication, much more than just a few cardio sessions a week or “mostly” eating right. This procedure doesn’t give you a free pass from eating right and exercising. If you’re going to be successful long-term, those have to be a part of your overall plan. Yet these things become easier and more enjoyable once you have shed a significant amount of weight.

This surgery gets you quickly to a point where moving becomes easier.

Photo by Andres Ayrton

Weight loss surgery gets you quickly to the point where moving becomes easier and because you are healthier, you can do the work more effectively. While before the surgery movement was difficult, now it’s not. You are freer to be more active. This is one of the biggest differences with weight loss surgery compared to other forms of weight loss. Traditional weight-loss efforts are slow to get you to a point where you can do more things easier. If you can get over the hump of losing the first 70+ pounds, you are in a position to continue with the weight loss in a much more pain-free and healthy state. That is an assist, not a cheat.

Bariatric Surgery isn’t a cheat, it’s a tool. Sure, it’s drastic by design, but there is nothing illegitimate about it. When you hear that phrase from people, understand that they don’t really know what weight loss surgery really takes. You can help them understand if you like, or you can just let it roll off your back and know that you are just as dedicated as any other person on the weight loss journey—if not more so.


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