For many people, January is a time to think about health goals and what changes they’d like to make to their lifestyles. While bariatric surgery is an option for certain people who would like to lose extra weight, there are several myths that have dominated the conversation on such procedures. Below are the most common myths, followed by the facts that debunk them, provided by the bariatric team at Keck Medicine of USC.


Nobody really needs bariatric surgery.

Most people were taught that weight loss comes down strictly to eating, exercise, and willpower, but the most recent science shows that just isn’t true. After dieting, the body reacts the same way it would have to a food scarcity thousands of years ago: It lowers the metabolism to conserve energy and increases food cravings. The net result is that the weight comes back – usually with a few more pounds as a bonus – and it’s more difficult to lose weight in the future. With support from dietitians, bariatric surgery is a way to break that cycle, and it may even help rewire food cravings.


The surgery does all the work.

Weight loss is a journey of both body and mind. While bariatric surgery is an effective tool for weight loss, every patient needs to do the mental and emotional work of committing to a new lifestyle.

Keck Medicine offers a bariatric surgery program that is unique in that patients are encouraged to attend a free seminar before surgery. At the seminar, a potential patient can hear from surgeons, patients, and dietitians. The patient can also ask any lingering questions. This ensures that every patient knows what to expect. Patients can also participate in free support groups during and after their weight loss, plus work with counselors to help deal with continuing challenges.


One surgical procedure is as good as another.

“There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all surgery,” said Kamran Samakar, MD, assistant professor of clinical surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and director of Keck Medicine’s bariatric surgery program. “A procedure that’s right for one person may not be ideal for another. It’s important to match each patient with a procedure that will be safe and effective for their unique needs.”

For example, laparoscopic and robotic techniques are preferable, since they offer faster recovery times.


Bariatric surgery is cosmetic, so it won’t be covered by insurance.

Most health coverage plans cover bariatric surgery because obesity carries health risks including high blood pressure, stroke, Type II diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, and some types of cancer. Certain bariatric programs, such as Keck Medicine’s, do not charge a program fee, either.


Bariatric surgery leaves heavy scarring.

That used to be the case, but minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques allow for small incisions, usually less than half an inch long.


Bariatric surgery makes it much more difficult to conceive and carry a fetus to term.

Most surgeons do recommend that a patient wait at least a year to get pregnant after bariatric surgery. After this one year period, conception and pregnancy complications become much less likely. In fact, a lower post-surgery BMI may reduce infertility issues and make it easier to get pregnant.


Regaining the weight is common, rendering the procedure ineffective for long-term weight loss.

Even with surgery, it’s possible to regain the weight, especially if there’s no post-surgery counselling or support available. Patients tend to fare better with programs, such as Keck Medicine’s, that include pre- and post- surgery support from registered dietitians at no extra cost. Patients check in with a dietitian every time they come in for a post-surgery follow-up visit to help stay on track. They also can take advantage of a free monthly support group.

“We’re committed to patient education and support,” explained Michelle Smith, RD, CSOWM, a registered dietitian for Keck Medicine. “Our patients understand that surgery is a tool that is used in combination with a healthy lifestyle, and following up with their bariatric team is a big part of that. We have numerous patients who have met their weight-loss goal and are maintaining it several years after surgery.”

For more information, Keck Medicine offers no-cost, no obligation seminars every month. The next one is Saturday, February 8 at the Pasadena Hilton, with online registration available here.

— Lex Davis