Today’s fast-paced world makes it difficult to spend time eating healthy and exercising like we should. The convenience of cheap, high calorie, sugary foods doesn’t help either. And for the millions of Americans who suffer from obesity, losing weight can be an even bigger struggle. Dr. Ellen Carraro, a bariatric surgeon with Novant Health Bariatric Solutions, is speaking out against the stigma associated with obesity, noting that contrary to popular belief, weight loss surgery is not “the easy way out.”
“My patients work very hard to lose weight,” Dr. Carraro says. “But when you become obese, your body wants to hold onto that weight, and it counters your efforts and ability to shed the extra pounds. Then you start to see other problems emerge: diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.”
Board-certified in general surgery, Dr. Carraro and her colleagues, Drs. David Voellinger and Craig Kolasch, offer proven bariatric surgical procedures for people who have been unsuccessful in reaching a healthy weight on their own.
While many people have a few unwanted pounds, there are criteria for determining if bariatric surgery is appropriate. Patients with a body mass index, or BMI, of 40 or above qualify for surgery. Patients with a BMI of 35 or above who also have other related medical issues (such as diabetes) can also qualify. You can find out your own BMI from your primary care physician.
There is a stigma associated with weight loss surgery that leaves many crossing off the option before even looking into it. “Surgery is a safe and successful option,” Dr. Carraro explains. “There are a number of reasons why a person may not be able to lose weight by themselves, and weight loss surgery helps kick start that process.”
Novant Health Bariatric Solutions recently opened a massive 10,000-square foot facility at 325 Hawthorne Lane in Charlotte, giving patients in the Carolinas something they haven’t had before. Dr. Carraro and her colleagues are focused on providing a complete 360 approach to weight loss that involves dietitians, nutritionists, counselors, athletic trainers, surgeons, and medical bariatricians who specialize in the medical treatment of obesity.
“There can be underlying causes of weight gain and obesity that have yet to be addressed,” Dr. Carraro explains. “Our goal is to completely transform patients’ lives, and that means tackling more than the pounds.”
Bariatric surgery is a term that encompasses different types of weight loss surgeries. The most common types are sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypass, both of which aid in weight loss by making you feel fuller faster, which helps you consume fewer calories. After surgery, Dr. Carraro says patients can expect to lose between 60 and 80% of their excess body weight in the first 18 months.
“People tell us every day, ‘You’ve given me a new lease on my life,’” Dr. Carraro says. “The brightness of my patients’ faces is amazing when they feel that this struggle is being lifted and they’re finally experiencing success. It’s incredibly rewarding for all of us.”
The ideal candidate for surgery is someone who is motivated to make lifestyle changes, including physical activity and diet changes. “The most successful patients are eager to work with everyone on our team to make these lifestyle changes permanent,” she notes.
Bariatric surgery is an extremely successful tool, but it’s not a magic bullet. “After surgery, we want patients to focus on eating more protein and vegetables, minimizing carbohydrates, and drinking lots of water,” Dr. Carraro says. “We also really want to encourage mindfulness when eating. Pause and ask yourself: ‘Why am I eating? Am I eating for nutrition? Am I truly hungry?’”
In fact, the behavioral aspect is so important that Novant Health Bariatric Solutions of Charlotte employs three full-time behavioral health professionals and offers regular support groups for patients who are considering surgery and for those who have already undergone surgery. “Am I Hungry?” – a program that takes an in-depth look at your relationship with food – is next up. Beginning June 13 and running every Tuesday evening from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. for 10 weeks, this mindfulness series helps individuals learn more about their eating habits and what they can do to regain control. The program costs $135, and you can call 704-316-7760 to register.
With this well-rounded approach to weight loss and lifestyle changes, the new Bariatric Solutions facility houses a wealth of different exercise equipment, with athletic trainers to guide workout sessions. “Something unique to our clinic is an anti-gravity treadmill, which works by offsetting the patient’s body weight so he or she can slowly build up muscle strength,” Dr. Carraro explains. “In our fully functional demonstration kitchen, our dietitians and nutritionists host cooking classes to demonstrate and discuss ways to prepare healthy meals.”
With more than 78 million Americans who are overweight or obese, it’s time to tackle this often personal and silent issue. In order to do that, Dr. Carraro says removing the stigma is important.
“Obesity is a medical issue, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of,” she states. “If you have diabetes, you go to a specialist. If you’re struggling with weight, you come to us. We are a group of professionals truly dedicated to helping you lose weight and improve your health.”
With locations currently in Charlotte, Huntersville, and Matthews, Novant Health Bariatric Solutions plans to open a Ballantyne location this month with plans for a Mint Hill location in the future. “For anyone questioning if bariatric surgery is the right option, I’d encourage you to come to us for a consultation,” Dr. Carraro adds. “It’s not a commitment, but a conversation. We’re able to help, and you are not alone.”
To learn more or connect with a physician at Novant Health Bariatric Solutions, visit novanthealth.org/bariatrics.