Surgery—especially elective surgery like VSG—should always be a last resort, right? Why “go under the knife” unless absolutely every other option has been exhausted? That all sounds like it should make sense. Except it doesn’t. Who decides how long you have to suffer the social and medical difficulties that come with being overweight? How do you determine whether you’ve tried “enough” times to lose weight before gastric sleeve surgery becomes an option?
The try-everything-before-bariatric-surgery mentality is especially strong in the U.S. And I certainly agree that it shouldn’t be a first solution for weight loss. But when you know, deep down, that you’ve done as much as you can and you’re still not making progress, why wait to do something that can improve every single aspect of your life?
That applies to young people, too. There’s a sense that they should wait because maybe things will change for them. Perhaps diet or exercise will magically work for them down the road. But the vast majority of my patients have been overweight or obese all of their lives—from puberty, at a minimum, and often from much younger. I’ve sleeved many teens and young adults at my practice, and while gastric sleeve is an incredible tool at any age, it can benefit young people the most. Imagine not being fat in all of your prom pictures—if you even go at all. Think about how different your early dating life would have been if you hadn’t been obese.
I believe in sleeving young people so much so that I performed the procedure on my niece when she was a young teen. It has improved her life immensely in the years since, and she’s now a big advocate for making the sleeve decision when it’s right for the individual.
In my practice, that’s what I do: Make decisions on a case-by-case basis. I do the same with adults, by the way. If it’s not a good option for you at 30 or 40 or 50, I won’t schedule you for surgery then either. Here are a few things to consider if you or your teen is considering vertical sleeve gastrectomy at my Mexico practice:
- Know yourself. Have you tried to lose weight with diet and exercise? Dieting is second nature to those who are overweight, and plenty of teens have run through every diet out there. Many already have major health issues from being obese, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, and some girls have already been diagnosed with PCOS. These are all indicators that a young person can benefit from VSG.
- Make sure you have support. Most teens don’t buy their own food, so it’s essential that parents are on board with overhauling the way they shop and what foods are available in the home. Preferably, it will be a whole-house transformation so the young person won’t feel isolated in his or her journey.
- Consider the cost. The U.S. gastric sleeve surgery cost is about triple what it is at Endobariatric. And there are no therapy hoops to jump through here, which can increase the cost even more. Bariatric surgery in Mexico is less expensive simply because everything is less expensive just south of the border. It’s not a reflection of the quality of care. In fact, the standard of care at Endobariatric is on par with—or exceeds—that of U.S. hospitals. And we have the data to prove it.
- Weigh the lifestyle. Are you (or your teen) ready for a permanent lifestyle makeover? Veteran sleevers know that it’s not magic. Yes, removing a large section of stomach, including much of the area that produces the “hunger hormone” ghrelin, is extremely helpful. But you also have to stick to the gastric sleeve diet and commit to regular exercise in order to achieve long-term success. Going into the procedure with a firm grasp on this reality is a must for any age.
When you wonder if your teen is too young, take it from sleever Amber, who says, “If I would have done it at 18, I can only imagine all the ways my life would have been improved. I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time fat and unhealthy.”
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“Changing lives…one sleeve at a time”.