Gastric bands – Do they have the X factor?

Every year, gastric bands for weight loss are increasing in popularity in the UK. People who struggle to maintain an ideal weight for their health can undergo this low risk surgical procedure to help them. It consists of a placement of a silicon ring around the top part of the stomach in order to restrict food intake.  

Bands seem to have earned a reputation for having the ‘X factor’, fueled by media coverage and success stories of famous people who have had bands inserted. Gastric bands also have a ‘wow factor’ in scientific circles too. Evidence suggests that people are set to achieve 50 to 60% loss of excess weight. For many, this loss and the promise of the health benefits is often the drive to have one placed.

At first glance, bands seem to have earned their celebrity status.

In reality, gastric banding is far from being the wonder cure or dream solution to weight loss struggles we wish for. Bands cannot stop or change poor food choices, psychological hang ups or transform how people perceive their bodies and own self-image. Most importantly, if people do not make critical changes to their diet and seek regular support, weight loss can be very disappointing. The technique has an important place alongside many tools that help people manage their weight. But it is the recipient of the band and their chosen behaviour that ultimately decides if it will be a winner or not.

If you are considering a band placement for weight loss, there are some dietary tips that will improve your chances of success:

Practice slowing down and chewing food well. This cardinal rule helps in two ways:

The rule can help psychologically, it allows 'thinking' time and adjustment to new stomach size and recognition of feelings of fullness. Secondly, it can benefit physically. Once the band is in place, slowing down the rate of eating encourages a more controlled, steady progression of food into the main stomach to help limit unpleasant blockages or vomiting.

  • Portion precaution – People should follow the principles of slowed eating and chewing well to adjust and achieve more suitable portion sizes for their requirements.

  • Nutritious food choices are a priority – the very nature of a band means that food intake is restricted and portion sizes are much smaller. This limits the opportunity for reaching recommended daily requirements important vitamin and minerals. A healthy balanced diet is crucial in achieving this.   

  • Unhealthful food choices need to be limited – Interestingly, foods that are unhelpful for weight loss are often well tolerated with a gastric band. Crisps, crackers, alcohol, chocolate and ice-cream are a few examples. If poor food choices continue to be made regularly, then successful weight-loss isn't going to happen, even with a band! 

  • Progression onto solid consistency foods is important – after surgery, pureed and soft consistency foods are often encouraged for a time. However, banding is a restrictive procedure.  If soft foods and liquids are relied upon too much and for too long, it is easy to eat more. The whole purpose of the band is to restrict quantity - so don't fall into this trap! 

  • Take regular multivitamin and mineral supplements – good practice indicates that taking a regular multivitamin and mineral supplement might be beneficial.

  • Regular support and encouragement is very important – research suggests that of all weight-loss surgery procedures, people who have gastric bands placed require regular professional support to maximise their weight-loss achievements. Make sure you have this in place as part of your care.

  • Keep active – coupling dietary change with additional activity helps not only reduce weight but also maintain weight-loss longer term. A minimum of 30 minutes daily is required, working up to 60 to 90 minutes daily for greatest results.

Nutritionist Resource is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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