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Should Gastric Bypass Patients get Discounts at Restaurants?

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People who have had gastric bypass surgery qualify for discounts at popular restaurants, including buffets.
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People who have had gastric bypass surgery qualify for discounts at popular restaurants, including buffets.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans turn to stomach-shrinking bariatric procedures, hoping for extreme weight loss.

All of these reduced appetites might seem like bad news for the restaurant business, but surgeon-distributed food discount cards aim to make dining out cheaper and more practical for gastric bypass patients.

But is this kind of encouragement really a good idea?


To accommodate the patients' reduced stomach volumes, the cards, called WLS (Weight Loss Surgery) cards, ask restaurants to allow patients to order a smaller portion of food for a discounted price.

These cards aren't a new phenomenon — they've been around in the U.S. at least since the 1990s, and a similar discount program was proposed to city council members in Campinas, Brazil earlier this year.

And like the surgery itself, the WLS cards have grown in popularity, says Ann Rogers, director at the Penn State Surgical Weight Loss program. "Now there's so much word of mouth about it, that if we forget to give them out [after surgery], the patient says, 'What about those discount cards?'," Rogers says.

Some popular U.S. restaurants accept the cards. For example, Cracker Barrel restaurants allow patients to order from the inexpensive kids' menu or order a lunch-sized portion for dinner. In a statement issued to the Salt, Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants say that they are happy to do the same.

Even "all-you-can-eat" buffet restaurant Golden Corral, provides a discounted buffet price upon seeing a proof of surgery card in some locations.

Though gastric bypass surgery leaves the patient with a stomach pouch only about the size of an egg, restaurants, especially buffets, still spell trouble for many patients. Unlimited portions and heavily-processed, quickly digestible foods that keep patients from feeling full, make it difficult to keep the weight off, says Rogers.

Golden Corral could not provide a spokesperson to respond to our inquiries, but it and other companies have made efforts in recent years to add healthier choices to their buffet offerings.

However, even if the patient makes better choices, friends and family who come along may not do the same. "I definitely discourage patients from going to buffet style restaurants, it's danger for everybody," Rogers says.

In fact, Rogers says that she discourages her patients from eating at any restaurant. So why distribute a discount card that seems to encourage dining out?

Rogers says that it's OK for patients to use the WLS card and splurge at the buffet every once in awhile, and the card also encourages them to order smaller meals at other restaurants. If patients make healthy choices about 75 percent of the time, they'll keep the weight off, she says.

But just as the buffet can have negative family health consequences, patients who are diligent about eating well a majority of the time can also encourage healthy habits among friends and family. Rogers says that patients who attend regular follow up appointments, some featuring weigh-ins and healthy cooking classes, retain their lost weight about 70 percent of the time.

"For most of our patients, when the patients change their habits, it changes the eating habits of the whole household. It's pretty educational," she says.

Changing habits is critical, she says. It's a myth that the stomach surgery is a permanent weight loss cure. After surgery, "the [hunger] hormones go down and stay down for a year or two. But, slowly, the hunger starts to come back," Rogers says.

New World Peace

by on Oct. 9, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Replies (21-30):
by Bronze Member on Oct. 10, 2012 at 1:14 AM
1 mom liked this
I think they should only serve those smaller portion sizes period
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by Ruby Member on Oct. 10, 2012 at 1:32 AM

I have no problem with it.  They're getting smaller portions.

by guerrilla girl on Oct. 10, 2012 at 8:05 AM
2 moms liked this

If it just involves being able to order off the children's menu or getting a lunch sized portion/price for dinner, I think everyone should be able to get it. I don't like the huge portion sizes either. We usually do our eating out at lunch times because it is cheaper and the portions are closer to actual serving sizes.

by Member on Oct. 10, 2012 at 8:20 AM
Absolutely not.
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by Judy on Oct. 10, 2012 at 8:29 AM
1 mom liked this

So basically even though they have had the surgery, they still don't want to change their behavior of not being able to control themselves?

by on Oct. 10, 2012 at 8:33 AM
5 moms liked this

 Lol, no. That is completely ridiculous. 

I have had gastric bypass and I do go to buffets on occasion. I just eat less and pay my bill. No big deal.  Sometimes a buffet is easier to please everyone in our big family.  Or, sometimes my kids just really want a chinese buffet.  I know I can't eat much.  I am glad.  I would much rather have my food limited and pay full price than to go back to the unhealthy, unhappy person that I used to be.

by Ruby Member on Oct. 10, 2012 at 8:35 AM
1 mom liked this

I don't think the cards are the best idea in the world, but I can see where even though someone has had that surgery, they'd still like to eat out now and again. I suspect a lot has to do with whether or not one has enough will-power to deny themselves foods (and amounts) they may like but know they shouldn't have. There is also something to the fact that the more one eats the more one needs to eat to feel satisfied. People really need to understand that the fact one's plate is full doesn't mean one needs to eat everything on it. I womder how many of these people grew up being told to "clean their plate" at mealtimes.

by on Oct. 10, 2012 at 8:40 AM
1 mom liked this

 That is not even close to an accurate statistic.  It is more like 2-3 per 1000.  There are other things you have to take into consideration.  The way mortality rates occur after a major surgery is that ANY death for any reason goes into the rates 1 year out from surgery.  If I had been killed in a car accident less than one year out of surgery, I would have gone into the statistics for my death occurring one year out of surgery.  Plus, we are talking about people that are usually unhealthy to begin with. Some of those people would have died without the surgery.

Yes, there are complications after any major surgery.  You have to outweight the benefits to the cost.  Luckily, I had zero complications after my surgery and feel great.

I am over 3 years out and have maintained a healthy lifestyle. I have gained some weight back, but I am at a healthy weight for me.  I feel I had gotten too thin in the beginning. Most people will "bottom out" after a surgery and then gain a little back to stabilize.

This is me right now.

Quoting Euphoric:

 Also that surgery is so dangerous. The last I checked 1 in 11 patients die with in the first year of having it.


by Lawyerupbeeches on Oct. 10, 2012 at 9:04 AM
Good grief. I'm vegan. Where's my discount?
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by Ruby Member on Oct. 10, 2012 at 9:38 AM

Can't they only eat like a small appetizer?

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